2006 Season Tuesday Morning Quarterbacks

2006 Season Tuesday Morning Quarterbacks
Monday, April 24, 2006
Updated: May 1, 9:17 AM ET
Mocking the mock draft
By Gregg Easterbrook
Man, look at those legs! Perfect conditioning, ideal proportions. NFL draft fans can't wait to see
more. I'm not talking about Reggie Bush's legs. I'm talking about the Rockettes! Tune in Saturday
because, for the first time ever, the NFL draft will be held at Radio City Music Hall. And you know
ESPN producers will use every possible flimsy excuse to show the gorgeous legs of the Rockettes
as they accompany the top draft picks up to the podium to shake …
WHAT??? Say what???
Sadly, although the draft is being held at Radio City Music Hall, the Rockettes will not be there.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback is still reeling from this dreadful news. The NFL and ESPN have
one of the greatest excuses in television history to show hours and hours of beautiful, scantily clad
women -- and it's not going to happen. No Rockettes dancing with the draft picks. No lines of
kicking legs while the commissioner fumbles through trade cards. No close-up interviews with the
Rockettes as the draft drags on into the sixth round when the bell rings and a linebacker from Ohio
University of Florida at Ohio is chosen. The draft is at Radio City but we won't see the Rockettes.
TMQ will spend Saturday in mourning. In addition to being glam and gorgeous, the Rockettes are
incredibly fit and athletic! That's a perfectly legitimate reason to have them at the draft! But no.
Yours truly will be at Radio City on Saturday, and instead of flirting with the Rockettes, I'll be
killing time with Mel Kiper. Jimmy Carter was right: Life is unfair.
Three quick points. First, it's not your imagination that
all Rockettes are the same stature. Error! Hyperlink
reference not valid. (click "Rockettes" then
"auditions") specify that Rockettes must be between 5foot-6 and 5-foot-10½ -- though they do not, perhaps
because of New York state gender-discrimination laws,
specify that Rockettes must be women. Second, the lack
of Rockettes at the draft reminds me of one of the
fundamental failings of the National Football League:
Though New York City contains thousands of beautiful,
theatrically trained young women who really can dance
and are looking for their big break, neither the Giants
How could the NFL screw up such a
nor the Jets have cheerleaders. Third, ESPN thinks
great marketing opportunity?
you'd rather look at Mel Kiper's hair than the Rockettes'
legs? This might be a harbinger of the end of western civilization.
In other football news, around this time of year sports commentators make knowing references to
the Dallas Chart, the table of equivalences used by many teams in calculating how to swap draft
choices. The creation of this table is generally credited to Jimmy Johnson. (When he was coach of
the Cowboys, Johnson made so many draft-pick swaps it was as if he was on commission and
"churning" to increase his annual bonus.) The Dallas Chart is definitely handy. It ordains, for
instance, that if the Jets, picking fourth, want to swap up with the Saints, picking second, Jersey/B
would need to throw in 800 points worth of value -- and the Jets' second and third choices this year
are worth 790 points, according to the chart. The chart works equally well on non-glamour picks.
For instance, the chart dictates that a team wanting to acquire the final pick of the fourth round
would offer a pick in the middle of the fifth round plus a pick at the top of the seventh. Now that
most NFL teams have this chart, swaps are surely simplified: As neoclassical economics maintains,
markets are most efficient when participants have the maximum information about prices! In the
econ mode, next week TMQ will propose how to use the chart to "discount to present value" draft
selections in future years.
Now look at the Dallas Chart more closely. According to its logic, a team would need to trade 1,500
picks at the end of the seventh round to get the first overall choice in the draft. I submit that any
NFL club would be much better off with 1,500 late-seventh-round selections than the first overall
choice. OK, with 1,500 seventh-round choices, your voluntary mandatory minicamp would be a
little crowded. But give me 1,500 seventh-round selections and I guarantee I will find you some
quality NFL starters -- whereas give me the first overall choice and I can make no such guarantee.
Or take the 16th overall choice, midway through the first round. The chart says a team should be
able to swap the 16th overall selection, worth 1,000 points, for 122 mid-seventh-round picks, which
the chart says are worth 8.2 points each. (Love that pseudo-scientific decimal place.) An NFL team
would be much better off with 122 mid-seventh-round selections than with one mid-first-round
pick. Want another example? The chart says the 10th overall selection, held by Arizona and valued
at 1,300 points, is worth the same as the entire fifth round, whose picks have an average value of
about 35 points. I double-dog dare you to claim a team wouldn't be better off with every choice of
the entire fifth round than with the 10th overall selection.
In more football news, the Brett Favre melodrama has become ridiculous. What's next, an all-Brett
24-hour cable channel? ("Today, Brett talks to us about what he might talk to us about tomorrow.")
Favre addresses the United Nations General Assembly? ("I thank those nations whose names even
their own citizens can't pronounce for inviting me here today to dodge questions, fudge the obvious
and say nothing -- just like when world leaders talk to the United Nations!") But annoying though
the melodrama is, you can't fault Favre for playing the system. Don't fall for that country-boy act;
the Green Bay quarterback has long been at the forefront of understanding how to exploit modern
media. Endless inconclusive evasions about whether he will retire keep his name in the news,
increasing Favre's value to advertisers as an endorser. All the build-up, in turn, assures that
whatever he ultimately does announce about playing or quitting will receive 10 times the attention it
would otherwise merit. Don't be surprised if Katie Couric leads the CBS Evening News with Favre's
decision, assuming he makes up his mind within the historical period of Homo sapiens.
In other football news, Reggie Bush will go very high in the draft. Truth or falsity of the house flap
aside, Bush sure did look good in college, he seems to be a fine young man and he's leading a
charge against the Illustrated Man fad in sports, so that's all to the good. (In the classic Ray
Bradbury story, the "Illustrated Man" was not only covered with tattoos, but the tattoos moved;
anyway, Bush doesn't have any tattoos.) But Bush weighs 200 pounds, and in recent annals few
have been successful every-down NFL tailbacks at that weight -- Warrick Dunn, Thurman Thomas.
In his final collegiate game, when USC needed two yards to win the national championship, not
only did Bush not get the ball, he wasn't even on the field. Pete Carroll waved Bush to the sidelines
when the championship was on the line. Something to think about if Reggie goes first.
In still other football news, everyone's got a mock draft. Right now the Priory of Sion is huddled in
a secret underground abbey, trying to predict whether the Rams will trade up. Although everyone
has a mock draft, who actually mocks the draft? Tuesday Morning Quarterback, of course. Below,
my annual mocking of mock drafts. And while everyone predicts the first choice in the NFL draft,
only Tuesday Morning Quarterback annually predicts the last choice! For years, Tuesday Morning
Quarterback has skipped the prestigious top of the draft and gone directly to forecasting the lowly
seventh round. My annual seventh-round forecast follows, too.
Finally, on a personal note, I'd like to share something I've been waiting three years to say: Yikes,
this Page 2 yellow is bright! Maybe I should write the column in the dark. Anyway, I enjoyed my
time at NFL.com, where I learned so much football that I now practically know what I'm talking
about. But somehow the football gods always meant for Tuesday Morning Quarterback to be a part
of ESPN. So when my NFL contract expired recently, I journeyed alone to a distant mountaintop -OK, to a distant parking lot -- and asked the football gods for guidance. They told me to wish upon
a star! Here is the rest in song:
Like a bolt out of the blue
fate steps in and sees you through.
When you wish upon a star
your dreams come true.
TMQ's Mock Draft
1. Houston Texans: Dick Cheney, novice marksman, Ducks
Unlimited
The Texans will switch to the shotgun formation. Instead of "Hike,"
Houston quarterbacks will yell "Pull!" Ducks Unlimited says its
members "celebrate the traditions and the heritage of sport hunting
as an integral part of sound wildlife management." So Cheney wasn't
trying to kill ducks, he was engaged in sound wildlife management.
2. New Orleans Saints: Hans Brinker, Dutch 8-year-old
Alone and frightened, Brinker spent the night with his hand on a
levee breech to save the town of Haarlem. If this had happened in
2005 rather than in the 19th century, Brinker would have called a
press conference to deny that anything was wrong with the dikes.
3. Tennessee Titans: Lizette Atkinson through Scott Winsett,
video game designers, Ensemble Studios
Ensemble's "Age of Mythology: The Titans" "transports players to a
time when heroes did battle with monsters of legend and the gods
intervened." Many monsters are on the Titans' schedule this fall, and divine intervention might be
the team's best hope.
4. New Jersey Jets: Blackstar, secret jet program
According to the aerospace industry publication Aviation Week and Space Technology, which
yours truly calls Aviation Leak and Space Terminology, the Pentagon quietly removed from
mothballs the parts of the old XB-70 supersonic bomber, canceled in 1966, and assembled them into
Blackstar, a carrier aircraft capable of launching a small manned spaceplane. Whether Blackstar has
launched covertly an Air Force astronaut into orbit is unknown, but the magazine offered credible
sightings, including from an F-15 pilot, of Blackstar and its baby spacecraft in flight. Since the
public Jets aren't doing too well, maybe a clandestine jet is what the Jersey/B franchise needs.
(Note: The Blackstar is white. This is, after all, the Pentagon we are talking about.)
5. Green Bay Packers: Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
Hamlet couldn't make up his mind -- just like Brett Favre. At least
Hamlet did not call press conferences to announce he had nothing to
announce or give non-stop "exclusive" interviews about his
indecision on whether to attack Claudius. "Exclusive" once meant,
"Yours is the only news organization I am speaking to." In Favre's
case "exclusive" means, "Yours is the only news organization I am
speaking to at this particular instant."
6. San Francisco 49ers: Scarlett Johansson, nude mega-babe
San Francisco prides itself on being America's most worldly and
sophisticated city, so it is the natural choice for the first NFL team
with a naked woman on the sideline -- and the Niners will need
something to distract fans' attention from the field. Mega-babe note
No. 1: According to this English art critic, Johansson was nude, not
naked, in her recent magazine cover. It's a critical distinction! Megababe note No. 2: Extrapolating out current trends in cheerleader
attire, naked women on the sidelines will be standard in the NFL by
the year 2011. Just when the next network contracts get negotiated!
Brett, take note: "To be, or
not to be." Look what
happened to Hamlet when
he couldn't make up his
mind.
7. Oakland Raiders: Lucifer, frozen devil, University of
Gehenna
To prevent a strike that might have torn pro football apart, Raiders boss Al Davis cooperated with
the league, putting his own concerns aside to help save the NFL. At that moment Lucifer looked
around and said, "Hey, did somebody touch the thermostat? It's getting cold in here."
8. Buffalo Bills: Billy Shaw, guard, Pro Football Hall of Fame
It's been six years since Buffalo made the playoffs, and six years since the Bills fielded a
respectable offensive line. Could there possibly be a relationship between these data points? In the
second round, the Bills, now run by octogenarian Marv Levy, hope to tab 87-year-old Mike Wallace
as spokesman.
9. Detroit Lions: Santonio Holmes, wide receiver, Ohio State
Canny Lions general manager Matt Millen plans to use his first-round choice on a wide receiver
every year until 2024, when Detroit will field the only squad ever on which all 22 starters are wide
receivers drafted in the first round.
10. Arizona Cardinals: Mohammed Sharaf, CEO, Dubai Ports
World
The United States wanted to hand over port management to Dubai, a
more civilized place than the pundits would have you believe.
Maybe the woeful Cards should hand over management of their
team to the United Arab Emirates -- especially since Mohammed
Sharaf got his business degree at the University of Arizona.
11. St. Louis Rams: Aaron Garcia, quarterback, New York
Dragons
The Rams began a Super Bowl run the last time they tabbed an
Arena League star. Garcia is pro football's all-time leading passer by
a huge margin, having thrown 757 career touchdown passes, nearly
double the NFL record of 420 by Dan Marino. Garcia has 132
touchdown passes since the start of 2005 alone, despite missing
some time with an injury.
Nakedness ... err, we mean
12. Cleveland Browns: Leo Hirshfield, candymaker
nudity ... is an artform.
Thank you, Leo, for devising the Tootsie Roll in Brooklyn in 1896.
Hirshfield's big innovation was marketing Tootsie Rolls as the first individually wrapped penny
candy; to that point, penny candy came loose in barrels, and sanitary standards fell short of ideal. In
America, it's often more about the packaging than the product! Browns fans should bear this in
mind during what might be another long season.
13. Baltimore Ravens: Pallas, Greek goddess
In Poe's "The Raven", the metaphorical raven alights on a "pallid bust of Pallas." Everyone knows
the first stanza of this 1,000-word poem -- "Once upon a midnight dreary" -- but how many know
the rest? "Leave my loneliness unbroken! Quit the bust above my door!" Poe bellows at the bird.
Ravens fans should study "The Raven" for chants. When the defense makes a play they could chant,
"The rustling of each purple curtain thrilled me!" When scanitly clad Baltimore cheerleaders dance,
spectators could chant, "Clasp a rare and radiant maiden!"
14. Philadelphia Eagles: Roger Ramjet, Hero of Our Nation
After Terrell Owens, the goody-goody Ramjet might be just what the Eagles need to restore their
karma. Here, listen to the super-cheesy Ramjet theme and watch a grainy image of a 1960s cartoon.
Ramjet was voiced by Gary Owens, also the announcer for the old "Rowan and Martin's Laugh In."
15. Denver Broncos: Maurice Clarett, part-time bag boy, Piggly Wiggly
Clarett hasn't carried the ball for three seasons. According to the Broncos' logic in last year's draft,
that should make him even more valuable. Here, Piggly Wiggly offers advice on how to crush
crackers.
16. Miami Dolphins: Any beach goddess, South
Beach
Miami has, you know, like so totally replaced Southern
California as the beach capital of the world. Why isn't
Arnold Schwarzenegger up in arms about that? And
why doesn't some entrepreneur start a cable channel that
does nothing but televise babes walking along Florida
beaches? Then again, some could not be shown for
thong-based reasons.
17. Minnesota Vikings: Anna Nicole Smith,
respectable stripper
The Love Boat might have been a PR fiasco for the
There needs to be a 24-hour cable
Vikings, but there's no getting around that Minnesota
access channel dedicated to South
was 1-3 before the team spent an evening with some lap Beach.
dancers and 8-4 after. At Smith's Web site, she
describes herself as an "international model." After providing a 97-word bio, Smith declares, "I
don't feel like writing any more."
18. Dallas Cowboys: Dr. Phil, licensed clinical psychologist
Phil McGraw is "a licensed clinical psychologist in the great state of Texas," according to his
official bio, yet films his show in Hollywood. This means he does not practice psychology on his
shows, because he is not licensed to practice in California. But there are no laws saying you can't
hand out worthless advice on the air to people you've met only moments before. Dr. Phil has
"published numerous scholarly articles," his Web site claims, though strangely lists none. Check
McGraw's preposterously negative guidance to the married, which includes these cheery
assignments: "Write one page about the current deadness in your life. Write a 65-item 'bitch list'
about your partner." Darling, I have 65 written complaints about you I'd like to discuss. Imagine if
the Cowboys took Dr. Phil's advice:
BILL PARCELLS: When the going gets tough, the tough …
TERRELL OWENS: I feel a current deadness in my life.
PARCELLS: Go out there and …
OWENS: We need to discuss my bitch list. It contains 65 items.
PARCELLS: I want you men to smash the living …
OWENS: Item No. 1: People should stand when I enter the room. Item No. 2: The white star at the
center of Texas Stadium should be replaced with my picture. Item No. 3: I was not invited to be the
keynote speaker at the funeral of Coretta Scott King. Item No. 4: My helipad at the practice facility
still isn't ready. Item No. 5 …
PARCELLS: Get me Dr. Phil!
TEAM OFFICIAL: Sorry, he's writing a scholarly article.
19. San Diego Chargers: Diogenes of Sinope, Greek philosopher
San Diego keeps changing mayors owing to corruption convictions; corruption charges have been
filed against former managers of the city's pension board; Randy Cunningham, the congressman
who just pleaded guilty to taking bribes, hails from San Diego.
20. Kansas City Chiefs: Katie Couric, anchor, CBS Evening
News
Herm Edwards decided he no longer felt like honoring the Jets
contract he signed his name to. Hey Chiefs, just remember, when
you hire someone who's only in it for himself, you get someone
who's only in it for himself. At least Katie had the dignity to wait
until her contract expired.
21. New England Patriots: Sam Walton, founder, Wal-Mart
Really, who needs players? Cut costs to the bone. Replace all
veterans with rookie free agents who are forced to work unpaid
overtime. Cancel medical benefits. Use less-expensive assembledin-China players. Sign of the times: New England is the first NFL
team with a Chinese-language official Web site.
22. San Francisco 49ers: Gavin Newsom, hip hunk mayor
Every Democratic political strategist goes to bed dreaming about
Katie knows a thing or two
Newsom, who's charming, handsome, intelligent, young,
about contracts.
conscientious, third-way and wins elections in America's most
important state. Why does this make me think he will lose the 2016 presidential ballot to Jenna
Bush? San Francisco just announced it will become the first major U.S. city to beam free wireless
Internet to anyone within its boundaries. I'm puzzled that the winners of the bidding to provide this
service, Google and Earthlink, are described by the San Francisco Chronicle as delighted to beat out
others for "the highly coveted contract." If the point is free service for the dispossessed, why are big
corporations fighting for the foot in the door?
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jack Abramoff, picaroon,
Greenberg Traurig LLP
Buccaneers are pirates, and who has stolen more while showing less
conscience than Republican insider lobbyist Abramoff? The Bucs
could lock Abramoff up with a long-term contract for the length of
his six-year prison sentence. Though Greenberg Traurig, Abramoff's
law firm, maintains it had absolutely no way of knowing its former
high official was a criminal who methodically stole at least $20
million from clients, the firm still weirdly boasts its lobbying
division has "access to decision-makers at every level of
government."
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Nick Mangold, center, Ohio State
Possible actual choice thrown in for variety. On the second day, the
Bengals hope to draft running back Wali Lundy of Virginia, to join
the current Cincinnati running backs with the first names Rudi and
Jeremi.
Abramoff should join a new
league of pirates.
25. Chicago Bears: Projected trade
The Bears send their first and third picks in 2006, fourth pick in 2007, seventh pick in 2008, second
pick in 2009, third and sixth selections in 2010, fifth pick in 2011, a choice to be determined later in
2012 and a projected compensatory pick in 2013 to the Giants for New Jersey's first and fourth
picks in 2006, fifth pick in 2007, sixth pick in 2008, second selection in 2009, third and fifth picks
in 2010, sixth pick in 2011, fifth choice in 2012 and a fruit basket. Also, the teams agree to link to
each other on MySpace. If the trade doesn't happen, Chicago will select Courtney Love, rock star. A
Lovie-Love match! In the second round, Chicago hopes to tab rocker Patti Smith to tart up the aging
team song, "Bear Down Chicago Bears."
26. New Jersey Giants: Cooper Manning, energy analyst, Howard Weil
Cooper is the older brother of Peyton and Eli. Hometown draftniks at Radio City Music Hall will
howl in outrage over this pick -- because hometown draftniks always howl in outrage no matter
whom the Giants choose.
27. Carolina Panthers: John Edwards, undersized former senator
When Edwards ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, the knock was he lacked
sufficient government experience for the White House. What's he done since 2004? Run for the
2008 nomination.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars: Puma concolor coryi, recovering species
Close to extinction just a few decades ago, the Florida panther has rebounded enough that peoplepanther confrontations are becoming a worry in the Sunshine State. Why is the Jax franchise named
after the cat found in South America, not the one found in Florida?
29. New Jersey Jets: Bribe-seeking gossip writers from the New York Post
The New York press corps is tough on the Jets -- maybe the team should simply put them on
retainer? Note: Billionaire Ron Burkle surely did the right thing in ethical terms by blowing the
whistle on the shakedown attempt against him. But in practical terms? In practical terms, a
billionaire might consider $120,000 a year for favorable press a good deal.
30. Indianapolis Colts: Henry Heimlich, Ohio physician
Someone must be able to stop the Colts from choking in the playoffs.
31. Seattle Seahawks: Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR driver
The NFL has studied the instant replay system used in the Nextel Cup, looking for ways to improve
officiating. Had the NASCAR system been employed at the Super Bowl, Seattle still would have
lost, as Sean Locklear would have been called for removing his restrictor plate and Matt Hasselbeck
would have been black-flagged for speeding in the pit.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers: Roh Moo-hyun, president,
Republic of Korea
Wide receiver Hines Ward, who is short by NFL
standards at 6 feet tall, towered over Roh at their recent
lunch in Seoul. Anyone who can make the Super Bowl
MVP stand even taller is worth having on the roster.
Here's Our Bill for $10 Million, and We Are
Recommending Tom DeLay as the New NFL
Commissioner. What -- There's a Problem With
Him?
The NFL ranks right behind video
gaming as popular sports in Korea.
The NFL has hired Korn/Ferry International, a
recruiting firm, to seek commissioner candidates. "The firm will begin the process by interviewing
all 32 owners," The Associated Press reported. To find out what, that the NFL wants a competent
commissioner? Yours truly is suspicious of the whole executive-recruitment process. For instance,
the University of Wyoming recently paid Korn/Kerry $90,000 to recommend someone for its
presidency. Both finalists recommended by Korn/Ferry turned down the job, which ended up going
to the single most obvious candidate, the guy already in the chair as the school's interim president.
Often in big organizations, hiring a headhunter firm just creates a cover story for doing what the big
organization already had decided to do anyway. Back to Korn/Ferry. As yours truly pointed out last
year on the pages of NFL.com itself, the company is engaged in a nasty lawsuit with a former top
manager, whom Korn/Ferry accuses of stealing proprietary files when he left to form his own
recruiting agency. Needless to say, I have no idea whether the accusation is true. But suppose it is
true: This means the executive recruitment agency hired someone unqualified and placed him in a
position of responsibility! Maybe Korn/Ferry needs a recruiting firm to find executives to run
Korn/Ferry.
Greenspan's Book to Be Titled "Interest Rates May Fall, Unless They Rise"
Former Fed chief Alan Greenspan received an $8.5 million book advance from Penguin. Even
assuming an as-told-to actually written by a ghost, a $8.5 million advance for a man whose every
utterance is incomprehensible? This matches the second-largest advance in publishing history,
given to Pope John Paul II for "Crossing the Threshold of Hope"; the biggest advance, $10 million,
went to Bill Clinton for his forest-destroyer, "My Life." Clinton's volume could have been called,
"Crossing the Threshold of the Thousandth Page" a feat yours truly suspects not one reader ever
accomplished. In order for Greenspan's book to "earn back" an $8.5 million advance, it will need to
sell about two million hardcover copies, which is Stephen King numbers. The cheeky Deal Book
business blog of the New York Times obtained Greenspan's publishing proposal, which contains
such insights as, "The book will ultimately conclude that the longer-term outlook for the global
economy and, for that matter the U.S. economy as well, will be significantly affected by the future
of China." Wow -- talk about sophisticated revelations! Twenty-five years privy to the innermost
councils of power and the best Greenspan can come up with is that China affects the economy?
Deal Book has existed only a short time and already those who follow business are hooked. But if
you really want to feel like a consummate insider, subscribe to a free e-mail called PE Week Wire.
Written by Daniel Primack, PE Week Wire is the Tuesday Morning Quarterback of the financial
world -- brimming with gossip and information on venture capitalism and private-equity firms.
Private-equity firms are increasingly important to global finance, and quick, do you know what they
are? Can you name even one?
Orwell Would Wince
Surely there are thousands of illegal immigrants who would cover kicks in the NFL for less than the
$275,000 minimum salary for the 2006 season. So why not allow illegal immigrants in the NFL?
They could be called gastoffsiders and paid $5.15 an hour, the scandalously low federal minimum
wage. No health care insurance would be provided, plus they would be expected to bring their own
ankle tape. Or they could work as football day laborers, gathering each morning in the predawn
hours at some 7-11, hoping an NFL general manager comes by and offers them a day's work on the
scout team.
OK, enough of that joke. Whatever you think of the immigration debate -- yours truly is proimmigration but points out that America does now annually accept more immigrants than all other
nations of the world combined -- it's ridiculous that politicians and journalists insist on calling the
people in question "undocumented arrivals," as if the problem was their paperwork had been
misplaced. The problem with illegal immigrants is that they are illegal: They've broken American
law. What to do about those who broke the law when they entered the country, but since have been
law-abiding good citizens who love America, is the crux of the debate. Focus must be kept on the
word illegal if the core dilemma is to be addressed. Using a silly euphemism like "undocumented"
only makes it hard to think clearly about this issue.
Similarly, it's ridiculous that politicians and journalists continue to call those being held at
Guantanamo and Bagram airbase in Afghanistan "detainees." You are detained when your train is
late; if you're dragged away in handcuffs, locked up and not allowed to speak to a lawyer, you are a
prisoner. Those being held at Guantanamo and Bagram are not told, "Excuse me, sir, we will be
detaining you. Would you like a fresh brioche?" They're told, "You are our prisoner, do as we tell
you if you want to live." We can't think clearly about the hundreds of men being held without
charge by the United States government unless we call them what they are, prisoners. George
Orwell's point regarding language was that society cannot face political issues unless it calls things
what they are; the purpose of political euphemism, Orwell wrote, is to prevent clear thought. People
living here without visas are illegal immigrants and people jailed without charge are prisoners.
Politicians might be addicted to fudging words but the media, at least, should call things what they
are.
Take Me Out of This Ballpark
Recently the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission unveiled the design of the Washington
Nationals' new baseball park, and the announcement made yours truly glad he does not reside in the
District of Columbia. Local taxpayers will be on the hook for $535 million in bonds to support this
potential white elephant. Not only is there a strong chance the stadium will flop in the marketplace - more on that in a moment -- the price tag seems likely to include substantial graft. Consider that
Citizens Bank Park in nearby Philadelphia, the Phillies' new home, opened in 2004 and was built for
$346 million, only $174 million of it foisted upon local taxpayers. Citizens Bank Park is larger than
the planned Washington Nationals park, sits on similar downtown land bought at similar downtown
prices, yet cost taxpayers only about a third as much. Recently opened Gillette Field, financed
mainly at Patriots owner Robert Kraft's expense, came in at $325 million and is substantially larger
than the planned Nats ballpark. The just-announced new Yankee Stadium is projected to cost $800
million, but will be larger than the Washington ballpark and will sit on 22 acres of the most
expensive land in North America. Yet taxpayers are contributing about $300 million to the Yankee
Stadium project, less than the bill to be handed to taxpayers for the smaller Washington facility.
It's easy to be careless with other people's money,
especially with the money of taxpayers, who cannot
demand refunds or sue for breach of contract. Gillette
Field was built using private funds under market
discipline; the Washington stadium will be built at
taxpayer expense with no fiscal discipline. Surely that's
a reason the price is so high. But another reason may be
that some portion of the price is likely to be stolen by
cronies of the District's top-heavy, inept government.
Indeed, the D.C. Council seemed determined to push
the stadium cost well above the price of comparable
facilities, in order to assure there was plenty in the pot
All yours, D.C. baseball fans, for $535
to steal. George W. Bush, the most baseball-obsessed
million -- and don't forget the cost
president since William Howard Taft, has allowed this overruns!
tax-subsidized pocket-picking directly under his nose,
while making no attempt to pressure his pals in the corporate suites of Major League Baseball into
building the stadium the free-market way. Maybe the naming rights should be sold to Halliburton.
... Welcome to Halliburton Field, where hot dogs are $6,000 and all overhead costs are billed to the
defense budget.
Why might the Washington ballpark lack customers? First, it's situated at one of the worst traffic
choke points in the nation's capital -- and that's now, before stadium traffic. Many stadia are hard to
get in and out of. Experience shows that customers will bear traffic gridlock for football games,
which happen only a few times a year, but won't frequent the much-more-regular MLB games
unless access is convenient, and the Nats' field is being plunked down at one of the hardest-to-reach
spots on the East Coast. Second, the high $535 million price will include a ridiculously low 1,225
parking places, some of which will be reserved for D.C. government officials. That's one parking
space for every 34 seats. The new Yankee Stadium will have decked garages with 10,000 parking
spaces, one space for every 5.3 seats. The Arizona Cardinals' new stadium, rising in Glendale, Ariz.,
will have 14,000 dedicated parking spaces for 63,000 seats, one space per 4.5 seats. No matter how
good the Nats might be, suburbanites, who are the core demographic for all professional sports,
might come to the new ballpark once, discover traffic is backed up and there's nowhere to park, and
never return. When the ballpark project zeroes out the D.C. government's bond rating, please,
congressional committees, don't say you weren't warned.
Bonus: The Nats' new facility will "strive to be the most environmentally friendly MLB ballpark
ever," the D.C. sports authority declared, though no details were given. How very Washington -dramatic announcement, no specifics. It is in fact possible to build environmentally responsible
sports facilities: Gillette Field, for instance, has its own wastewater processing plant. Tuesday
Morning Quarterback suspects the primary environmentally friendly feature of the new Nats
ballpark will be that no spectators come, thus conserving gasoline.
In Praise of Tight Ends
Because Maryland tight end Vernon Davis might be among the first 10 players chosen Saturday,
some purists insist tight ends should not go high in the draft. Quarterbacks, left tackles, cornerbacks
and defensive ends should be the highest choices, according to draftnik purism, while tight ends,
guards and safeties should not go high. If I were a coach, I'd rather use a high pick on a successful
tight end than a bad tackle. Consider 2002, when Detroit spent the third overall selection on
quarterback Joey Harrington and Buffalo spent the fourth overall on tackle Mike Williams. These
gentlemen played positions that draftniks view as top-pick-worthy, and both went bust. Among the
players Detroit and Buffalo passed on were safety Roy Williams and tight end Jeremy Shockey.
They weren't supposed to go at the top of the draft because safety and tight end are not viewed as
premium positions, yet obviously the Lions and Bills now wish they'd taken one or the other.
Purists have been asserting that Tony Gonzalez, taken 13th in 1997, went as high as a tight end
should go. Yet many teams that passed on Gonzalez in the first dozen picks of that draft now wish
they hadn't, in no small part because in an age of Cover Two (that is, zone) pass defenses, the tight
end is more attractive as a target. Mike Ditka and John Mackey, Hall of Fame tight ends who played
in the 1960s and 1970s, had career averages that equated to around 600 yards gained receiving per
season in today's terms. (Ditka averaged 484 yards receiving per season and Mackey 523, but they
played 14 regular-season games versus today's 16.) In the 2005 season, 10 NFL tight ends gained
about as much as these Hall of Famers' numbers equate to, and few of the 2005 tight ends are
Canton-bound. Today's Cover Two zones, which emphasize taking away the short outside pattern
and the fly pattern, make it easier for tight ends to get open than for wide receivers. The wellcoached quarterback is looking for the tight end, increasing the value of this position.
Consider another of my "reimagined" first rounds. Below is what the 1997 first round would have
been, had what is known now been known then. My draft reimagining criteria favor longevity over
flash, so in this case I spend a No. 1 on Mike Minter, who's been consistently productive if never
spectacular, but not on Ross Verba, who was a star for a couple years, then flamed out. The players'
actual draft positions from 1997 are in parentheses, and I stop at 30 because there were 30 No. 1
selections that year.
1. Orlando Pace (1)
2. Tiki Barber (36)
3. Walter Jones (6)
4. Tony Gonzalez (13)
5. Priest Holmes (undrafted)
6. Ronde Barber (66)
7. Matt Lepsis (undrafted)
8. Tarik Glenn (19)
9. Shawn Springs (3)
10. Jeff Mitchell (134)
11. James Farrior (8)
12. Warrick Dunn (12)
13. Jason Taylor (73)
14. Darren Sharper (60)
15. Dexter Coakley (65)
16. Jake Plummer (42)
17. Corey Dillon (43)
18. Sam Madison (44)
19. Mike Vrabel (91)
20. Adam Meadows (48)
21. Pat Williams (undrafted)
22. Trevor Pryce (28)
23. Mike Minter (56)
24. Chris Naeole (10)
25. Grady Jackson (193)
26. Duce Staley (71)
27. Ryan Tucker (112)
28. Chad Scott (24)
29. Kris Mangum (228)
30. Brad Maynard (95)
Note that two of the players who should have been lottery-level selections weren't chosen by anyone
in the actual 1997 draft. Also note that only nine from the actual 1997 first round make the
reimagined first round. The actual 1997 first round was a parade of blown picks and who-dats -Michael Booker, Jim Druckenmiller, Yatil Green; it's not pretty.
This Week's Galactica Complaint
Viewers love the new "reimagined" "Battlestar Galactica," the highest-rated sci-fi series on TV.
Critics love "Galactica" too, the Chicago Tribune recently calling it "the best show on television."
Viewers seem to like that "Galactica" isn't formulaic sci-fi where justice always prevails and
incredibly complex devices can be invented in minutes. Critics seem to like that "Galactica" is dark
and depressing, depicting optimism as futile and life as barely worth living. That life is barely worth
living is certainly the regnant worldview of modern academia -- strange that a sci-fi series about
space battles should be this trendy view's main expression in popular culture.
TMQ's core problem with "Battlestar Galactica" is that the people of the show's imaginary space
society are incredibly stupid. True, there are lots of stupid people on Earth, so presumably there
would be stupid people on the opposite side of the galaxy. And folly is, inarguably, a grand theme
of history. But practically everyone in "Galactica" is so astonishingly falling-down dumb, it's hard
to care about their fates: And this is setting aside how, if they're so stupid, they were able to
construct enormous faster-than-light starcruisers.
In the pilot for "Galactica," a society spanning 12 planets is threatened by a race of living machines
called Cylons. The machines are known to sabotage computer systems. Yet all defense systems on
all 12 worlds, along with all military spacecraft, have a common password. A human scientist
named Baltar unwittingly gives the password to a Cylon; the Cylons transmit a computer virus
containing the code; all humanity's military systems stop working; the planets are helpless against
the attack that follows. Now, do you suppose there is one single password that controls every device
in the American military? We'd be idiots to engineer such a code, exactly because it might fall into
the wrong hands. Yet on "Galactica" not only can every defensive system built by humanity be
remotely deactivated, the information necessary to do this has been placed in the hands of a
mentally unstable scientist. This is one stupid society we've got here. (Two gigantic space
battleships did not receive the deactivation transmission and are protecting humanity's survivors,
creating the premise of the series.)
The author James Blish has said that much of sci-fi relies on Idiot Plots, defined as stories "kept in
motion solely by virtue of the fact that everybody involved is an idiot." (See the entry on Idiot Plots
in the 2005 edition of the "Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy," said entry by
Official Brother Neil Easterbrook of Texas Christian University.) Consider a brief rundown of
"Galactica" stupidity as exemplified by the character Baltar, named after the traitor of the original
1970s series. Baltar escapes the Cylon invasion and becomes a trusted science advisor to the
remaining human leadership. No one in military intelligence seems struck by the fact that all the
defensive systems turned themselves off precisely at the moment of the attack, nor wonders whether
this might have had something to do with Baltar, who possessed the code. Baltar rises to become
vice president in the survivors' government. He obtains high position though he often speaks, aloud,
to a Cylon avatar that manifests in his consciousness. That is -- the other characters hear Baltar
talking to a Cylon, yet are too stupid to think anything of it.
In the final few episodes of the recently concluded season, Idiot Plots drove the action. Baltar is
assigned to interrogate a Cylon spy and instead helps her escape, killing a guard in the process. No
one suspects Baltar, though he and the guard were the sole people with the Cylon and though,
presumably, faster-than-light starcruisers would have video monitors in their detention cells. Baltar
claims he can build a Cylon detector, but needs plutonium for the device. Rather than supply Baltar
with a vial of plutonium the fleet's leader, Admiral Adama, gives him a complete working nuclear
warhead, which Baltar is allowed to keep in his cabin. The dialogue reduced to its Idiot Plot
essence:
SCIENTIST: I need some plutonium.
IDIOT: Here, take this complete working nuclear warhead.
Baltar hands over the nuclear warhead to the Cylon spy; she detonates the device, destroying
several spaceships and killing hundreds of people. Nuclear explosions have distinctive spectral
characteristics that would have allowed Galactica's technicians to determine that the bomb that just
exploded was one of theirs. Yet with the fleet in turmoil owing to a nuclear explosion in its midst
and one warhead missing from the armory, no one asks Baltar to prove he still has his bomb. By the
end of the recently concluded season, Baltar has been elected president of the survivors'
government. He orders that humanity's remnant stop fleeing the Cylons, settle on an undefended
planet and essentially decommission their space warships. Everyone is too stupid to question this
order, which OBVIOUSLY leaves the survivors helpless against another Cylon attack, which
happens in the season finale. "Kept in motion solely by virtue of the fact that everybody involved is
an idiot," indeed.
Size Does Matter
Reader Jeremy Morse of Ypsilanti, Mich., notes that in a draft preview of cornerbacks, Vic Carucci
of NFL.com declared 185-pound cornerback Tye Hill of Clemson "lacks ideal size". A few
sentences later, Carucci said 189-pound cornerback Ashton Youboty of Ohio State has "good size."
Yours truly adds that Scouts Inc. calls DT Brodrick Bunkley "undersized" at 309 pounds, DT
Johnny Jolly "big" at 317 pounds. Jolly weighs 2 percent more than Bunkley. How can 2 percent
represent the difference between "undersized" and "big?"
Senator, Your Corporate-Funded Private Jet Is Waiting to Take You to the Anti-Poverty
Hearing
After the Republicans' lobbying scandal, some in the Senate proposed rules that would require
senators to pay the true cost when they use corporate jets. Currently, fat cats hoping to influence
lawmakers can provide them with personal jets at artificially low prices. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who
opposes regulation of politicians' access to corporate jets, told Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York
Times that on a single recent week, "I flew from Colorado to Los Angeles to San Diego to San
Francisco to Sacramento, back to Los Angeles, to San Bernardino and back to San Francisco."
Without a private jet at someone else's expense, Feinstein maintained, such a schedule would be
impossible. Such a schedule should be impossible! It's hard to believe Sen. Feinstein was doing the
people's business by jetting around so much, especially since she represents California, not
Colorado. The schedule described above entails seven air trips in a single week -- how can Feinstein
possibly get any real work done if she's constantly changing locations? Surely members of Congress
of both parties like constantly jetting around in corporate-financed private aircraft because it makes
them feel important, yet prevents them from being in any one location long enough to be expected
to accomplish anything.
Senators also want private jets to avoid the madhouses that modern airports have become -corporate aircraft dock at "general aviation" terminals far from the crowds and security lines. But
senators ought to experience the same airport crowding and delays as endured by voters, rather than
go straight to the front of the line like little pashas. Plus note Sen. Feinstein's schedule included the
absurdity of flying from Los Angeles to San Bernardino, about an hour's drive. Members of the
United States Senate would benefit from getting stuck in the traffic between Los Angeles and San
Bernardino, experiencing what the typical Californian must, rather than flying above voters in
corporate-funded luxury. Plus, how much corporate-funded senatorial flying is actually for
fundraising? If restrictions on corporate jets made it harder for politicians to fund raise, that alone is
a reason to force members of Congress to pay the true cost of travel.
Seventh-Round Forecast
Compare to your boards! I'm going to get a lot of heat for forecasting Mike Brisiel to Carolina with
choice No. 234, but if you can't take the heat you shouldn't be forecasting the seventh round. Next
year I plan to market "TMQ's Seventh Round Draft Guide" for $19.95 plus postage.
209. Cincinnati (from Houston): Chris Brammel, QB, Saint Francis of Indiana. Draft guides list
Brammel as 6-4 7/8, but scouts suspect he is really only 6-4 3/4.
210. New Orleans: Evan Judge, WR, Colorado. No male modeling experience.
211. New Jersey Jets: Quinn Ojinnaka, G, Syracuse. Weighs 309 pounds, yet Scouts Inc. draft
profile says he "lacks bulk."
212. Miami (from Green Bay): Jamaal Fudge, S, Clemson.
213. San Francisco: LaJuan Ramsey, DT, USC. LaJuan -- wasn't he a "Star Wars" character?
214. Oakland: Adrian Ghent, CB, Troy State. Wowed scouts at the combine with an 84.7 in relay
Yahtzee.
215. Tennessee: Steve Williams, DT, NW Missouri State.
216. Buffalo: Johnny Faulk, CB, Troy State. Troy State prospects flying off the board.
217. Detroit: Chris Morris, C, Michigan State.
218. Arizona: Javon Nanton, DE, Miami. On recent trip to the grocery store, had three sacks.
219. Baltimore: Jason Hatcher, DE, Grambling. Has taken the shuttle from Washington to New York
in less than 1 hour, 36 minutes.
220. Philadelphia: Brett Basanez, QB, Northwestern. In just 12 games last year, threw for more
yards than all but eight NFL quarterbacks threw for in 16 games. Nevertheless, scouts think
Basanez has a weak arm.
221. St. Louis: Mike Espy, WR, Mississippi. Promising career in sports television.
222. Cleveland: Terrence Pennington, T, New Mexico.
223. Atlanta: Sean Conover, DE, Bucknell. Bucknell athletes actually graduate -- so it can be done,
NCAA.
224. Dallas: Sir Henry Anderson, DT, Oregon State. On dates, addresses women as "Dame."
225. San Diego: Shawn Willis, FB, Oklahoma State.
226. Miami: Daniel Fells, TE, Cal Davis.
227. San Diego: Albert Mielsch, DT, Kentucky. Finished first in the giant slalom at the combine.
228. Kansas City: Connor Hughes, K, Virginia.
229. New England: JR Lemon, running back, Stanford. Ran the 40 in .0008 seconds on a really fast
surface at the Stanford Linear Accelerator .
230. Washington: Tyler Ecker, TE, Michigan.
231. Cincinnati: Justin London, LB, UCLA. Named after his parents were asked, "Where have you
been recently?"
232. New Jersey Giants: Charlie Peprah, S, Alabama. Hometown draftniks at Radio City go ballistic
that Giants take Peprah with Trey Tate still on the board.
233. Miami: Trey Tate, DT, Clemson.
234. Carolina: Mike Brisiel, T, Colorado State.
235. Tampa: Jami Hightower, T, Texas A&M. Though 6-4 and 364 pounds, Scouts Inc. calls his
size only "adequate."
236. San Francisco: Brett Bell, CB, Wisconsin. Once scored 81 points while shooting baskets by
himself.
237. Carolina: John Busing, LB, Miami of Ohio. TMQ loves fact that the existence of this school
forces the Hurricane university to call itself Miami of Florida.
238. Tennessee: Anthony Schlegel, LB, Ohio State.
239. Seattle: Melvin Oliver, DE, LSU. Has great intangibles, though I can't quite put my finger on
what they are.
240. Pittsburgh: Willie Evans, DE, Mississippi State. At combine, was able to rub his tummy and
pat his nose while standing on one leg.
241. Tampa: Matt Lentz, G, Michigan.
242. St. Louis: Nate Livings, G, LSU. At private workout, did 34 reps of 225 pounds. Unfortunately
since it was a private workout, no one saw.
243. St. Louis: Tom Malone, P, USC. Taking TMQ's advice, Rams shrewdly stockpiled late seventhround picks.
244. Tampa: Quinton Ganther, RB, Utah.
245. Tennessee: Dallas Baker, WR, Florida. Impressed scouts with 40-yard time of 4.392409,
though electronic timers had him at 4.393285.
246. Tennessee: Bristol Olomua, TE, Texas Tech. Another promising sports-television career.
247. Detroit: Willie Smith, CB, Marshall. Scouts praise him as a "cover corner." But then, there is
no other kind of corner.
248. Buffalo: Travis Leffew, T, Louisville.
249. Seattle: Jay McCareins, CB, Princeton. Hopes his 40-yard dash time was calculated wrong by
the College Board.
250. Washington: Eric Bassey, CB, Oklahoma.
251. Houston: If you act before midnight tonight, you will receive a free tie clasp.
252. New Orleans: Jabari Levey, T, South Carolina. At
312 pounds has "adequate bulk," according to Scouts
Inc., raising the question of why a 309-pound offensive
lineman is too small but three more pounds makes him
big enough.
253. Green Bay: Thomas Carroll, DE, Miami of Florida.
254. San Francisco: Chris Barclay, RB, Wake Forest.
255. Oakland: Mike Imoh, RB, Virginia Tech. Shortest
"Mr. Irrelevant" in history of award.
Next Week On an exclusive basis, Brett Favre tells
Tuesday Morning Quarterback he is "considering"
Is Favre going with the turkey
having a turkey sandwich for lunch. (One column next sandwich? With or without cheese?
Tuesday reviewing the draft, then in August, Tuesday
Morning Quarterback resumes on a weekly basis as the NFL artificial universe revs up.)
Tuesday, May 2, 2006
Updated: May 5, 5:00 PM ET
Messing up your daggone top 10
By Gregg Easterbrook
Will the mock draft now disappear from history? With Mario Williams going first, not only was
every mock draft erroneous, no mock draft was accurate past the first pick! Mock drafts are always
inaccurate by the fifth or sixth pick, since all it takes is one surprise to throw off every projected
choice below. But in this case all mock drafts were wrong from the first pick on down.
So far as I can determine, not one single mock draft in the entire local space-time continuum had
Williams first. (Actually, mine did, but I didn't finish my board until late Friday night.) Obviously
people do mock drafts as a diversion from the fact they are desperate for football but there isn't any
this time of year. Still, it set some kind of record for futility that with all the energy put into mock
drafts by millions of sportswriters, bloggers and fantasy leaguers, everyone was completely wrong
about everything.
Speaking of energy, yours truly attended the draft and was stunned by the amount of energy put into
an event that has no meaning whatsoever to human history. Perhaps 1,000 media people were at
Radio City Music Hall: most armed with laptop, Blackberry, Treo and at least one cell phone.
Thousands of spectators attended, hundreds of event staff were present, many dozens of carpenters
and stage crew worked on preparing the set. Three gigantic mobile television studios, the size of
tractor-trailer rigs, were parked outside, along with satellite-uplink vans and a mysterious
Illumination Dynamics truck mounting a device that appeared to be the shield generator Darth
Vader positioned on the Endor moon. (The mysterious vehicle is the one on the right.) By dusk
Friday, hundreds of New Yorkers began milling around outside Radio City, taking in the scene, as if
something momentous were about to happen. Hey, it's just the NFL draft -- which not only has no
meaning whatever to human history but also won't even have much effect on the next NFL season:
three rookies started in the last Super Bowl. Yes, the NFL is a big business, but $6 billion in
revenue in 2005 is a blip on the corporate landscape. Last week General Electric, which had $148
billion in 2005 revenue and whose status is essential to the future of the American economy, held its
annual meeting. A thousand media people did not attend.
Yet the draft is great because it's democratizing. No one has the slightest idea what will happen, so
all opinions are equally invalid. Hanging around the crowd at Radio City, I overheard emphatically
expressed football views that were indistinguishable from those being offered by The Experts. And
the fact that The Experts are constantly wrong is democratizing. For example, most draft experts
had Winston Justice going in the first half of the first round; he went in the second round. How
pleasant -- The Experts publicly wrong! That everyone's views are equally invalid is the best thing
about the draft.
In news about news, one subject of debate within journalism circles is whether the "scoop" matters.
Everyone wants to be first, of course, but how important is it to be first with something that
everyone else will also report a short time later, if not within minutes? True scoops -- such as the
New York Times reporting the Bush administration's unauthorized electronic surveillance,
something no other news organization knew -- are significant. First-to-the-microphone scoops,
where one reporter beats others by minutes, seem evanescent. Nevertheless John McClain of the
Houston Chronicle was, so far as I could determine, first with the scoop that the Texans would use
the No. 1 pick on Williams. The Chronicle had this on its Web site at 8:20 p.m. ET the night before
the draft. Adam Schefter of NFL Network barely missed being first, reporting this on air at 8:24
p.m. ET. Rachel Nichols of ESPN also barely missed being first, reporting it on air at 8:33 p.m. ET.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback has long been suspicious of cases in
which two highly drafted players played similar positions on the
same college team. In 1998, for example, quarterback Peyton
Manning of Tennessee was a first-round choice, and wide receiver
Marcus Nash of Tennessee also a first-round choice. Nash was a
bust: Manning had made him look better than he was. Call it Nearby
Nepotism -- beware of collegians who played near other good
collegians. Nearby Nepotism ran wild at this year's draft. Ohio State
linebacker A.J. Hawk went fifth, then Ohio State linebacker Bobby
Carpenter went 18th -- most likely they made each other seem
better. Three members of the Florida State front seven -- Ernie Sims,
Kamerion Wimberly and Brodrick Bunkley -- went in the first 14
selections, and most likely made each other look better. The cake
was taken when three of NC State's four defensive linemen went in
the first 26 selections. NC State had a 6-5 record -- if its D-line was
so fabulous, how come the team barely broke .500? Buffalo used the Amid the bustle of
reporters, team GMs and
26th overall choice on defensive tackle John McCargo, who lined up anxious players is the Draft
next to the top overall choice, Williams. Most likely Williams made Goddess.
McCargo look better than he is. Or maybe McCargo made Williams
look better than he is: either way someone is in for disappointment. Yours truly is guessing that of
the trio of teams that took Florida State frontline defenders (Cleveland, Philadelphia and San Diego)
and the trio that drafted NC State defensive linemen (Houston, Buffalo and San Francisco), many
will soon be asking themselves, "How come this guy doesn't look as good as he did in college?"
See below for my team-by-team analysis.
What If You Offered to Trade Down for Nothing and Couldn't Get a Deal? Researchers
Richard Thaler of the University of Chicago and Cade Massey of Yale got some ink for a study
suggesting low NFL draft picks are worth more than high picks because the high picks get huge
bonuses that crush a team's salary cap. The NFL draft system actually penalizes losing clubs by
awarding them top picks, the researchers maintained, because on average highly drafted players are
overpriced compared to what they accomplish.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback is suspicious of this finding. If a high choice actually is worth less
than a low choice, why don't teams with high choices simply swap them for low choices? Many
teams with high first-round picks want to "trade down" but cannot find a trading partner offering
anything enticing. Presumably a team would have no trouble trading down if it offered a high pick
even-up for a low pick. Yet in actual draft practice, teams absolutely never trade down for nothing
in return. Teams with high picks could also simply pass on their selection, allowing the next team to
go on the clock and effectively lowering draft position. In the first round, each slot adds roughly $1
million to a player's guarantees. So if a team drafting, say, 12th simply failed to choose for three
consecutives clock periods, converting its choice to 15th, that team would save around $3 million in
bonuses. Yet no team Saturday simply passed on its chance to select. Failing to choose while on the
clock has happened only a couple times in NFL draft annals, and that turned out to be a faux pas,
not a plan to reduce bonuses.
Thus Thaler's and Massey's paper seem to me another instance of abstract academic theory that
ignores how people and organizations behave in the real world. Presumably most NFL teams are
what economists call "rational actors," and would get rid of high picks if such selections actually
were worth less than low picks. That NFL clubs never offer a straight exchange of high picks for
low picks suggests they perceive this not to be in their self-interest, and it can't be that every one of
32 NFL teams fails to grasp its own self-interest. Perhaps teams calculate that the bad press and fan
anger that would be incurred by deliberate sacrifice of high picks would outweigh any salary-cap
leverage gained. In their paper, Thaler and Massey don't address the value of public relations.
Public relations is an economic good and one of considerable worth to organizations in the
entertainment business, such as sports teams.
If there is an NFL club following the Thaler-Massey prescription, it's the Broncos. In 2005, Denver
swapped its first choice to Washington for a 2005 third and a 2006 first -- thus discarding a firstround bonus obligation in 2005. That left Denver with two first-round selections in April, and the
Broncs traded one to San Francisco for second- and third-round selections, again freeing themselves
of a first-round bonus. OK, Thaler and Massey, I'll give you that Denver seems to have nodded to
your hypothesis. But I want to see a big trend of teams actively unloading first-round picks before
I'll concede the real-world value of this line of thought, especially since Denver later shifted gears
and traded up its remaining 2006 first-rounder. Also, the Broncos may simply be spooked by the
first round. Of Denver's last dozen first-round choices, Mike Croel, Tommy Maddox, Willie
Middlebrooks and Marcus Nash were busts, while Ashley Lelie and Deltha O'Neal were
disappointments in one way or another. Six of the last 12 first-rounders bad picks -- ouch.
Legitimate Sports-Related Excuse for Pictures of Nearly Naked Women: NBC insisted the
Winter Olympics occurred in "Torino, Italy." Organizers wanted the city designated Torino, not the
anglicized Turin. But Italians don't call their nation Italy, they call it Italia. As reader Patrick Roche
of Alexandria, Va., pointed out, "Torino, Italy" mixed languages. Munich is called Muenchen by
Germans; here, tourists may purchase an "eco-friendly Munich welcome card." The eco-friendly
city should be "Munich, Germany" in English and "Muenchen, Deutschland" in German. Calling it
"Muenchen, Germany" would be lame -- same as calling the city of the Olympics "Torino, Italy,"
rather than "Turin, Italy" or "Torino, Italia."
I mention this not for grammar-snob reasons but to create a perfectly
legitimate excuse for the ESPN.com art department to add pictures
of the women's ice dancers at Torino. Isabelle Delobel of France
wore little more than glued-on rhinestones above the waist, ditto for
Barbara Poli of Spain. Elena Grushina of Ukraine wore so little she
appeared to be a Vegas stripper most of the way through her act; the
Washington Post dubbed hers the "sluttiest costume" at the
Olympics. Not that TMQ has anything against strippers or slutty
attire -- to everything, there is a season! But the Olympic event in
question is a competition of dancing, not of disrobing. Plus, female
and nontraditional male spectators have every right to complain that
if the women perform nearly topless, the men should perform
shirtless. Why not solve the problem for future Olympics by
mandating that ice dancers perform in plain leotards? That would
avoid the preposterous outfits and tittering about same; also, fit
women look really sexy in leotards, so it accomplishes the
marketing goal, too.
Welcome to TMQ's new
favorite Olympic sport: ice
stripping!
Frequent Flyer Pick of the Year: Choice No. 93 was held by four
teams -- traded from Denver to Atlanta to Green Bay to St. Louis. There were 23 total trades of the
33 choices in the third round. Of the 32 NFL clubs, only Arizona simply went 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 with
its original picks.
In Space, No One Can Hear You Yawn: I took the Official Kids of TMQ to the Smithsonian's
new National Air and Space Museum near Dulles Airport in Virginia. We saw lots of planes,
including an SR-71 and, poignantly, the Enola Gay. We watched the Imax movie "Roving Mars" -"Presented as a Public Service by Lockheed Martin" -- about the Red Planet rovers Spirit and
Opportunity. But wait, "Roving Mars" depicts sound in space! This flick, blessed by NASA and
featured at the Smithsonian, has an animated scene in which the rocket propelling the Mars probes
has left Earth's atmosphere yet makes lots of loud noises as its engines fire and its fairings
disengage. The noises add to the Imax theatrical touch, since Imax theaters have lots of bass. But
even my 11-year-old, Spenser, leaned over and whispered, "Dad, I thought there was no sound in
outer space." If the Smithsonian can't get this kind of detail right, how can we believe its exhibits
are accurate?
The Spirit and Opportunity rovers are still operating,
two years after they were expected to expire; check out
the latest views from the Martian surface. The most
important news from Mars this month comes from the
European Space Agency's spacecraft Mars Express, in
orbit around the Red Planet. Analysts, led by JeanPierre Bibring, are convinced readings from the Mars
Express show there was liquid water flowing on Mars;
substances called phyllosilicates, detected in Martian
rocks, are thought to form only in the presence of liquid
water. Note the European Space Agency's own Web site
shows a picture of a NASA rover and identifies it as
Can you hear me now?
Mars Express. The Mars Express is a satellite orbiting
Mars; this mission did have a small rover, but it crashed. Hey ESA, fact-check your Web site!
Here's the rub, unmentioned in news coverage of the Mars water finding: Readings suggest liquid
water last flowed on Mars 3.5 billion years ago, and has not done so since. How could this have
happened? An essential aspect of Earth's geologic history is the "faint sun" problem. When the
Earth formed, about 4.5 billion years ago, our star, Sol, gave off less heat and light than today. It is
thought that for much of the early eons, Earth was a snowball, because the sun's heat was
insufficient to melt water on our world. Gradually solar output increased as the material of our star
compressed; somewhere around a billion years ago, Sol began emitting as much heat as it does
today, the Earth warmed, and complex life followed. But if Earth was a snowball 3.5 billion years
ago how could Mars, much farther away from the sun, have been warm enough for flowing water?
Note one: TMQ loves that the new Air and Space Museum is named the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy
Center, after the aircraft-leasing millionaire who donated seed money for the facility. It's not just the
Steven Udvar-Hazy Center, it's the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. Oh, so you mean that Steven
Udvar-Hazy!
Note two: Jacqueline Trescott of the Washington Post recently reported that Smithsonian Secretary
Lawrence Small is paying himself $813,000 per year. The Smithsonian's secretary has virtually no
responsibilities, other than deciding what to order for lunch, since the location and use of
Smithsonian facilities is determined by Congress. The Smithsonian boss experiences none of the
business risk that may justify high pay to public-company CEOs, since the Smithsonian holds a
government-granted monopoly and exists on federal subsidies. Here is the Smithsonian's fiscal 2007
budget request to Congress; in it the Smithsonian asks federal taxpayers for $644 million in
subsidies, including $537 million for salaries. So federal taxpayers with a median family income of
$53,692 are having their pockets picked to give Lawrence Small $813,000 a year, 15 times the
median income of the taxpayers. Why isn't this viewed as white-collar crime?
Conservationists Rarely Observe the Media Feeding in Their Natural State: During
commercial breaks at Radio City Music Hall, a woman hired by the NFL attempted to assuage the
barbarians in the crowd by interviewing NFL players present. (Sorry, on repeated attempts I was
unable to learn the woman's name.) When she interviewed Amani Toomer, the Giants' receiver
explained his first name means "peace" in Swahili. The interviewer promptly asked, "Were your
parents Swahili?" Donate here to the Kamusi Project, an attempt to create on online English-Swahili
translation program.
The lunchroom for ESPN and NFL staff was on the ninth floor of Radio City, in an area accessible
only via a 19th-century style "stage elevator" built to bring actors and musicians from their dressing
rooms to the proscenium. Passageways to the stage elevator were 19th-century narrow. The lithe
Rockettes must have trouble squeezing through these passageways; it was hilarious to watch
enormous former NFL types trying to negotiate them. Anyway, I learned the lunchroom was on the
ninth floor by first going to the general media lunch area. The guard said, "Sir, ESPN is feeding on
the ninth floor." Feeding? I worried I would get there and find a carrion, with Trey Wingo and
Michael Irvin circling around.
The new network contracts allowed NFL Network to broadcast the draft, breaking ESPN's decadeslong exclusive. Sets for Chris Berman's and Rich Eisen's competing desks were arranged so neither
would see the other in the background. The ESPN and NFL Network audio was broadcast
throughout Radio City, and media were invited to listen on radios. It seemed ESPN was playing
only on frequency 104, while NFL Network was playing on all other frequencies. Yours truly
suspected NFL Network was employing some jamming device to block the ESPN signal; maybe
there was an electronic warfare drone circling around Radio City, broadcasting "spoof" signals.
Seeing ESPN and NFL Network presenting the draft simultaneously made me wonder what will
happen in 2011, when the television master contracts expire. Right now ESPN is light years better
than NFL Network. I flipped back and forth between the two during the draft.
Bloopers are inevitable. In mid-afternoon, Chris Berman interviewed Herm Edwards. The draftniks
at Radio City, most of them wearing Jets jerseys, noticed and began lusty booing. Over on NFL
Network, Rich Eisen declared, "The booing you hear is because New England is on the clock. Jets
fans don't like New England." New England had been on the clock nine minutes at that point. Eisen
might simply not have known why spectators were suddenly booing.
True draft fact No. 1: Media interviews with players were held in a makeshift area set up in a
Radio City hall where the sculptor William Zorach's "Spirit of the Dance" is the centerpiece. "Spirit
of the Dance" depicts a gigantic naked woman with "perky nipples," as the "Sex and the City"
heroines would say. Yours truly found it entertaining to watch draft choices, family members of
draftees and agents screaming into cell phones as they crowded around the statue, all of them, so far
as I could tell, totally oblivious to it.
True draft fact No. 2: Not only were the Rockettes not
present, Radio City's fabled Mighty Wurlitzer, the
largest theatrical pipe organ ever constructed, was not
used. This 4,410-pipe instrument was built in 1932 in
the old Wurlitzer factory in North Tonawanda, N.Y.,
near my boyhood home. As a child, I often bicycled
past the Wurlitzer factory, which closed in 1983. The
Mighty Wurlitzer was this company's greatest product
and is capable not just of roller-rink sounds but of
producing the full range of symphonic music. It was a
sign of the dumbing-down of mass culture that the NFL
held its draft in Radio City Music Hall, location of one
Couldn't somebody have played some
of the most renowned musical instruments that exists in show tunes on the Mighty Wurlitzer?
the world, and never switched on that great instrument.
Think of organ crescendos from 4,410 pipes as the commissioner approaches the podium! Instead,
low-quality, ear-splitting, swelling electronic sounds like you hear at amusement parks were played
the entire day, the same numbing recording over and over and over again. The draft must have cost
$10 million to stage; they couldn't hire an organist?
TMQ to ESPN Auditors -- Please Approve My Expense Account for Fact-Finding Trip to
Oslo: "Norwegians lead the world in casual sex," a study asserts. Surely the Norwegian Tourism
Board will extensively promote this finding! In the past year, "Seven out of 10 Norwegians have
had a random sex partner, and the nation is among the top of the list for one-night stands." What,
exactly, is a "random sex partner?" You don't even know who the other person is? Key additional
finding: "Norwegians are also among the least sexually satisfied in the world." So those Norway
types get more spur-of-the-moment sex with strangers than you or I, but it doesn't make them
happy. Why does this not come as a surprise?
Fact-Finding Trip to Belgium Is My Backup Request: Researchers at the University of Leuven
in Belgium recently announced a study suggesting men lose their financial bargaining edge after
they have seen beautiful women. Volunteers played a wagering game in which a participant could
either gamble for big winnings, running a risk of obtaining nothing, or fold and accept a medium
return. Most men gambled for big winnings. Then half the group was shown pictures of babes in
lingerie, the other half photographs of landscapes. When the game resumed, the men who had been
gawking at pretty women lost their focus and began to agree to whatever offer was on the table,
while the men who had seen the landscape photography kept playing for big wins. Isn't the NFL
implication here obvious? When men are considering a season-ticket purchase, first invite them to
peruse the cheerleader swimsuit calendar, then give them the season-ticket order form.
Mel Kiper Watch: A man who makes his living obsessing about the NFL draft -- only in America!
Though Kiper is often lampooned, the day ESPN put him on the air was an important day in
football annals. First, Kiper's example allowed millions of Americans to come out as draftniks. At
this time of year, very large numbers of people have intense, strongly held convictions regarding
football prospects they may never have seen perform. Mel's example made it all right to be a
draftnik -- the man makes his living talking about this stuff! Everybody laughs at Mel's hair, but
deep down, there are significant numbers who wish they could exchange occupations with Kiper.
And I don't mean just miners or stevedores who would trade places with Mel in order to exchange
dangerous or exhausting work for sitting in an air-conditioned office. Many doctors, lawyers and
business managers would trade occupations with Kiper in a New York minute, because a huge
number of Americans simply love the draft, and Kiper lives in the draftnik world 365 days a year.
Kiper is significant in another way, too. His example made it OK for men (and, increasingly,
women) to admit they are totally obsessed with football. Obsessed is the key word. Before Kiper,
people watched NFL or college games, and maybe the occasional highlight show, and now and then
absentmindedly thumbed through a football annual. Kiper made it OK to be obsessed about
football, to watch every last game that's on, to read every last sentence that's written, to pore over
stats and tapes. In this sense, Mel Kiper Jr. has made a greater positive contribution to the incredible
financial success of the National Football League than all but a few people in broadcasting.
Watching him on his perch at Radio City on Saturday, I reflected on the fact that the respectable
media and football worlds refuse to honor Kiper: he's too out-there, too goofy. Yet many
respectable-media types who snicker at Kiper privately know he has accomplished more than they
have. His was a central role in the last two decades of the promotion of professional and college
football, helping inspire round-the-clock viewing and, now, round-the-clock Internet following.
And Kiper has been a populist influence, expressing in his own inimitable way this message:
anyone can figure this stuff out, The Experts don't know anything you can't know. I say in full
seriousness that someone needs to give Mel Kiper an award. Think what you will about the
pompadour: Kiper's contribution to broadening the base of public interest in football exceeds that of
most famed broadcasters and sportswriters and of most NFL executives, for that matter.
These things said, part of the fun of Kiper is watching him be all over the map. This year he issued
five mock drafts, each contradicting the one before. Mel had the Dolphins going first for Winston
Justice, or Ashton Youboty, or Donte Whitner, or Antonio Cromartie; they actually used their first
selection on Jason Allen. "If Justice is available, he has got to be the call for Miami," Mel foresaw;
Justice was available and was not the call.
Kiper had the Bucs going first for Cromartie, or Marcus
McNeill, or Chad Greenway; they actually used their
first-rounder on Davin Joseph. Kiper had Dallas
investing its first choice on Jason Allen, or Chad
Jackson, or Manny Lawson; the Cowboys chose Bobby
Carpenter. Kiper had DeAngelo Williams going as high
as 10th or as low as 22nd, being picked by Arizona or
New England or Denver; Williams went 27th to
Carolina. Kiper had Tamba Hali going as high as 12th
to Cleveland or as low as the second round; he went
20th to Kansas City. On March 6, Kiper predicted
Oakland would use the seventh overall choice on
Odds are 100 to 1 that none of the
quarterback Jay Cutler; on March 27, Kiper said "it
media "experts" knew that San Diego
would be odd" if Oakland used its first pick on a
was going to pick Cromartie.
quarterback. (Oakland passed on Cutler.) With its first
pick, Jacksonville "could go one of two ways, Thomas Howard or Deuce Lutui." Both were
available when Jax picked, and the team went a third way. At various points, Mel had the Chargers
taking Tye Hill or Justice or Jonathan Joseph or Santonio Holmes; San Diego took Cromartie. At
various points Kiper predicted the Eagles would take Justice or Holmes or Jackson or Ernie Sims or
Greenway; they took Brodrick Bunkley. Surely if any one of his multiple forecasts for any of these
teams had been correct, Mel would have claimed to have predicted it!
Kiper's player comments are similarly all over the map. Davin Joseph was chosen in the first round;
two months before the draft, Mel said Joseph "has a chance to be a second-round pick." Mark
Anderson: "He could be a second-round pick." Anderson went in the fifth round. A month before
the draft, Kiper called Kellen Clemens "a late-round possibility." Then Kiper forecast Clemens as a
second-round choice. As Clemons was chosen in the second round, by Jersey/B (aka the Jets), Kiper
said, "That's a little high for Clemens, considering Brodie Croyle is still available." In his own final
mock, Mel had Clemens going before Croyle. When Detroit took Daniel Bullocks early in round
two, Kiper said, "That's where I thought for him, early round two." In all his mock drafts, Mel had
Bullocks going either late round two or below the second round. Kiper predicted of Denver's first
choice, "They could get a wide receiver or running back. Their key area is defensive end." Denver
used its first choice on a quarterback. The Panthers, Kiper said, "would be hard-pressed to pass on
Mercedes Lewis." They passed on Mercedes Lewis. For the Titans to choose Matt Leinart would be
"a no-brainer." The Titans passed on Leinart. Of course there are hundreds of prospects, and Kiper
was exactly right about some of their destinations: he forecast Nick Mangold to the Jets with the
29th selection, for example. But Kiper makes draft predictions the way Kobe Bryant takes shots:
they both launch so many that one or two have to fall. My favorite Kiperism this year? When Donte
Whitner went eighth overall, Mel said, "That's about right. I had him going 16th to Miami, but that's
still about right." Kiper did have Whitner going 16th to Miami -- in a January mock. The day before
the draft, he forecast Whitner to Cincinnati at the 24th slot. Kiper couldn't keep his own predictions
straight. And who could blame him?
TMQ Continues to Advocate a Stadium Named "Your Trademark Here Stadium": What a
relief the NFL and its players signed a new collective bargaining agreement, which TMQ will
analyze in detail when this column resumes in earnest in August. The only teams to vote against the
CBA were Buffalo and Cincinnati, both low-grossing franchises that believe -- falsely, in all
likelihood -- they won't be able to compete against high-grossing franchises as the salary cap
skyrockets. In many areas of life, the key question is "compared to what?" The new CBA may not
lend Green Bay, Jacksonville and other small-market teams as much financial help as might have
been ideal. But -- compared to what? The wealthy teams might have insisted on giving smallmarket teams nothing, or might have torpedoed any CBA in order to have uncapped years that
would have clobbered the small-market bloc. Instead the wealthy teams agreed to share more with
the little guys -- quite statesmanlike on the part of Dallas, Denver, Houston, New England,
Washington and other high-revenue franchises.
Owners of some of high-grossing teams groused that Buffalo and Cincinnati complained of
insufficient transfer payments while both decline to sell stadium names to corporate buyers. If they
need more revenue, the wealthy owners ask, why don't they sell like we did? Despite the impression
that everything in pro sports is for sale, roughly half of NFL franchises have either never sold the
stadium name or sold it once and then taken the name back. The Bears (Soldier Field), Bengals
(Paul Brown Stadium), Bills (Ralph Wilson Stadium), Browns (Cleveland Browns Stadium),
Cardinals (Sun Devil Stadium), Chiefs (Arrowhead Stadium), Cowboys (Texas Stadium), Dolphins
(Dolphin Stadium), Falcons (Georgia Dome), Giants (Giants Stadium), Jets (Meadowlands
Stadium), Packers (Lambeau Field), Saints (Superdome), Titans (The Coliseum) and Vikings
(Hubert Humphrey Metrodome) lack stadium-name income. Some of these, such as the Browns and
both New Jersey clubs, are high-grossing teams, showing that even the marketing-obsessed don't
necessarily sell everything. Teams on the unsullied list may end up with corporate-named stadia,
pending the details of new-facility projects; although any chance the Chicago facility would be
renamed Soldier Field by Marshall Fields expired when the sinister Federated Department Stores
holding company announced it would abolish the Marshall Fields brand. Anyway, it's not just fussy
traditionalists who decline to sell their stadium names: a significant number of NFL franchises have
said no sale to corporate sponsors.
True, only Buffalo has a stadium named for its current owner. The new crowd of max-marketing
owners such as Robert McNair and Daniel Snyder have a point when they note Wilson wants them
to share the wealth in part so that he can keep his stadium named after himself; while if Snyder or
McNair named their teams' fields after themselves, they would be accused of egotism. The point
that can be made in Wilson's corner involves succession. Wilson may leave the team to his wife
Mary, engaging no estate tax, or to his daughters, which would involve them borrowing to pay the
estate tax. In either case, if the franchise stays in the family, Mary or the daughters would be deeply
hesitant to move the team away from a stadium named for Ralph. Whereas if the place were named
Call Now for Papa John's Spicy Buffalo Wings Stadium, there would be no sentimental attachment
and new Bills management might say, "Los Angeles, here we come." Ralph Wilson choose the
stadium name in part to increase the odds the Bills remain in Buffalo after his death, a point that
isn't widely known.
Yours truly loves (and slightly knows) Ralph Wilson, but lobbied for the Orchard Park facility to be
named Robert Kalsu Field. The sole American professional athlete who died in uniform during the
Vietnam War, Kalsu voluntarily left the Bills in order to serve his country, surrendering an
exemption. Whatever you thought of the Vietnam War, there is no higher patriotism than to serve
voluntarily from the sense of duty, not owing to conscription. Though I wish the Bills' facility were
named for Kalsu, the fieldhouse adjoining Wilson Stadium is now Robert Kalsu Fieldhouse, and a
statue at the stadium stands in his honor. That's pretty good when you take into account that Kalsu
died before the 24-7 cable era -- 99 percent of those who follow sports have never so much as heard
his name. Which brings us to the question of a man whose name definitely has been heard. The new
football facility rising in Glendale, Ariz., has the working designation Cardinals Stadium. If on
dedication day its name is not Pat Tillman Field, the Cardinals franchise, and the whole National
Football League, should be ashamed.
Disclaimer Watch: Recently, yours truly signed on to a high-speed Internet connection in a Westin
hotel and first had to click "accept" to 1,025 words of verbiage presented in all-caps, apparently to
discourage anyone from actually reading it. Basically the agreement specified I would not use the
hotel's Internet connection to take over the world. The statement included such provisions as, "You
shall be prohibited from usage that infringes any patent, trademark, trade secret, copyright, right of
publicity or other proprietary right of any party." But I'm already prohibited -- everything
mentioned in the sentence is illegal, and the fact that something is illegal is a more powerful
restriction than that it's mentioned in an unread disclaimer.
Disclaimer bonus! Recently, yours truly signed in at Google headquarters in Mountain View,
Calif., to visit a Google executive.
The sign-in required me to click "accept" to a lengthy
disclaimer which I had no way of copying to find the
amusing sentence that must have been in there
somewhere. And recently I registered for TimesPoints,
the affinity program of the august New York Times.
(That's the august newspaper, not an August edition.)
The disclaimer was 19 paragraphs long and could not be
printed or copied; which is to say, the New York Times
wanted to make it impossible for you to keep a record
of what you agreed to. One stipulation the Times didn't
want you to be able to copy: "Any use of your assigned
user ID or password will be assumed to be your use."
That means if someone hacks your password it is your
problem, not their problem.
Before you enter the pearly gates, make
sure you sign the 50-page disclaimer.
Disclaimer double bonus! The disclaimer on the back of my NFL-issued press pass for Saturday's
draft at Radio City Music Hall declared, "Holder assumes all risk pertaining to use." It's dangerous
to attend the draft?
Being Paid Not to Want Someone -- If Only Dates Worked This Way: Baltimore, drafting 13th,
traded with Cleveland, drafting 12th; the two teams swapped positions, the Ravens giving the
Browns a sixth-round choice as payment. Baltimore then drafted Haloti Ngata. Essentially
Baltimore gave Cleveland a sixth-round selection in return for the Browns agreeing not to select
Ngata.
Team-by-Team Analysis-Like-Substance
Atlanta: In two of the last four drafts, Atlanta traded its first-round choice for a player another team
"franchised" solely for the purpose of unloading -- Peerless Price and now John Abraham. In each
case the original employers of these gentlemen were not planning to invite them back. Price was a
bust in Georgia. Now the Falcons have duplicated the model.
Arizona: Had he come out in 2005, Matt Leinart would have been the top overall choice, gone to
glamorous San Francisco and gotten a monster contract. Instead he was true to his school and
returned for his senior season, now goes 10th to the woeful Cards and will get a medium-sized
contract. Leinart took the most expensive ballroom dancing class in history!
Baltimore: Arriving at their assigned team desk near the front of Radio City Music Hall, Ravens'
officials said, "What are these?" They were puzzled by the strange devices on every team desk. The
strange devices, which Baltimore officials had never seen, were regular landline telephones.
Buffalo: Since 1990, Buffalo has had 17 first-round draft picks; the team has used seven on
defensive backs, versus five on linemen of all types. Buffalo seems addicted to drafting skinny
guys: this may explain why the Bills were consistently blown off the ball on both sides of the line in
2005. Once again it was Skinny City on draft day as Buffalo went first for a safety, then used three
of its first four selections on defensive backs. The Bills, having one of the league's worst offensive
lines, ended 2005 with waiver-wire acquisitions starting at both offensive tackles -- yet signed no
OT in the offseason and did not choose one in the draft until the fifth round. Eric Mangini, product
of the New England success system, took over the Jets and at the top of the draft immediately went
offensive line, offensive line. It's a winning formula. Endlessly drafting skinny guys who get
clobbered because there is no one in the trenches is not a winning formula.
Carolina: "A new sophistication is sweeping across the city," the New York Times pronounced in
March of Charleston. Hey Claude, did you just feel something sweep across the city? The
newspaper's evidence of sweeping Carolina change: a recently opened suspension bridge and the
Carolinas' inaugural Food and Wine Festival, which attracted 5,000. "Food experts came from
across the South to size up the situation, and many were impressed," the newspaper reported. "Food
experts" converge! The Times especially praised an expensive Charleston restaurant for its "classic
low-country combination of pork and shellfish in the form of intensely piggy guanciale, made from
hog jowls." Intensely piggy?
Chicago: The Bears used their first two selections on cornerbacks. This was sensible since, against
Steve Smith in the playoffs, Chicago appeared to be playing without any cornerbacks.
Cincinnati: Third-round choice Frostee Rucker of USC is the first choice in Bengals annals to be
named after a frozen confection. "Now that there is Bengals candy, we really wanted to get Frostee
too," Marvin Lewis said.
Cleveland: The Browns and Saints essentially exchanged centers. Center LeCharles Bentley of
New Orleans signed with Cleveland as a free agent and center Jeff Faine of Cleveland went to New
Orleans in a draft-day swap. Hmm -- this is a totally straight football comment, what's it doing in
TMQ?
Dallas: When I look at the Cowboys' roster since Troy Aikman retired, I have not seen a premium
quarterback. When I've looked at Cowboys' rosters since Jerry Jones bought the team, I have not
seen a premium young quarterback in waiting. (Aikman was already there when Jones made his
purchase.) And when I looked at the list of Dallas choices in the 2006 draft, I did not see a premium
young quarterback. Or any quarterback. How might Matt Leinart have looked in silver and blue? He
was there for the taking at a reasonable cost in trade-up terms.
Denver: The orange-clad Broncos should have tabbed Kate Mosse, founder, the Orange Prize, a
British award for novels written by women. Presumably, a novel by a woman about the Denver
Broncos would include lengthy scenes of women discussing regret, disappointment, loss, hidden
family secrets and repressed anger about the Broncos' performance in the AFC title game.
Detroit: Why didn't the Lions draft a CEO or a management
consultant from McKinsey? Since Matt Millen took over in 2001,
Detroit has the worst record in the NFL; and Millen did not inherit a
loser, rather. a 9-7 Lions squad that had just barely missed the
playoffs. Millen sure turned the Detroit program around! Tuesday
Morning Quarterback continues to wonder what weird hold Millen
has over the Ford family, which just awarded Millen a contract
extension. In five years under him the Lions' best finish is 6-10, yet
Millen hasn't been fired. Does Millen have the negatives of
photographs of the Ford family driving BMWs?
Green Bay: The Packers have the most cap space in the league, yet
have done little in free agency. Green Bay is also the NFL's sole
publicly owned team, meaning management has fiduciary
responsibility to stockholders. Can it be that Pack management has
concluded its fiduciary duty is to cut costs and maximize profit?
Lambeau Field will sell out every game even if the Packers go 0-16.
Where would Matt Millen go
in a mock draft of NFL GMs?
We say No. 32.
Houston: Yeah yeah, they passed on Reggie Bush. Yeah yeah,
"strictly a football decision." No one has the slightest idea which
drafted players will be good. If you knew for sure Reggie would be the next Gale Sayers, then of
course you'd take Bush; if you knew for sure Mario Williams would be the next Bruce Smith, then
of course you'd take Williams. But you don't know -- you're guessing all the way. What TMQ liked
about the Texans' draft was the first and second choices of the third round were both good-looking
offensive linemen. Houston, Jersey/B, Philadelphia and Tampa were the teams that emphasized
offensive line in this year's draft. Prediction: Houston, Jersey/B, Philadelphia and Tampa will
improve their records.
Indianapolis: It's less than six months since the Colts were glistening at 13-0 and widely described,
by serious sports observers, as an unstoppable colossus that would become the first-ever 19-0
perfect team. That was less than six months ago. How much did you hear about the Colts over draft
weekend? Do your football-nut friends ever even mention the Colts anymore? It's like Indianapolis
has ceased to exist.
Jacksonville: Worried about being a low-revenue team under the newly increased salary cap, the
Jaguars will begin charging players per cup of Gatorade -- so they drink the whole cup, rather than
drinking some, tossing it away and taking a fresh cup later. Also, to cut photocopy costs, game
plans will be recycled.
Kansas City: Remember that huge push the Chiefs made last year to improve their defense? Well,
Kansas City was 31st in defense in 2004 and 25th in 2005. The huge push didn't amount to much.
This is still a team that must outscore you because it can't stop you.
Miami: The Dolphins looked good at the end of 2005. They're also becoming the NFL's soap-opera
team -- drug suspensions, domestic court, Quarterback of the Day, road-rage incidents, a coach who
wears Panama hats. Why isn't there a reality show based on the Dolphins? Plus, it could have bikini
beach scenes. Note the team just renamed its facility Dolphin Stadium, not Dolphins Stadium.
Maybe this is an attempt to restart the old fad for singular football names, such as Chicago Fire
(WFL, 1970s) and Denver Gold (USFL, 1980s).
Minnesota: Two seasons ago, Daunte Culpepper to Randy Moss was the most feared battery in the
league. Now the gentlemen have been traded for Troy Williamson and Napoleon Harris, both third
string on the Vikings' depth chart, plus a draft choice that just became rookie Ryan Cook. These are
looking like some of the worst trades since Russia's Baron Edouard de Stoeckl sent Alaska to
William Seward for $7.2 million and an archipelago to be named later.
New England: They must be worried in Foxborough because for the
first time since the Belichick success system took hold, the Patriots
did not trade down to bank extra choices for next year. It was
"smoke 'em if you've got 'em" in the New England draft room. Last
week TMQ noted the Patriots have the NFL's first official team Web
site in Chinese. Here, in Mandarin, are the vitals on Patriots' cheerbabe Jie Ralls, born in Shanghai.
New Jersey Giants: Last year the G-Men played nine home games
and seven road dates; the unprecedented schedule favor helped put
them into the playoffs. This happened because the early Giants-atSaints contest was rescheduled to the Meadowlands after Hurricane
Katrina hit the Big Easy. Now the 2006 sked is out, and it lists
Saints at Giants. Pairings are determined years in advance via a
formula. But why wasn't this game shifted to New Orleans, so
Jersey/A could in 2006 play seven home games and nine road dates,
atoning for its 2005 windfall?
The Patriots think global.
New Jersey Jets: The Radio City crowd was 80 percent Jets draftniks. The commissioner comes to
the podium with the fourth selection and Matt Leinart available. The Jets choose D'Brickashaw
Ferguson, and Radio City does not shake with boos. Sure, Ferguson is a Long Island product,
though the Jets just abandoned Long Island, moving their headquarters to New Jersey. Jets draftniks
did not boo the Jets' first choice. Is there a doctor in the house? The Jets had a second selection in
the first round, with glamour boys such as Chad Jackson available, and chose another offensive
lineman. Again Jets draftniks cheered wildly. Are these pod people from another planet substituted
for real Jets fans? Tuesday Morning Quarterback was impressed that the Jets' faithful were
sophisticated enough to cheer for offensive linemen. And TMQ thinks the Jets had a magnificent
draft, in no small part because they put blockers first. Eric "I Was a Teenaged Coach" Mangini is
giving notice he has the New England success formula down -- substance, not style. Mangini even
banked an extra second-round choice for 2007, again following the New England success formula
of trading down annually in the middle rounds to add extra choices, and thus extra ammunition, for
next year.
New Orleans: Between Reggie Bush and the revival of the
Superdome, Monday Night, Sept. 25, has become must-see TV. And
oh look, how convenient -- ESPN has the game! Mark your shared
Web calendar now. What, you don't know about shared Web
calendars? You are a full 72 hours behind the technology curve.
Oakland: The Raiders have spent five of their last eight first-round
picks on defensive backs, versus two on linemen of all types.
Oakland, like Buffalo, seems addicted to drafting skinny guys: this
may explain why the Raiders were consistently blown off the ball on
both sides of the line in 2005. In recent seasons Buffalo and Oakland
have both gone Skinny City on draft day, ignoring linemen, then
both had bad years. Now, could these data points possibly be
related?
Philadelphia: The Eagles, at the cutting edge of cheerleader
cheesecake, drafted receiver/male model Jeremy Bloom, who's at the "And in the fifth round, the
cutting edge of athletic beefcake. Bloom has shown the world as
Eagles' PR staff selects ...
much of himself as have the Philadelphia cheer-babes in their annual Jeremy Bloom, beefcake,
three-ounces-of-fabric lingerie calendars. Now Philadelphia has its Colorado."
glamorous cheerleaders to exhibit to men, and Bloom to exhibit to
women and nontraditional males. Why do I think this was the first NFL draft choice dictated by the
marketing department?
Pittsburgh: It's tough being on top. There's intense pressure. Everything feels like it's constantly
boiling up. It's really tough being on top. I'm not referring to the Steelers' defending-champion
status. I'm referring to Bill Cowher's baseball cap.
San Diego: In the first round the Bolts took Antonio Cromartie, despite his having just one start in
college. In 1992, Johnnie Mitchell went in the first round despite not starting in college, and you
remember how well that worked out. Antonio, here's some free advice: don't wear sunglasses
indoors during television interviews, you looked ridiculous. At least now we know why scouts
questioned Cromartie's depth perception.
St. Louis: The St. Louis Rams just passed on a flashy quarterback in
order to get a cornerback and a defensive tackle. That was the net of
Saturday's first-round Broncos-Rams trade. The St. Louis Rams just
passed on a flashy quarterback in order to get a cornerback and a
defensive tackle. Maybe if I keep repeating it, I'll believe it.
San Francisco: It was touching when Vernon Davis cried at the
draft when he heard his name called. Sportscasters assumed Davis
was overcome by joy; actually he was crying because he had been
chosen by the 49ers of 2006, not the Niners of 1986. The chain of
events that caused San Francisco to hand the keys to its salary cap to
Alex Smith in 2005 (one touchdown throw) and then pass over
California hero Matt Leinart in 2006 is one Niners' fans may be
ruing, really ruing, for years to come.
Seattle: Beginning this year, the league will allow each team to
supply its own footballs. Seattle had been hoping to supply its own
officials. Coach Mike Holmgren told reporters, "I'm not saying the
Jeremy, meet Corinne, Miss
September.
officials are a bunch of crooked stooges who deliberately robbed us as part of an international
conspiracy run by an agency far more secret than the CIA, but it's something you might want to
look in to."
Tampa: The Bucs also went offensive line at the top of the draft, winning the football gods'
approval. Since Chris Simms left Texas, he has not been able to stand back and scan the field. All
quarterbacks suddenly become more talented when they have time to scan the field. Something for
Bucs' foes to think about.
Tennessee: Norm Chow throws out his famous 300-play playbook and installs the new Vince
Young offense. In the new offense, "Spread 26 motion shallow Y-curl X-dig blast" is replaced by
"Pass right."
Washington: The Redskins have had the fewest draft picks since 2000 and have already traded
away their second and fourth choices of 2007. In Washington, "the future is now" formula of
casually trading away draft choices has been in practice so long the slogan should be changed to,
"The future will happen at some point."
Estimating Future Draft Pick Value: Last week TMQ mused on the Dallas Chart, the table of
equivalencies that some teams use when negotiating draft-pick swaps. But the chart only concerns
the present draft, and picks are often swapped for selections in the subsequent year. Traditionally, a
choice today is worth one round less than a choice in the future. For instance, on Sunday the Colts
gave their sixth pick in 2007 for the Titans' seventh pick in 2006; if you want someone's secondround choice in the current year, you must offer your first-round choice in the next. This is a form
of "discounting to present value," and TMQ suggests the Dallas Chart could be used to discount to
present value simply by moving one column over. A team that wants to offer a third-round choice
next year for a choice today would look in the fourth-round column of the table to determine the
value of next year's third rounder, and so on. Of course it's impossible to know where in the round a
next-year's choice might be, but using the table this way would at least generate an approximate
value of a future choice being traded for a current choice.
Case study: In 2005, Denver traded the 25th pick of the first round for Washington's third choice in
2005, which was the 76th pick, and first choice in 2006. The Broncos then swapped Washington's
first choice in 2006 to San Francisco for the Niners' second and third in 2006, which were the 37th
and 68th picks. Here's the discount-to-present-value based on the chart. Denver gave up the 25th
pick in 2005 (worth 720 points) for the 76th pick in 2005 (worth 210 points), the 37th pick in 2006
(worth 530 in 2006 but only 245 points in 2005 owing to discounting) and the 68th pick in 2006
(worth 250 points in 2006 but only 100 points in 2005 owing to discounting). Thus Denver traded a
choice worth 720 points in 2005 for picks worth 555 points when taking into account that the
Broncos received two of the three choices in the future. The economic concept of "discounting to
present value" assumes the future is less valuable than the present. Take your picture now, take it
again in five years, and you'll know what I mean!
Next Week The draft is over, so we've made it halfway through that long, cold, lonely offseason -halfway to the resumption of the football artificial universe. Tuesday Morning Quarterback returns
on a weekly basis the first Tuesday of August.
Monday, July 31, 2006
Updated: August 4, 11:53 AM ET
Offseason highs and lows
By Gregg Easterbrook
Matt Leinart remains the sole important unsigned draft choice, and Matt, no matter how long you
hold out, it's not going to change -- you were drafted only 10th. But yours truly continues to scratch
his head about the slide of Matt Leinart to the 10th selection in the draft. Methinks a number of
teams will someday rue, really rue, their failure to write this gentleman's name on an index card.
Houston, at the first pick, made a commitment to David Carr, and Carr has played reasonably well,
without complaint, for awful teams. New Orleans, with the second choice, had lots of good reasons
to select Reggie Bush. Choosing third, Tennessee believed Vince Young will be better than Leinart.
Choosing fourth, Jersey/B had a draft plan that included landing a good quarterback prospect
(Kellen Clemens) in the second round. So yours truly sees logic in the decisions of the first four
teams to pass on Leinart.
But the next five teams -- Ye gods. Green Bay, San Francisco, Oakland, Buffalo and Detroit, all
with serious quarterback issues, neglected Leinart. Sure, the Packers used a No. 1 choice on Aaron
Rodgers the year prior. But that was then, this is now! For throwing ability, command of the field
and swagger, Leinart is the most Brett-Favre-like prospect to enter the league in a decade. Sure the
Squared Sevens used the prior year's first overall choice on Alex Smith. But that was then, this is
now, why does last year's error mandate another error this year? Oakland ignored Leinart despite its
underwhelming troika of Aaron Brooks, Marques Tuiasosopo and Andrew Walter at quarterback.
Brooks had six years to prove himself as starter for the Saints, and in that time New Orleans rivaled
the Lions as the least-feared team in the NFL. Buffalo ignored Leinart despite its underwhelming
troika of Kelly Holcomb, J.P. Losman and Craig Nall at quarterback. Yes, the Bills two years ago
sunk first- and second-round choices into Losman, but that was then, this is now! Buffalo has been
searching for a field leader since Jim Kelly retired, and the swaggering Leinart appears the most
Kelly-like prospect in a decade. Finally Detroit ignored Leinart. The Lions were reeling from not
long ago using the third overall choice on a quarterback they ran out of town on a rail, Joey
Harrington. But why does a previous mistake mandate another mistake?
Sure, nobody knows who will be good in the pros, and sure, Leinart's amazing 37-2 collegiate
record came with a stacked team. But Green Bay, San Francisco, Oakland, Buffalo and Detroit have
bad-to-awful situations at quarterback, the sport's most important position. All just passed on
drafting one of the best quarterback prospects in a decade. Buffalo and Oakland passed on Leinart
to draft safeties. Memo to the Bills and Raiders: Quarterback is more important than safety. I've got
five bucks that says Leinart will be performing in Honolulu in February in the not too distant future,
while at least one of the guys inexplicably taken instead of him (A.J. Hawk, Vernon Davis, Michael
Huff, Donte Whitner and Ernie Sims) will be a huge disappointment. Great Caesar's Ghost!
In other football news, increasingly Roger Goodell appears likely to be the next commissioner of
the National Football League. He is a fine candidate -- though I have some sympathy for a second
contender, the tastefully named Gregg Levy. See below for discussion of a previous Goodell who
was also a fine candidate: Roger's father Charles, one of the most admirable people ever to stand in
the well of the United States Senate, and one of the heroes of my youth.
In other news, you gotta be a football hero to get along with the beautiful girls. Everyone wants to
be the quarterback; every quarterback wants to throw a touchdown pass. Who recently became the
man who has thrown more touchdown passes than anyone in pro football history? See below.
And in other news, I'm back and I'm bad! Well, at least I'm back. Tuesday Morning Quarterback has
resumed for the 2006 season. Here, my annual kickoff column of offseason highlights and
lowlights.
Analysts Blamed High Costs: The magazine Budget
Living went out of business.
When Did You Say the Iowa Caucuses Are? Hillary
Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, campaigning for
presidential nominations, both used the phase
"cellulosic ethanol" in speeches in the same week.
Look Honey, H&R Block Says We Get a $32 Million
Refund: Tax preparation firm H&R Block admitted
making $32 million worth of errors in its favor on its
own corporate tax returns.
England Imitates a Cartoon: An actual were-rabbit
terrorized gardeners in the English village of Felton
until a car struck and killed the ravenous two-foot-long
creature.
America's Mayor is already on the
campaign trail.
Offseason Football-Like Substance No. 1: In Arena League play, the New York Dragons defeated
the Utah Blaze 84-81 in the second-highest-scoring game in professional football history. The teams
combined for 24 touchdowns, 778 passing yards and nine rushing yards. (The highest-scoring pro
football game, played in 2001, saw the Dragons defeat the Carolina Cougars 99-68.) In playoff
action, the Georgia Force defeated the Dragons 72-69; the Dragons had 387 yards passing and one
yard rushing. In the Arena League championship, the Chicago Rush defeated the Orlando Predators
69-61 in a game that featured a 52-point second quarter. Here are the Adrenaline Rush Dancers of
the Arena League champions.
On the season, quarterback Clint Dolezel of the Dallas Desperadoes
led the Arena League with 105 touchdown passes, one less than the
106 touchdown passes Peyton Manning has thrown in the last three
NFL seasons combined. Andy Kelly of the Utah Blaze completed
his 768th career touchdown pass, surpassing Aaron Garcia to
become pro football's all-time leader in touchdown throws. (The
NFL record for career touchdown passes is 420, held by Dan
Marino; Warren Moon threw 435 touchdown passes in the NFL and
CFL combined.) Dane Krager of the Austin Wranglers led the Arena
League in rushing with 197 yards.
Offseason Football-Like Substance No. 2: Over in arenafootball2 - the Arena League's little brother cannot afford capital letters -- the
Manchester Wolves beat the Florida Firecats 79-62 in a game that
featured 21 touchdowns and nine missed PAT attempts. The Tulsa
Talons beat the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings 72-3, as the Battle
Wings kicked a short field goal in the closing minutes to deny Tulsa
the shutout. Here are the Talons' cheerleaders, who can't seriously be
from Oklahoma -- they must fly them in.
The Adreanline Rush
Dancers must love all the
high-scoring action of the
Arena League.
Offseason Football-Like Substance No. 3: Hundreds of vibrating
football enthusiasts crowded the Embassy Suites Hotel in Hunt Valley, Md., for the 12th Super
Bowl of Electric Football, or SB/EF XII. The enthusiasts were not, themselves, vibrating -- in most
cases. After numerous qualifying heats, Keith Chambers of Washington, D.C., bested defending
champion Norbert Revels of Hamtramck, Mich., to take home the prestigious Miggle Trophy.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback continues to delight in the revival of vibrating football from the
1960s. Miggle Toys of Chicago not only will sell you a 1960s-style vibrating playing field, it offers
players in the home and away jerseys of every NFL team plus most major college teams, plus
sideline accessories (miniature 10-yard chains, for instance), night-game equipment, miniature
scowling coaches, miniature angry owners and miniature cheerleaders that are quite scantily attired
by the standards of toys. You've got to love a small, independently owned American company that
does nothing but make toys. Vibrating soccer is coming from Miggle this fall -- maybe it will sweep
France and Italy.
Debbie Weinberg of Baltimore refereed SB/EF XII. Female officials are a cutting-edge trend in
prep football, and Weinberg was one of the pioneers, certified as a Maryland high-school football
official in 1984. Debbie, we'd love to have you call a game at my kids' high school in Maryland!
Whether a woman ever will play in the NFL seems problematic -- football is a strength sport, and
men start with a huge inherent advantage. But strength is not a factor in officiating. Good judgment,
calm nerves, knowledge, reflexes and of course eyesight are the essential qualities, and there is no
inherent difference between men and women in any of these categories. The two reasons female
officials have not been common yet are prejudice and lack of experience on the part of female
candidates. But prejudice against women in zebra stripes is slowly ending, while the girls-sports
craze is now drawing many women into officiating, granting them the necessary experience.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback thinks it is strictly a matter of time until female officials become
common in NCAA football and then, inevitably, in the NFL.
Stop Me Before I Score Again! And maybe female officials will throw flags for unsportsmanlike
conduct when coaches run up the score. Annually, Tuesday Morning Quarterback rails against
running up the score. Recently the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference took action on
this problem: Any high-school football coach whose team wins by more than 50 points will be
disqualified from coaching the next game. (Coaches can appeal if the score that surpasses the 50point margin comes on a turnover, not a called play.) "Legislated sportsmanship," protested reader
Mike Cornaro of Milford, N.H., in a representative comment from TMQ readers. But a team ahead
by 50 points ought to be kneeling on the ball, regardless of the time remaining; anything else is
simply bad sportsmanship. Continuing to run up the score, regardless of whether your third string is
on the field, shows lack of character on the part of the coach.
The Connecticut rule came in response to a coach named Jack Cochran, of New London High
School, who relentlessly runs up the score. In 2005, New London High won games by margins of
90-0, 77-6, 60-0 and 69-14; in the 60-0 victory, Cochran called a timeout just before halftime,
hoping to add points. New London didn't even finish undefeated -- it distinguished itself mainly by
beating up overmatched opponents. Cochran told the Hartford Courant the state's new mercy rule is
"protectionism of those that can't compete." So Jack, the strong should beat up the weak? That's
some value system you have. At the high-school level, mercy rules are important because schoolsize and program-quality mismatches can lead to games that are never contested in any meaningful
sense. That 90-0 win -- there was nothing glorious about it. The victor, not the vanquished, should
have been embarrassed.
At the NFL level, opponents are professionals and can look after themselves: If the Seahawks run
up the score on the Rams, there's little reason to care. But in all forms of scholastic competition,
where learning is the ostensible purpose of the games, coaches should be teaching sportsmanship -a valuable life lesson. Running up the score, in contrast, is bully behavior, while the desire to
destroy lesser opponents is a sign of poor character. Coaches who practice bad sportsmanship and
teach bully behavior aren't doing their schools or their athletes any favors. Poor character might be
OK at New London High of Connecticut, but it's good to know that it is not OK with the rest of the
state's high-school sports advocates.
Another Reason Computers Can Be Trusted: Yours truly subscribes to Norton Internet Security.
When I tried to download a software update from Norton, a Norton Internet Security warning box
popped up and asked, "Always block connections from this vendor?" Norton then said it
"recommended" I block Norton.
The Thieves Also Offered to Sell the Secret Formula
for Vault Soft Drink for 50 Cents: Two years ago one
of TMQ's favorite offseason stories was that a federal
court found the Lionel company guilty of industrial
espionage -- for stealing the plans for toy trains. I
envisioned a dead drop at which a code-named
operative handed over a microdot containing the
schematics of a new toy locomotive with realistic
steam. This offseason, FBI agents in Atlanta arrested
three men who claimed to be industrial spies offering to
sell the secret formula for Coke. The men were asking
for $1.5 million for the formula. My favorite detail is
You never know what you'll find in a
that as part of the sting, FBI agents, pretending to be
box of Girl Scout cookies.
Pepsi executives, gave the men $30,000 "packed in a
Girl Scout cookie box," according to the Associated Press.
Offseason Mega-Babe News: The 2006 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue was believed to have
been the highest-selling magazine edition in world history. A year ago yours truly noted of the SI
swimsuit franchise, "Apparently the modern thong bikini covers way too much," since an everhigher percentage of beach babes are shown with their tops off and hands strategically placed, or
with straps untied or thumbs hooked into suit bottoms, suggesting imminent complete undress. In
2005, two of the swimsuit issue's three cover models had their bikini tops untied, while of 44 inside
photos, 26 women had their tops off with hands strategically placed, or were shown with straps
undone, or wore only body paint or see-through tops. This year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit number
upped the ante substantially. There were eight mega-babes on the cover and none had tops on, all
with hands strategically placed. Of 123 inside photos, 63 women had tops off, straps undone, wore
only body paint or see-through tops, and one wore only pieces of jewelry.
Last year yours truly further noted that backpacker's bible Outside
magazine, which once featured cover photos of Coleman stoves, had
gone cheesecake with one cover of a bikini babe snorkeling in
Hawaii and another of a sultry woman rock climbing naked. This
year was the female readers' revenge, as Outside went beefcake with
a cover image of the elaborately shaved chest of surfer champ Bruce
Irons. Meanwhile Vanity Fair ran a cover story on Teri Hatcher, for
which the mag produced two different covers -- one that showed
Hatcher nearly naked and another in which she was distressingly
overdressed. TMQ wonders: What metric was used to decide which
cover to ship to which stores?
The National Academy of Séances Debunked the Report: In the
draft of a New York Times op-ed article, yours truly referred to a
report by the National Climactic Data Center. Umm, it's the National
Climatic Data Center. A National Climactic Data Center would
study -- well, you figure it out, and I'd certainly like to meet the
interns.
Which one is your favorite?
Doug, We Definitely Knew Ye: Doug Flutie retired without having quarterbacked an NFL playoff
win. Yet he played 12 years in the NFL and threw 86 touchdown passes, and there are many firstround, 6-foot-plus quarterbacks who wish they could say the same. Was there a conspiracy against
Flutie because of his height? Yours truly thinks Flutie got plenty of chances with the Bears, Patriots,
Bills and Chargers. The only time he was a consistent winner, at Buffalo, fans and management
loved him -- so much for the conspiracy theory. By the time Flutie was benched at the end of the
Bills' 1999 season, he had no arm strength left to throw down the middle; safeties were up on
passing downs because they knew Flutie could not throw the post. Maybe if he'd landed in a
different place to start his career, Flutie would have been a Super Bowl quarterback. But think of
the list of first-round, 6-foot-plus quarterbacks whose careers might have gone a little better if
they'd started in a different place. Most guys in that category, we can't even remember their names.
Flutie's panache and his 1998 Flutie Magic year always will be remembered.
Note: The week that Flutie said he would announce, and then postponed, his decision whether to
retire was also the deadline week for senior citizens to sign up for the new Medicare prescription
drug benefit. Surely these two facts are not unrelated!
In Praise of Charles Goodell: Many knaves and rapscallions have gone to the United States Senate
to bask in its glory. Occasionally it is the man who gives glory to the Senate, and Charles Goodell,
father of Roger Goodell, was such an exceptional figure.
Charles Goodell was born in 1926 in Jamestown, New York, a small
town in the pastoral Southern Tier of New York: people forget that
New York State is mainly rural. Beautiful and isolated from the din
of the world, Jamestown represented the sort of Brigadoon where a
person could still live the small-town American ideal. The most
important location near Jamestown is the Chautauqua Institution, a
lyceum begun in 1873 as a place intellectuals and artists would
retreat for the summer to give lectures and perform, sometimes for
huge audiences. Chautauqua stood for the Greek dream of
knowledge rather than materialism as the goal of life. That the
Chautauqua Institution still exists and still draws thousands each
summer to a remote rural lake simply to learn is a wonderful thing -one of the wonderful things about our country that you never hear
about owing to the media taboo against positive news. As a boy
Charles Goodell
growing up in Buffalo in the 1950s and '60s, I was thrilled when I
accomplished a lot in his
first visited Chautauqua; doubly thrilled last summer when
short term as a senator.
Chautauqua asked me to lecture. (Please, Chautauqua, ask me back;
I want to experience the porch of Wensley House, the lakefront lodge where speakers and
performers stay and mingle, once again.) These points about Jamestown and its proximity to
Chautauqua help position Charles Goodell in cosmic terms. He grew up in a place that represented
America at its best, and the lesson was not lost on him.
Charles Goodell served in the Navy during World War II, then finished college, then graduated
from Yale Law School in 1951. Rather than start a law career, he enlisted to serve in the Air Force
during the Korean War. Afterward Goodell returned to Jamestown and practiced as a small-town
storefront lawyer. In 1959 he ran as a Republican for Congress, and won the local seat in the House
of Representatives. There he stayed until 1968, becoming known as a conscientious legislator.
Among other things, Goodell joined Gerald Ford and a young congressman named Donald
Rumsfeld in a bid to make the very conservative Ford the leader of congressional Republicans. In
1968, Robert F. Kennedy was murdered by a man who feared the goodness RFK embodied. New
York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, a Republican, appointed Goodell to complete Kennedy's Senate
term.
Charles Goodell spent only 18 months in the Senate, but used his time nobly. Shortly after arriving
in the Senate he declared his opposition to the Vietnam War, becoming one of the first national
figures to do so openly. Understanding that money is often at the heart of folly, Goodell introduced
legislation to cut off funding for military operations in Vietnam.
Endlessly Goodell pointed out that Congress had never declared war on North Vietnam. This was
one of the disgraces of American politics during the Vietnam era: not only does the Constitution
vest the authority to make war solely with Congress, the rich and comfortable members of the
House and Senate were willing to send young men off to die, but too politically timorous to go on
record formally declaring hostilities. Whether one could be a conscientious objector to an unjust
war, but support a just conflict such as World War II, was a much-discussed question of the
Vietnam years; Goodell declared his support for selective objection. Goodell worked to help GIs
who were jailed for speaking out against the war, and shamed the Justice Department into moving
Rev. Philip Berrigan, a war protester, from the maximum security penitentiary in which he had
absurdly been confined. Much of what Goodell did enraged his party. But since he had served his
country in two wars, Goodell's opinions could not be dismissed. As a New York state boy keenly
following the news of the day, Charles Goodell seemed to me a beacon of honor shining into the
darkness -- a manifestation of decency and personal integrity, coupled to willingness to work within
the system.
In 1970, Goodell stood for reelection. Many Senate elections fail to offer a single worthwhile
candidate. This race offered three who were deserving: Goodell the Republican, a well-qualified
Democrat named Richard Ottinger, and James Buckley, brother of the writer William Buckley.
James Buckley ran on the Conservative ticket (New York state has both Liberal and Conservative
ballot lines) and was backed by factions who were furious regarding Goodell's antiwar stance. This
race was the first political cause in which I got involved, a 17-year-old boy spending my spare time
in the summer and fall of 1970 distributing leaflets, cold-calling voters and putting up posters. The
posters were a little deceptive. Many read, CHARLES GOODELL, 44 PIECES OF MAJOR
LEGISLATION IN 18 MONTHS. The number of bills a legislator drops into the hopper is largely
irrelevant; in theory a senator could propose a thousand pieces of legislation a day. But the posters
captured Goodell's spirit. At a time when most members of the Senate were hiding behind their
office doors and refusing to face the big questions of Vietnam, Goodell spoke his conscience, and
did so knowing he'd be ostracized.
Goodell and the Democratic candidate split the progressive vote, handing the 1970 election to
Buckley, who himself served well, though of course to very different ends. After losing the election,
Goodell wrote a history titled "Political Prisoners in America," which examined the status of the
political prisoner from the 18th century forward, and argued that democracies often use national
security threats in order to stifle dissent. The book warns that not even America is safe from the
suppression of legitimate dissent. After the book's publication Gerald Ford, by then President Ford,
named Goodell chairman of a national commission to hear appeals for clemency from Vietnam
draft resistors. Later Goodell returned to the practice of law and lived quietly in Washington until he
died, young, in 1987. I can remember with perfect clarity knocking on doors in 1970, a 17-year-old
boy trying to explain to adults why they should vote for this man. How I wish there was a Charles
Goodell in American politics today.
Rosenhaus to TMQ: I Could Have Gotten You Free Tokens at
ESPN Zone in Your Deal: "The quarterback, his family and a small
contingent of trusted advisors this week narrowed the list of
potential agents for the star quarterback to a select group of six. The
unusually early process, begun in mid-May when the Quinn family
interviewed 15 representatives, means that the Irish star can play his
senior season with the knowledge he's already been through the
toughest part of the often grueling and nettlesome recruiting
routine." Thus Len Pasquarelli reported of Notre Dame's Brady
Quinn. Wait a minute, it's "grueling" to choose an agent? You need a
"contingent of trusted advisors" to help pick someone to work for
you? This isn't the next Supreme Court nominee we're talking about.
As the sports-yak universe goes 24-7-365, more attention is being
paid to agents, because it provides something to talk about in the
offseason. But the idea that sports agents are hugely important
people is largely make-believe.
After the T.O. mess, you
might want to pick another
agent besides Drew
Rosenhaus.
Assuming he picks any one of the couple dozen reputable NFL
agents, it makes little difference whom Brady Quinn selects. Most
terms of Quinn's rookie contract will be dictated by the league's
"slotting" system for draft choices -- first slot gets $X, second slot gets $X-minus-1 and so on.
There are a few hucksters who call themselves NFL agents mainly for self-promotion reasons, and
have led gullible prospects astray. There are a few agents who have made spectacularly bad
business judgments, such as Drew Rosenhaus advising Terrell Owens to hold his breath until he
turned blue at Philadelphia. And there are a few agents, such as Leigh Steinberg, who have sterling
reputations for long-term concern for their clients. But of the reputable agents, all will in any given
situation negotiate approximately the same deal. The market, not the agent, determines how much a
player is paid. Who's pushing the idea that sports agents are hugely important? Sports agents.
"Conway Is Here? Tell Him to Make Mine Two
Scoops With Caramel," God Said: James Conway Sr.,
who in Philadelphia in 1956 co-founded Mister Softee,
died at the age of 78 at his home in Ocean City, N.J..
The siren song of the approaching Mister Softee
represents the melody of youth to millions of
Americans. Unlike ice-cream trucks that merely sell
prepackaged confections, Mister Softees make their
own soft-serve on board and offer the full range of
cones, sundaes and shakes. James Conway and his
brother were believers in the conjunction of science and
ice cream. Here, from the company Web site: "Mister
Just looking at that truck makes you
Softee utilizes the latest automotive and equipment
want an ice cream, doesn't it?
technologies to produce a complete ice cream stand on
wheels. The customized truck body is made from rust-free aluminum and is powered by the new
General Motors Vortec engine. The ice cream is delivered via a high efficiency Electro Freeze softserve machine and many of the other components are custom made specifically for Mister Softee."
Vortec engine! High-efficiency Electro-Freeze! Imagine you could spend your life giving ice cream
to children, and then die in Ocean City, an entire town devoted to the idea of strolling the boardwalk
while eating salt-water taffy, cotton candy or soft-serve dipped in cherry.
"Thanks Beyonce, That Was Great, and Oh Look, We're Out of Time for Questions About
Worker Health-Care Benefits": Beyonce performed at the Wal-Mart shareholders' meeting.
Free to Shoes: In the offseason, yours truly ordered a pair of shoes that included these
specifications: "Injection-molded EVA foam midsole & Abzorb in both heel and forefoot for
exceptional shock absorption & Fiberglass stability shank embedded into midsole & Graphite
rollbar in heel, a biomechanically positioned piece of graphite in the midsole which maximizes
rearfoot stability & Removable Abzorb insert, maximizes shock absorption and provides extra
comfort & Tru-Trak rubber outsole." A shoe with a graphite rollbar? And if this shoe has a "stability
shank," does that mean there is some danger the shoe will become unstable?
Invisible Man Poses for Photographers: In the offseason, some perfectly serious scientists
predicted there could be invisibility fields based on materials that bend light. Light would be piped
from the back of an object to the front, allowing the viewer to see what's behind the invisible
person. James Bond had an invisible car in "Die Another Day": supposedly it worked by bending
light. Bond drove the invisible car right up to the door of the super-villain's control center. OK,
none of the guards and henchmen milling about could see the car. But why didn't they bump into it?
Anyway, the invisibility device described in principle in the perfectly serious science article has a
limit -- no one could see you, but you couldn't see out either.
Ken Lay Dies In Disgrace: Jeffrey Skilling and the late Kenneth Lay were found guilty, meaning
nearly all the glorified shoplifters at the tops of Adelphia, Cendant, Enron, Qwest, Tyco and
WorldCom are now either in jail for a long time or will be once their appeals are exhausted.
Previously, CEOs caught stealing from stockholders lost their jobs but otherwise paid no price, plus
got to keep what they stole. That's changed, and it's about time.
If men such as Lay and WorldCom's Bernard Ebbers
hadn't been driven by greed, they could have lived their
lives as respected figures, while still enjoying
substantial riches. Greed made them want not just
wealth but incredible wealth, and made them willing to
break the law to get it. Psychoanalysis via television has
limits, yet somehow you feel the convicted CEOs not
only were persons of low character, but motivated by a
desire to laugh at those from whom they were stealing.
Lay, Ebbers and the rest wanted to believe they were
such Big Men that no one could touch them; they could
do as they pleased while mocking the little people who Enron will forever live in infamy.
obey the law. Historically, most who think they can
outsmart the world end up as the ones outsmarted, behind bars or otherwise laid low. Lay's death
while awaiting sentencing does not exempt his memory from criticism: He will be remembered as a
liar and a thief.
All commentators have denounced the Enron executives, but many have added another claim that
isn't right: that the actions of Lay, Skilling and Andrew Fastow were doubly bad because they wiped
out the stock gains of Enron workers. But if Enron was a snake-oil enterprise whose valuation was
inflated by securities fraud, then Enron workers' stock gains were ill-gotten, too. When the company
filed for bankruptcy in December 2001, "CBS Evening News" sympathetically interviewed an
Enron secretary who declared that her $400,000 in retirement savings, all Enron stock, had been
wiped out. When Lay and Skilling were convicted in May 2006, CNN sympathetically interviewed
an Enron worker who declared that his $1 million in savings, all Enron stock, had been wiped out.
But Enron was using fraud to boost its trading price, meaning workers' stock gains were obtained
via deception, exactly as were executives' gains. The workers' stock gains did not come from out of
the air, they came from the pockets of equity buyers -- including other average people and average
people's pension funds. Of course, the Enron workers played no role in the company's lying, and so
were not culpable. And Enron mistreated its workers by requiring them to invest all company-paid
401(k) contributions in the firm's stock, then limiting their ability to sell that stock. But the $1.3
billion in Enron shares that Enron workers lost during the bankruptcy was money the workers did
not deserve. The media have never gotten this point straight.
Great Physician Dies: In May, Lee Jong-wook died at the age of
61. He passed away a few hours after suffering a stroke, then
undergoing emergency surgery that failed to remove a blood clot
from his brain. Who was Lee Jong-wook? One of the world's leading
physicians -- an expert on tuberculosis pathology and, on the day of
his death, director general of the World Health Organization. Where
did he die? At Geneva University Hospital in Switzerland, one of
top health care institutions of any nation. So the head of the World
Health Organization died young after receiving the best possible
care. Memento mori: in Latin, "Remember that you too will die."
The knock on your life's door could come at any hour. If it comes
today, will your heart be ready?
Everyone Likes a Nice Anti-France Item: California wines won
the rematch of the Judgment of Paris. In 1976, Parisian wine snobs
held a blind tasting of California and French wines. To the shock of If it happened to Lee JongFrench vintners the California wines won, and the event became
wook, it can happen to you.
known as the Judgment of Paris. (The title was a play on the
mythological Judgment of Paris, at which the mortal man Paris was asked to judge which of three
goddesses, Aphrodite, Athena or Hera, was most beautiful; needless to say Paris was screwed no
matter how he answered.) After the 1976 event, the Old World wine establishment snickered that
the reason for the outcome was the tasting featured young wines; American wines won't age, they
said. Thirty years later in May 2006, a second Judgment of Paris was held, this time with the
entrants confined to wines that already had been bottled by 1976. California trounced France again,
aged Golden State wines impressing tasters more in blind tasting than aged French wines.
A 1971 Ridge Monte Bello cabernet sauvignon from the Santa Cruz
mountains came in first. Within hours of the announcement, so far
as I could determine from the Froogle shopping service, every
available bottle of 1971 Ridge Monte Bello in the world had been
sold, though a few bottles of the 1975 are still being offered at $160
each. On NPR, a South African vintner declared that the reason
California keeps trouncing France is that Californian winemakers
care about their customers while French winemakers hold their
customers in contempt. That sounds right. Now how about a
Judgment of Johannesburg, where South African and Australian
wines get to take on the French? I think we know who'd win.
Robots, Cyborgs, Members of Congress -- What's the
Difference? To hype its special "Countdown to Doomsday," Sci-Fi
Channel sponsored a Washington symposium on Capitol Hill. As
Libby Copeland reported in the Washington Post, at the symposium
Sci-Fi Channel types warned that robots could take over the Earth, Tough call, huh Paris?
and showed video of giant marching machines enslaving humans on
"Battlestar Galactica." Aside from confusing fiction with reality, which is a big enough problem in
Washington as is, the creatures on "Battlestar Galactica" are not robots! They are cyborgs, living
things containing metal. Robots are mere machines. If you're going to warn members of Congress
about hypothetical future threats, at least get your hypothetical future threats right. (The running gag
in the "Terminator" movies is that whenever someone refers to Arnold Schwarzenegger as a robot,
he dryly corrects, "Cybernetic organism.") Here is yours truly's 2003 Wired magazine piece on
possible Doomsday threats, in which I conclude that "a careless Brookhaven postdoc chopsticking
Chinese takeout" is a lot more likely to destroy the Earth than robots.
A $54,000 Per Night Hotel Room Costs the Same as the U.S. Median Family Income for a
Year: Ian O'Connor of USA Today recently praised golfer Phil Mickelson as generous to the poor,
writing, "[Mickelson] pulls over to the curb, with no cameras or notebooks in sight, and hands
hundred-dollar bills to homeless men." Hmmm -- if no one with a camera or notebook was present,
how does USA Today know this happened? For its part the Wall Street Journal recently reported
Mickelson paid $3.4 million for a nine-week penthouse timeshare at Saint Andrews Grand in
Scotland, an ultra-lux condo overlooking the Old Course at Saint Andrews, frequent site of the
British Open. The price works out to $54,000 per night, making this perhaps the most expensive
hotel room in human history. Phil Mickelson -- do you really believe that in a world where the
impoverished of Africa die for want of a dollar a day, you are justified in spending $54,000 per
night to make yourself feel important?
Lesson: Don't Be Strongest: The strongest player at this year's NFL combine, Mike Kudla of Ohio
State, who did 45 reps of 225 pounds, wasn't drafted. In 1999, Justin Ernest, a player from Eastern
Kentucky, had the best combine strength performance ever, 51 reps of 225, and was not drafted. At
the 2000 combine, Leif Larsen of UTEP did 45 reps of 225; he and Kudla are tied for secondstrongest-ever. Larsen was drafted but never started a game and is now OOF, Out of Football.
Burger Watch: This winter the tastefully named Steve Easterbrook, head of McDonald's United
Kingdom, unveiled the Bigger Big Mac, a supersized Big Mac now being sold in the British Isles
and Germany. Easterbrook also said McDonald's U.K.'s four-year drive to promote salads, fruit and
yogurt has failed, garnering less than 10 percent of sales, and that the company would go back to
basics by promoting cheeseburgers and Quarter Pounders. Easterbrook told the Times of London,
"It's time to be proud, to go out and say, 'We're a good burger company.'" But shouldn't the Quarter
Pounder be marketed in Europe as the 0.113398093 Kilogramer? The D/QPC would be a
0.226796185 Kilogramer avec Fromage. Sandwich note: The chicken tikka toasted deli sandwich
sold by McDonald's outlets in England is better than anything sold in any American McDonald's.
Burger Watch No. 2: Burger King began offering Stackers, cheeseburgers with no lettuce, tomato
or even pickles -- just beef, cheese, bacon and mayo-based sauce. "A mountain of beef and cheese"
is the company's Stackers tag line. Burger King claims that a Stackers Triple with three beef patties,
six slices of bacon and three slices of cheese has 800 calories, or a third of an adult's daily
recommended caloric intake in a single sandwich, the cola and fries being extra. TMQ finds this
calculation hard to believe, since Burger King asserts that six slices of bacon contains just 80
calories. Consumer groups, please test the Stackers for actual calorie content.
Burger Watch No. 3: "The potential for drive-through fast food in China is huge," the Wall Street
Journal quoted a McDonald's executive as saying. "We see the future of China based on cars,
commuting and houses spreading out." The conspiracy theory is that Beijing is buying U.S.
Treasury bills to undermine our society. Ha! We'll undermine theirs a lot faster with fast food and
traffic gridlock.
Car Watch: Anna Kournikova, Eve Longoria, Lindsey Lohan, Stacy Keibler, Jenna Elfman and
Electra were among celebrity women who posed with new cars in revealing evening gowns at
General Motors' annual auto fashion event in Los Angeles. (The women were in the revealing
gowns, not the cars.) Jamie Foxx and Derek Luke were the only men to model, and they were fully
clothed. Studies suggest that almost half of all new-car purchase decisions are now made by
women. Is this yet another area where Detroit is out of touch?
Low Point of My Offseason: At a trendy sandwich place in California, I actually said, "I'll have
that on the eight-grain ciabatta asiago ficelle."
High Point of My Offseason: A ride in the cab of one of these, General Electric's Evolution, the
world's most advanced diesel-electric locomotive. The locomotives represent a breakthrough in fuel
efficiency and pollution reduction, the later important because trains traditionally have been exempt
from environmental controls. The 4,400-horsepower Evolution uses five percent less fuel than other
locomotives of the same power -- which means a lot since a typical locomotive burns 1,000 gallons
of diesel per day -- and emits 40 percent less pollution. General Electric is at work on a hybrid
locomotive that would achieve further reduction in emissions and fuel use. My notes:
• The Evolution cab has cupholders.
• This enormous 208-ton product of heavy manufacturing is not built in Mexico or Malaysia but
Erie, Pa.
• The Evolution is selling like crazy in part because the George W. Bush administration imposed the
first national emissions standards on locomotives; also on construction equipment, off-road
vehicles, marine engines and other previously unregulated sources of diesel exhaust. Bush further
required that diesel fuel itself be "reformulated" to reduce inherent pollution content. Did you know
that President Bush ordered a major strengthening of clean-air law? Of course you didn't, since the
mainstream media refuse to report this.
• Public-health studies have linked diesel exhaust to asthma. Given that a major federal initiative is
now underway to reduce diesel emissions, future asthma rates should decline.
• China's national railroad has ordered 300 Evolutions, though they cost more than regular
locomotives. This is an indicator China's government wants progress against air pollution.
• The Erie plant also built the special locomotives for the new Qinghai-Tibet Railroad, which has
tracks at nearly 16,000 feet, making it the highest rail line in the world. The locomotives require
extra equipment to operate in extreme cold and thin air, while the trains' passenger compartments
have oxygen lines travelers wear at high altitude.
• On a recent visit to General Electric headquarters in Fairfield, Conn., yours truly found in the
men's room a five-step set of instructions for washing one's hands. It was not a joke.
• General Electric has begun marketing to NFL clubs a package that includes stadium lighting and
appliances, stadium security, stadium environmental services (wastewater treatment), team travel,
team apparel and sports medicine. Please General Electric -- add play-calling services to this
package!
High Point of My Offseason No. 2: Yours truly visited
ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., and stayed at the
Bristol Clarion Hotel, which Clarion says is "ideally
located off Interstate 84." Yes, it's nothing but glamour
in the ESPN world. According to its Web site, the
Clarion's features include "valet cleaning service." In
case your valet is dirty? Visible from the Clarion is a
strange structure that looks like a set for filming a Philip
José Farmer "Riverworld" story -- a giant, narrow
tower, perhaps 30 stories high, with no windows and no
clear function. It turns out to be a test facility for the
Otis Elevator company.
You haven't really visited Bristol unless
you spent a night in the famed Clarion.
Offseason Mega-Babe News No. 2: Erica Chevillar, a
history teacher at West Boca Raton High School in Florida, is a member of something called the
U.S.A. National Bikini Team. She models under the name Erica Lee, and for thong-based reasons,
we can link to her pictures but not show them. According to the Palm Beach Post, parents
complained when they heard about Chevillar's swimsuit modeling. You'd think they would have
cheered, as her presence surely insured boys' attendance and attentiveness in class.
Roxanne Roberts of the Washington Post reports that at Donald
Trump's Miss USA pageant in Baltimore, the crowd booed when
Miss Ohio finished fourth. Miss Ohio was a favorite owing to her
Jennifer-Lopez-esque no-front evening gown. Roberts further
reports that the pro-Ravens crowd booed judge Hines Ward. There's
a lot of booing at beauty pageants? Here's the swimsuit photo of the
winner, Miss Kentucky, Tara Conner, whose hobbies include
rappelling. Check out Miss Arizona, Brenna Sakas, whose degree is
in "human communication." What other kind of communication is
there? Finally, Roberts reports that she asked Baltimore Mayor
Martin O'Malley, a candidate for governor of Maryland and known
to have national aspirations, which contestant he liked. O'Malley
said he liked Miss Ohio. Roberts quipped, "Playing to the national
audience already!"
Pageants note:: There is now a Miss Galaxy. But, are other planets
represented?
Beefcake note:: Asked to name the hottest man in America, seven
percent of Page 2 readers voted for Sam Cassell.
We couldn't resist going
with the swimsuit shot. Can
you blame us?
Wacky Food of the Year: Esquire magazine's 2005 Restaurant of the Year, The Modern in New
York City, offers roasted wild-boar chop with rutabaga choucroute, red currants and a potato
terrine. The Modern also offers potato escargot gâteau -- sweetened cake of potato and snail.
Added Fees Are to Revenue As ... : The College Board, which markets the SAT, announced that
thousands of high school students received the wrong scores owing to what it called "technical
problems in the scoring process" Technical problems in the scoring process -- sounds like the
Cleveland Browns. Check this announcement from the College Board about its problems,
cryptically headlined, "ADDITIONAL DETAIL ABOUT OCTOBER 2005 SAT SCORES." That
bland, passive wording certainly would not score well on the new writing SAT. Wrong scores, the
College Board explains, were "caused by humidity in combination with the light or incomplete
marking of answer sheets." Huh -- "humidity in combination with the light?" That isn't even
grammatical. It is not reassuring to know that the agency that sets itself up in judgment of the
intellects of others issues incomprehensible statements that have not been copy-edited.
After botching the scores on more than 4,000 SATs, the College Board discretely informed parents
that for an extra $100, they could purchase "score verification" . This product, sold by the College
Board, is an insurance policy against blunders by the College Board. Expect upper-class and uppermiddle parents to pay the extra $100, generating yet another way in which the SAT favors the welloff. TMQ does not object to testing, but does object that parents' income confers a substantial
advantage in the college-entrance arms race, especially via the private coaching that the rich can
afford and the poor cannot. Anyway, now as well-off parents pay an extra $100, the College Board
will profit from its own screw-up. Which makes you wonder, can we even be sure it was a screwup?
New question for the fall 2006 SAT:
Q. The College Board is to competent as:
A. Anthracite is to popcorn
B. Snowplow is to linoleum
C. Trigonometry is to reliquary
D. Placard is to iridescent
Kennewick Man Insisted on Talking Off the Record: Time Magazine ran a cover story
headlined: EXCLUSIVE! THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE FIRST NORTH AMERICANS. The
cover showed an artist's conception, based on a controversial set of human fossils found near the
Columbia River, identified as "9,400-year-old Kennewick Man." Wait a minute, the magazine got
an exclusive with someone who died 9,400 years ago?
TMQ Boss Key in the Works: CBS Sportsline included a boss key, which turned the screen into a
spreadsheet, in its live Web broadcasts of the NCAA men's tournament.
Obviously this was done on the expectation that millions of people would watch March Madness on
their screens at the office. But CBS is, itself, part of the huge multinational, Viacom. Was Viacom
actually attempting to sabotage its competitors by decreasing their worker productivity during the
tournament?
Arial Got the News Via Courier: As the typeface for its new Web site design, the New York
Times chose Georgia -- abandoning the world's best-known typeface, Times New Roman. OK,
Times New Roman originally was named for the Times of London. But still!
So This Priest, This Rabbi and Three Sitcom Writers Go Into a Bar ... : New York's Village
Voice retracted an article when its author admitted he had fabricated an account of three sitcom
writers meeting in a bar to try to pick up women. He had to fabricate this? It's impossible to stop
sitcom writers from meeting in bars to try to pick up women.
Further Proof of the Decline of Western Civilization: More than 200 scouts, NFL reps, agents
and journalists attended the USC pro day at which Reggie Bush jogged around in shorts. According
to the Associated Press, more than 1,000 spectators attended Bush's pro day.
Further Proof of the Decline of Western Civilization No. 2: Dozens of journalists lined the steps
of the Supreme Court building as former Playmate of the Year Anna Nicole Smith arrived to hear
arguments on her probate claim. In a totally straightforward front-page article with vital publicpolicy implications, the Washington Post somberly reported Smith "was fully clothed" when she sat
in the Court chambers.
I'd Like to Someday Be the Owner of the First House on the Moon, There Would Be No
Neighbors and No Population Boom ... : The Wall Street Journal reported that St. Thomas, St.
Croix and Barbados are "built out" -- every meter of beachfront property in use for hotels, resorts
and luxo vacation homes. Builders are now assailing less-known Caribbean islands. About $7
million buys you a four-bedroom villa at the Viceroy, under development on unknown Anguilla. It
looks serene. How long until there are noisy frat-boy parties next door?
But What Have You Done for Us Lately?: Guard Larry Allen, who has been to 10 Pro Bowls as a
Cowboy and who started every game in 2005 for Dallas, was waived so that Dallas could avoid
paying him a due bonus. In his typically charming way, 'Boys coach Bill Parcells did not make the
traditional announcement praising a departed veteran. Allen was the last player on the Cowboys
roster to have appeared in any of its 1990s Super Bowl wins. Started in the franchise's last Super
Bowl victory? Played in 10 Pro Bowls? Hit the road!
Honey, the Garage Decorator Is Here: Last January yours truly did an item about garage
refrigerators -- expensive new appliances that have heaters to warm the compressors that
refrigerators use to make cold air, so the outdoor fridge will continue to consume energy to make
cold air when normal refrigerators would shut down because, um, it's cold out. I further noted that
manufacturers are now offering other fancy appurtenances for garages and asked, "How long until
home buyers want a garage with faux-granite countertops?" The answer -- not long! Six weeks after
my item, the New York Times ran a Page 1 story about how affluent suburbanites are spending
$10,000 or more to tart up their garages, with "garage organizing one of the fastest growing
segments of the home improvement market." Buyers want spotless floors, stainless steel appliances,
fancy countertops and special cabinets.
While the flashy garage enters the cycle of consumption, kitchens continue to rival boats as
America's leading money pits. Consider a delightful article in the winter New Atlantis, an important
journal about the interaction of society and technology. In "Are We Worthy of Our Kitchens,"
Christine Rosen noted studies showing that the more Americans invest to acquire impressive
renovated kitchens, the less time they actually spend in the kitchen cooking food. Fancy kitchens
have become a status symbol that you boast about while eating out. The trendy Aga oven ($12,000
plus installation and floor strengthening) is maddeningly difficult to use for actual cooking, Rosen
writes. Status-conferring Viking ovens cost thousands and yet don't seem to produce food as well as
a regular Sears oven. And don't get me started on the high-status, low-practicality Sub-Zero
refrigerator, which costs $6,000 and which Consumer Reports recently rated as significantly less
reliable than an $800 Whirlpool.
American households with incomes of $70,000 and above now spend half their food budgets on
meals purchased away from the home, according to Department of Labor statistics. Yet it's the very
same group that is renovating kitchens with granite countertops, espresso makers and shiny doodads
intended to create an illusion of high-end domesticity. As David Brooks noted in his seminal 2000
book on Baby Boomer pretensions, "Bobos in Paradise," today's tens of millions of well-off
Americans might feel guilty about obvious displays of wealth, but think it egalitarian "to spend on
parts of the house that would previously have been used by the servants."
Top Gun Fighter Wags Wings for Last Time: Each
year TMQ tips his hat to whatever famous aircraft hears
its final hurrah. The Navy's F-14 Tomcat variablegeometry fighter, futuristic when it debuted in 1973,
was retired from active service in March. Here, the final
two F-14 squadrons, the VF-31 Tomcatters and the VF213 Blacklions, soar in formation above the Theodore
Roosevelt before heading toward Oceana Naval Air
Station in Virginia as the Roosevelt ends a tour. (Often
an aircraft carrier's complement flies back to land as
soon as the ship draws within range of home port.) The
F-14 was the star of the 1986 flick "Top Gun" -- none of The word Tomcat has taken on an
the actors in that movie were as expressive as the
entirely different meaning,
airplane -- and first taxied onto the flight-line 33 years unfortunately.
ago. To put that period of service into perspective, 33
years is the time that passed between the Sopwith Camel, the puttering one-man biplane of World
War I, and the B-47 Stratojet, first jet bomber of the Cold War. But then the B-52s that continue to
fly for the Air Force came off the assembly line in 1962, 44 years ago, and the plan is to operate
them indefinitely. For years, Air Force leadership has been complaining that B-52s are older than
the pilots who fly them; soon, they will be twice as old as the pilots who fly them. You would not
drive a car that was twice as old as you, yet your nation routinely asks its air personnel to fly in
aircraft built decades before they were born.
Speaking of Cold War bombers, one fascinating plane
of that era has been forgotten: the 10-engine B-36. This
gigantic plane was designed to ferry a single nuclear
warhead from the United States to the former Soviet
Union -- the early nuclear bombs were large and heavy.
The first B-36 was completed in 1951. Some 385 B-36s
were built, versus a total of 188 bombers in the entire
Air Force today. By 1959, all B-36s except museum
models had been decommissioned and scrapped. Nearly
400 huge aircraft built, flown and scrapped in less than
a decade, at a time the defense budget was a fraction of
today's! Nothing the United States has ever built and
Imagine seeing a B-36 sailing across
forgotten tops the B-36D version of the bomber. This
the sky.
lumbering aircraft carried an entire F-84 jet fighter in its
bomb bay. The plan was that above the Soviet Union, the B-36D would release the fighter, which
would protect the bomber from Soviet interceptors; then the fighter would fly back to mid-air
retrieval in a net deployed by the bomber; the fighter pilot would climb back into the B-36D. Chalk
up the B-36D as yet another piece of Cold War hardware we can all be glad was never used.
What's an item about the B-36D doing in this column? Remember, this is Tuesday Morning
Quarterback. I don't have to have a reason.
You Cannot Answer "None of the Above": In the offseason, yours truly was called both a "bigdeal writer" and a "uomo universale" by the Washington Post. Now, which of these statements is
true?
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at
[email protected] Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I might
quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Question for readers: Andy Kelly rules
professional football. But if high school, college and the pros are taken into account, who has
thrown the most touchdown passes?
Next Week: Clear the decks, prepare to dive -- Tuesday Morning Quarterback defends Dan Snyder!
(Note: In World War II submarine movies, it always seems to me the diving horn is sounding,
"Arugula! Arugula!")
Monday, August 7, 2006
Updated: August 21, 5:29 PM ET
How Snyder helped save the NFL
By Gregg Easterbrook
When this column kicked off in 2000, Daniel Snyder was dubbed Owner/Menace to Western
Civilization Dan Snyder. Many felt that understated the case. Later the gentleman was rechristened
Lord Voldemort, after the sinister villain in the endless Harry Potter saga. Today TMQ assigns the
Redskins' owner a newcognomen -- Chainsaw Dan, which is explained below. But otherwise I come
to praise Snyder, not pummel him. This might be hard to believe, and is certainly hard to write: Dan
Snyder should now be admired by anyone who loves professional football. Snyder helped rescue the
league in 2006, and did so by putting his own ego and financial concerns aside.
Often what is missed about a news event is what didn't happen. What didn't happen during the
March 2006 double showdown over the NFL's labor agreement and internal revenue-sharing deal is
that Dan Snyder did not insist on the best possible outcome for the Washington Redskins. Instead he
placed the interests of the sport first. Chainsaw Dan, Tuesday Morning Quarterback's hat is off to
you.
The owners' side of the double showdown pitted some of the small-market owners, such as James
Irsay of Indianapolis and Ralph Wilson of Buffalo, against big-city owners such as Snyder, Pat
Bowlen of Denver, Jerry Jones of Dallas and Robert McNair of Houston. Big-city teams have more
revenue -- from $50 million to $100 million more annually -- owing to larger local markets and a
richer customer base for club seats and luxury-box sales. The big-city teams also tend to have
aggressive, marketing-driven owners. (Snyder's career background is in corporate marketing;
Wilson started in insurance.) National television revenue already is split 32 ways, and this is one of
the best things about the NFL. But the small-city owners wanted the big boys to commit to
increased sharing of locally-generated revenue.
Higher-net-worth, aggressive owners like Snyder were miffed at the
idea that they should work like crazy for local income, then simply
hand part over to small-city owners. And though any Washington
team obviously has more marketing potential than any Green Bay or
Jacksonville team, big-city owners also face higher costs, a fact the
small-city faction likes to brush aside. In the last round of stadiumraising, the big-city teams have paid much or most of the cost
themselves, while small-city teams tend to get their facilities
wrapped in ribbons. Each year Snyder, Robert Kraft of New
England and other big-city owners must meet the debt service on
loans for construction of their fields, while the Colts' gleaming new
stadium is coming as a gift from Indiana taxpayers. So though,
during the negotiations, the big-city owners were portrayed in the
press as ravenous and the small-city owners as aw-shucks Jimmy
Stewarts, there were some points on the big boys' side.
At any rate Snyder, Jones, McNair and the rest gave in to the smallcity owners, and merely argued the details of the sharing formula.
This was statesmanlike. Yes, it's surprising to use the words
What's this, praise for
Daniel Snyder in TMQ?
Unreal!
"statesmanlike" and "Dan Snyder" in the same sentence, but there it is. Snyder and other big-boy
owners might have demanded that they keep all local revenue -- there's no law of nature that says
NFL owners must share. The small-city owners had the weaker hand, yet the guys with the stronger
hand voluntarily gave up some of their cards. This preserved the integrity of the game. Unlike
Major League baseball, where the monied teams stomp on the small-market clubs, the NFL will
remain a sport where Cincinnati is the competitive equal of New York City. (Which, for NFL
purposes, is located in New Jersey.) It's said that behind the scenes, other big-money owners took
their cues from Snyder: If he was willing to compromise, they would too. Once again, Chainsaw
Dan, TMQ's hat is off to you.
Now to explain the new cognomen. Snyder owns a remarkably gigantic ultra-luxe mansion along
the Potomac River. Lovely greenhouse-gas-absorbing trees used to block Snyder's view of the
storied Potomac waters. Then some 130 trees between the home and the river were felled, and not
by Paul Bunyan. What has followed has been a running melodrama involving Snyder, the National
Park Service, the local media and Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the congressman from Snyder's district.
(The Park Service has jurisdiction because Snyder's property abuts the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal
National Historical Park.) First the Park Service claimed to know nothing about the missing trees;
then it said Snyder had permission to cut them; then it said an appraiser would charge Snyder for
the property-value increase caused by the river view; most recently, the line has become that "a
high-ranking National Park Service official improperly helped" Snyder secure the permission.
Knowing Snyder has popularity problems, Rep. Van Hollen has hit hard on the Case of the Missing
Foliage. What's hysterical about all this is that Chainsaw Dan won't simply come out and say he cut
the trees down because he wanted to see the river. Snyder maintains his real goal was -- biodiversity
protection! He says the trees were not native to the Potomac basin, and he has replanted seedlings of
native species. Which will not, one expects, grow enough to block the view until Snyder enters his
golden years. Here's a haiku:
At this team they love
Billy Kilmer, but not Joyce:
Chainsaw Dan's Redskins.
Swimsuit Calendar of the Week: Because Dan Snyder is as
marketing-oriented as a human being can be, he has brought the
team's cheer-babe unit to the cutting edge. The Redskins
Cheerleaders now number among the league elite, every bit the
equal of the Broncos, Dolphins and Eagles cheerleaders for beauty,
dance-routine complexity and state of undress. (Note the Dallas
Cowboys cheerleaders don't even make the list anymore.) Here is
the new Redskins swimsuit calendar, which is hot to the touch. In
keeping with the Eagles' cheerleaders' theory that the modern thong
bikini conceals way too much, the Redskins' cover cheerleader is
topless. Here are the Redskins Cheerleaders in their warm-weather
game-day outfits, which constitute a strong argument for warm
weather.
What Woodrow Wilson and Ralph Wilson Have in Common:
Ralph Wilson was one of two owners to vote against the new NFL- Prediction: This calendar
union deal, saying he voted no because he did not understand what will sell pretty well.
he was voting on. For this comment Wilson was derided by
sportswriters, but the Bills' owner was just being honest. Fine points of the deal changed so many
times as the deadline loomed that none of the owners knew for sure what they were voting on. The
last bargaining session was like the day before an adjournment of Congress; after weeks of footdragging, at midnight the final provisions of a bill are scrawled out in haste and representatives and
senators are expected to say yea or nay without a chance to read the language they are voting on. Of
the beginning of the deadline meeting, NFL.com reported: "Most of the first three hours was spent
simply listening to commissioner Paul Tagliabue go through details of the union's proposal." It took
Woodrow Wilson only 20 minutes to present the Fourteen Points at Versailles!
Wilson and other small-city owners were worried that the new revenue-sharing agreement won't
work as promised. When the salary cap first went into effect in 1994, the NFL started a system
called SRS that was intended to transfer moderate amounts from rich teams to lesser teams. The
theory was that because the salary cap would cause all teams to spend approximately the same on
players, small-city teams with lower income would have to use a higher share of their revenues on
players than would big-city teams. Supposedly the SRS system would transfer enough money to
small-city teams that all NFL clubs would spend roughly the same share of their revenue on players.
To make a long story short, it didn't work out that way. Wilson's worry was that the revenue-sharing
plan of 2006 would sound good but later quietly be dialed down.
There's still a danger that could happen, as the March deal did not finalize revenue-sharing details.
It's expected the new formula will distribute about $150 million from rich clubs to small-city clubs
in the first year. But that's still not ironed out: currently, the NFL has the high-status consulting firm
McKinsey & Company working on the formula. The Bengals, Bills, Colts, Jaguars and Packers
might or might not prove happy with whatever terms McKinsey recommends. But it all comes back
to "compared to what?" The wealthy teams might have given nothing to the small-city teams;
instead small-city teams get higher revenues and stay competitive. Think of all the things that might
have gone wrong for the small cities if the mega-owners faction hadn't unexpectedly turned
statesmanlike.
More Uncharacteristic Praise No. 1: This column has never had anything against departing
commissioner Paul Tagliabue, but hasn't been nuts about him, either. Tagliabue is a corporate
lawyer by training, hired by the NFL from the extremely pinstriped corporate litigation firm of
Covington & Burling. As commissioner, Tagliabue acted like a corporate lawyer -- cautious,
showing no personality, careful never to displease or challenge his clients, namely the owners. But
at the end, Tags turned in a tremendous performance. Last week's column noted, "Money is often at
the heart of folly." There is so much money in the NFL's new network deals that it would have been
insane for the league and the union to fail to reach a handshake, jeopardizing the golden goose. But
disaster could have happened. Some owners wanted to screw the union, or screw other owners.
Some factions in the union leadership, especially its legal department, wanted talks to fail so they
could boast about screwing the league. Some owners wanted to use the confusion to grab more of
the pie than other owners. Some celebrity players wanted talks to fail, creating an uncapped year,
because they would be paid more, though average players would be screwed. Some owners were
furious that the union was insisting on a role in revenue-sharing among owners, which seemed like
none of the players' business. At one point the whole thing nearly collapsed over whether players
would get 59.2 percent or 59.8 percent of revenues. There was tremendous potential for fiasco -and Tagliabue kept that from happening.
A major worry going into the showdown bargaining was that the owners would bicker amongst
themselves, and Tags would prove too timid to take a position. Instead the commissioner took a
strong leadership stance and forced 32 oversized egos to face the reality that if they didn't complete
a deal, the world would view them as 32 fools. (Actually 31 fools, since the Packers are publicly
owned.) By the standards of how corporate lawyers operate, Tagliabue's behavior in the final month
of bargaining was bold. Since this column is handing out compliments, let's hand one to Tags -- he
really came through for professional football. First ballot Hall of Fame, please.
Though Tagliabue's performance was impressive at the last, there is no need to exaggerate his
legacy. Many credited him with the fact that 26 NFL stadiums have been built or renovated since he
took over in 1989. But this is a reflection of rising national prosperity; basketball and baseball also
have seen a significant building boom in the same period. News outlets exaggerated Tagliabue's
legacy by not converting money comparisons into today's dollars. One story said NFL television
revenues were $468 million a year when Tags arrived and $3.7 billion in 2006, while average player
salaries were $343,000 when he arrived and now will be $1.6 million. A common fault of
journalism is making money comparisons seem more dramatic by not adjusting for inflation. Stated
in today's dollars, when Tagliabue arrived the average player income was $550,000 a year and the
NFL television contracts paid $750 million annually. The numbers still went up sharply under
Tagliabue, just not as much as it might seem before conversion to 2006 dollars. (See additional
numbers from the new agreement below.)
More Uncharacteristic Praise No. 2: That the league and the union
did not mutually self-destruct was the NFL's best news of the past
year. The second best news was that owner Jeff Lurie of the Eagles
made Terrell Owens walk the plank. This harmed Philadelphia's
season -- perhaps the Eagles could have reached the playoffs had it
not been for the Owens meltdown. But throwing Owens off the team
was clearly in the league's long-term interest. So here again we have
a very wealthy man, just the sort normally blasted in the press for
selfishness, setting aside his own interests for the larger interest of
the sport.
The me-first virus is methodically destroying the NBA, and if it
spreads in the NFL, could destroy pro football, too. In the NBA, half
the star players don't give a flying fig about the team -- they care
only about stats and drawing attention to themselves. The NFL isn't
like that, which is why the quality of competition is so good. Owens Jeffery Lurie has admitted
was a test case: If he'd gotten away with caring only about himself, he made a mistake with T.O.
the me-first virus might have entered the NFL bloodstream. Instead
Owens was spectacularly stopped, and hard upon the spectacular stop of Maurice Clarett, who
contended the entire NFL success system should be torn up to benefit him personally. That Owens
lost his bid to place himself above the team was tremendous, and Lurie of the Eagles gets the credit.
Shoot the Term "Shooter": George Orwell was oh so right that we must call things what they are
in order to think clearly. Recently this space has complained about calling prisoners "detainees" and
illegal immigrants "undocumented arrivals." Murder is another area where the media, especially,
seem unable to call things what they are. When some fiend harms multiple people, newscasters call
this a "shooting spree." A spree is a gay, carefree outing! In July a sick man killed one person and
injured five at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle; over and over again newscasters called his
actions a "spree." It was a relief to hear Paula Zahn of CNN call the crime what it was, "a murder
rampage." Some newscasters won't even use the word "murder" in connection with events like the
one in Seattle. They saying "killing" -- "murder" is too judgmental. But killing is sometimes
justified; murder never is. When the innocent are killed, the correct term is murder.
Equally vexing is constant media and cultural use of the word "shooter" for someone who commits
murder using a firearm. Press reports regularly refer to the person holding the gun during a murder
as "the shooter," which almost sounds like some kind of skilled trade. The person holding the gun
during a murder is "the murderer." This came to a head in Arizona this summer when a pair of
fiends prowling Phoenix was dubbed the Serial Shooter, and so referred to even by Phoenix police.
A murderer isn't a "shooter," he's a murderer. Shooter is a neutral term -- there are perfectly
respectable forms of shooting. (Hunting, marksmanship competitions, etc.) Please, media, stop
calling murderers "shooters."
Fanned Butts of the Rich and Famous: The $180,375 Mercedes CL65 has "active ventilated front
seats with eight internal fans." But you still have to push a button to turn on the eight internal fans.
That's really inconvenient. When will Mercedes offer automatic active ventilated front seats?
Amazingly, $180,375 gets you only a single CD in-dash -- the six-CD changer, now standard indash in most everyday sedans, is located in the trunk. And there's an asterisk on that $180,375 price,
noting a $775 transportation fee. So this car costs $180,375 plus $775. Let's hope that $775 isn't a
deal-breaker.
Explanation: Impossible: We shouldn't ask for an explanation of why, in the climax of "Mission
Impossible III," the supervillain, previously shown commanding a heavily armed private militia and
protected by bodyguards even when at the Vatican, nevertheless travels nearly alone to Shanghai to
confront Tom Cruise, world's greatest secret agent. My 11-year-old, Spenser, whispered, "Dad, if
he's so powerful, how come he's creating a chance for Tom Cruise to get him?" How come, indeed.
Nor should we ask why considerable gunfire during the lengthy Shanghai sequence never results in
anyone calling the police. Nor should we ask about the scene in which Cruise sprints across
rooftops of Chinese houses in the old city area of Shanghai. Rooftops of traditional Chinese homes
won't support anyone's weight; he would have crashed through the first one.
Certainly we shouldn't ask for an explanation of the
bridge battle. Cruise captures the supervillain at the
Vatican, then immediately leaves with him in a jet
bound for Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia. At
Oceana, the supervillain is put into a prisoner transfer
truck which heads north, surrounded by SUVs full of
agents. The destination? The headquarters of Cruise's
employer: An Agency Far, Far More Secret Than the
CIA. As the convoy is crossing the bridge portion of the
Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the supervillain's
private army attacks with helicopter-borne commandos
and a drone that launches air-to-ground missiles. The
Pretty sad we'll never be able to look at
attacking mercenaries, we are told, came from
Tom Cruise the same way again.
Germany. How did they leave Germany after Cruise's
plane left Italy, yet arrive in Virginia many hours sooner -- time enough to get into position, plus
uncrate their helicopters?
Nor should we ask if you really can drive a Lamborghini directly to the front door of the Vatican
and find a parking space there. This scene is warranted because it gives Maggie Q an excuse to
wear a three-ounces-of-fabric evening gown.
Fans of the old "Mission Impossible" television series wistfully recall it was based on elaborate
ruses in which bad guys were tricked into doing something; violence was rare and the viewers'
challenge was to figure out who was tricking whom at what point. The three "M.I." films have been
little more than random strings of explosions, screaming and killing. Contemporary movies make
much of their returns in the overseas market, where explosions, screaming and killing require no
translation. "Gotta dumb it down for the overseas market" has become an all-weather excuse for
Hollywood to produce dreck. Yet in its prime weeks, the box-office competition of "M.I. III" was
"Ice Age II," a dialogue movie. "Ice Age II" has outsold "M.I. III" overseas with more than $170
million at the box office, according to Boxofficemojo.com, proving dialogue movies can succeed in
the international market. But then again, Sid the Sloth has more personality than Tom Cruise. And
here I refer to the actual Tom Cruise, not his film characters.
What's really bothersome about "M.I. III" is it's yet
another movie in which, once you know the shocking
revelation at the end, nothing that occurred previously
makes any sense. Indolent directors and scriptwriters
have taken to constructing films in which mysterious
events happen, and then in the last reel audiences
discover that nothing was what it seemed. But once you
know the shocking revelation, if you go back and watch
the movie again, characters were busily doing things
that made no sense based on the true motivations
eventually revealed. In the listless 1994 flick
"Maverick," the Big Shock at the end is that James
Maybe Katie Holmes would be happier
Garner, Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster, who spent the
with Sid the Sloth?
previous two hours trying to double-cross each other,
were working together all along. Then why did they spend the previous two hours trying to doublecross each other? (Amazon or any similar store will sell you, for 10 bucks, a DVD of the three best
episodes of the wonderful "Maverick" television series from 1958 -- buy one and reminisce about
the bygone time when Hollywood understood the word "subtle.") Or consider that in "X-Men III,"
audiences learn the previously saintly Jean Grey is not only the most powerful mutant but harbors
an evil-twin personality bent on destroying the world. When we find out Professor Xavier has
known this all along, significant aspects of the previous two films cease to make sense. In the
previous movies, Xavier made Grey the sole person besides himself with a password to activate the
super-dangerous Cerebro machine; while warning none of the others about Grey's hidden psyche
nor preparing any contingency plan to contain her evil personality if it broke free. Which of course
it does in "X-Men III," creating much of the action.
Now to the Big Shock at the end of "M.I. III." Throughout the movie it appears Brassel (Laurence
Fishburne), head of the Agency Far, Far More Secret Than the CIA, is a traitor in league with
terrorists. It appears his deputy, Musgrave (Billy Crudup), is the sole patriotic high official at the
agency, and that Musgrave is risking his life by helping Cruise move against Brassel to defeat the
supervillain. As you have guessed, the shocker at the end is that Musgrave turns out to be the traitor
and Brassel the patriot. Once you know this, NOTHING THAT HAPPENED BEFORE MAKES
ANY SENSE.
To begin the movie, Musgrave calls Cruise out of retirement and directs him to Germany to rescue
an Impossible Mission Force operative being held by the supervillain. But Cruise is the greatest
secret agent in the world. If Musgrave was in league with the supervillain, why did he go out of his
way to put the greatest secret agent in the world on the trail of his ally?
After Cruise loses the supervillain during the battle on the bridge,
Brassel sends Impossible Mission agents to seize Cruise by force.
This makes moviegoers think Brassel must be the traitor. But if
Brassel is actually the good guy, what possible reason would he
have for having armed men threaten to kill his best agent? At
headquarters, Brassel declares Cruise to be the traitor and orders him
imprisoned; our hero escapes following an extremely improbable
fistfight in which he requires mere seconds to knock unconscious
three much larger agents. If Brassel was the good guy it made no
sense for him to order his best agent imprisoned, plus it would have
been obvious to Brassel that Cruise would not orchestrate an all-out
attack against himself. Ridiculously, Brassel has Cruise gagged
before our hero is brought inside headquarters. This scene is
designed to make viewers think Brassel must be totally evil -- the
seeming reason for the gag is so that Cruise cannot yell out, "The
director is a mole!" But if Brassel is the good guy then the gag
makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE, since it prevents Brassel from
asking Cruise what the heck happened at the bridge.
It's always nice to see
Maggie Q.
Nonsense bonus No. 1: In "M.I. III," not only do the good guys' radios work deep inside buildings
where there are no "repeaters," and not only are the radios never overheard by bad guys, the radios
appear to work telepathically. Cruise and his pals speak to each other over long distances
continuously -- yet they aren't carrying any radios, batteries or microphones, and there are no
earpieces in their ears.
Nonsense bonus No. 2: In "M.I. III," Cruise steals from the Chinese military a bioweapon substance
that is supposedly ultra-deadly. The stuff is held in a glass cylinder that ends up dropped, kicked,
rolling down the street and so on. If you possessed an ultra-deadly substance, would you keep it in a
glass cylinder? And if you knew that secret agents from around the world were trying to steal your
bioweapon, would you store it in a small container that a person could grab and run away with?
Maybe you'd use a 10-ton chamber set in concrete. In many recent movies, ultra-deadly substances
have been depicted as stored in easily grabbed, easily broken containers. For instance in "The
Rock," after Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery single-handedly defeat dozens of heavily armed
mercenaries, they reach the laboratory where the ultra-deadly bioweapon is hidden. The substance is
kept in little globes of what appears to be the most delicate Lomonosov porcelain.
Superheroes Note: That previous action makes no sense in light of subsequent revelations is the
reverse of "retcon" or "retroactive continuity." Retcon is the lifeblood of movie sequels and comicbook universes. More on retcon in a later column.
Semi-Defense of John Madden: Bernie Lincicome of the Rocky Mountain News argued last week
that John Madden's entrance into the Hall of Fame has "lowered standards" so much that now half
the coaches in the NFL can consider themselves Canton-caliber. Of Hall of Fame entrant coaches,
Madden is on the bottom rung for on-field accomplishments. Madden coached only 112 wins and
one championship. Vince Lombardi had fewer total wins, but those dazzling five championships;
Bill Walsh -- slightly fewer wins, but three championships; statistically, Madden clearly bests only
Greasy Neale. Lincicome asks if Madden wasn't really given the garish yellow jacket in return for
his prominence as an announcer.
But nearly all the Hall of Fame selectors are print journalists. Print journalists commonly feel
Madden is a mediocre announcer, and some think Madden harmed pro football with the loud-
mouthed-buffoon act he used early in his broadcast career. Some Hall selectors also resent
Madden's condescending attitude toward the little people of print, and while personal feelings aren't
supposed to matter in awards selections, they matter anyway. Tuesday Morning Quarterback
believes Madden does belong in the Hall -- but for his football game, not his booth work. Maybe
computer football would have become just as chic if EA's 1991 path-breaking game had been called
Wayne Fontes Football. But Madden was there first, and the incredible popularity of electronic
football has been a factor in the NFL's ever-rising popularity. The combination of an above-average
coaching career and helping launch the electronic football universe is what qualifies Madden for
Canton.
Last week Lesley Visser became the first woman to win the Hall of
Fame's Pete Rozelle Award, given annually for contributions to
radio and television coverage of football. In 2005 the award went to
Pittsburgh radio voice Myron Cope, and he delivered such a lengthy,
incoherent oration at the Hall of Fame annual dinner that producers
cued the orchestra to drown him out -- pretty embarrassing. With
Visser, things went a lot more smoothly. Here is Tuesday Morning
Quarterback praising Visser years ago.
Frostback Preposterous Punt: Trailing Calgary 16-6,
Saskatchewan faced third-and-2 -- the CFL equivalent of fourth-and2 -- on the Stampeders' 48 with 6:37 gone in the fourth quarter. You
cannot seriously be sending in the punt unit! Boom went the punt,
and though it rolled into the end zone for a CFL single, anyone
taking notes should have written "game over" in their notebook.
There's barely even a need to add that the Stampeders required just
four snaps to take the ball the other way for the touchdown that iced
the game at 23-7. It's the fourth quarter, you're down by two scores
and in opposition territory. Why are you punting?
Lesley Visser, a pioneer in
sports journalism.
Rules note: In the CFL, zebras throw the flag for "objectionable conduct." Check the CFL rulebook,
which bans "equipment or apparel that may … confuse opponents." Hey number 76! You take off
that moose mask right now or it's objectionable conduct!
Another Defense of Dan Snyder!: Washington-area television stations and newspapers -- bearing
in mind the "Washington" in Washington Redskins means Maryland and Virginia -- are upset that
Chainsaw Dan is slowly asserting control of the team's media presentation. Coaches and players are
shunning interviews with local network affiliates and with the Washington Post, appearing instead
on Redskins TV, a streaming video broadcast controlled by the club. Redskins TV is offering
original team programming, plus live broadcasts of training camp and press conferences. Snyder
reasons, why do you need the local sportscaster to filter the press conference for you if you can just
watch the whole thing yourself on the Redskins' site? The Skins' local radio agreement expired this
year, and rather than put the contract out for bid, Snyder bought three radio stations and will
broadcast the games. Finally, Chainsaw Dan has declared war on the Washington Post, openly
criticizing the paper and prohibiting the Post from buying season tickets. Ostensibly Post season
tickets were canceled because Redskins personnel found some being re-sold on services such as
eBay. The real reason was to retaliate against the Post for not granting Snyder the sort of reverential
coverage enjoyed by the team's previous owner, Jack Kent Cooke.
The Redskins taking over their own broadcasting might or might not be a good idea; my guess is
that it's not. Chainsaw Dan wants to control the way the team is presented to the world, and also to
sell the accompanying ad space. He figures, why should the Post or a local network affiliate get the
revenue from ads that accompany stories about the Redskins, instead of the Redskins getting that
revenue? The danger is that long-term, Redskins-produced Redskins media will be bland in-house
stuff, and audiences will lose interest. Sports owners tend to see sportswriters and sportscasters as
mere stenographers. But in economic terms, the sports media adds considerable value -- value in
this case being anything from smart analysis to snarky complaining. Audiences for Redskins' inhouse productions won't get smart or snarky, they will only get the company line. That might not be
good for the Redskins long-term. It's the same basic problem the league faces with the NFL
Network experiment. Short-term, the NFL Network diverts to the league advertising revenue that
would otherwise go to ESPN, Fox and so on. Long term, NFL-produced NFL coverage might cause
a reduction in enthusiasm for the sport.
These things said, if Snyder wants to try controlling his message, why shouldn't he? The same
technological trends that are significantly improving and democratizing fan access to football -broadband Internet, cheap computers, falling costs of communication -- also make possible
Redskins TV. Yours truly doesn't like Redskins TV. I'd much rather watch the local sports anchor or
some really sharp ESPN person making Joe Gibbs squirm, or read a clever Washington Post
sportswriter doing the same. But you can't have the parts of the Web you like without the parts you
don't like. You can't have ESPN Motion without also having Redskins TV. Technology is allowing
practically any content to move cheaply across the Internet, and in general this is great. If it also
leads to Redskins TV, isn't it Snyder's prerogative to try the idea and see what happens?
As for Chainsaw Dan's campaign against the Washington Post, this seems pretty stupid. The Post is
a fine newspaper with a top-notch sports section -- if Snyder were to go on a charm-offensive, his
coverage there would rapidly sweeten. Regardless, someone in a high-profile position like his must
learn that criticism comes with the territory, and 99 percent of the time it's more effective to ignore
critics than retaliate against them. Maybe the Post would like the Redskins' owner better if he styled
himself Daniel Marc Snyder!
News from Space: Ray Jayawardhana of the University of Toronto
led researchers who recently discovered a tiny almost-star whose
companion is a Jupiter-sized planet; the two orbit each other, rather
than orbit a true star. The objects have been designated Oph 162225240515 -- "Oph1622 for short," as the university's press release
dryly notes. What's interesting about the pair is that they are not part
of a conventional star system with a massive sun at the center. This
calls into question standard theories of how stars and planets form.
Since Pierre-Simon LaPlace published "Celestial Mechanics" in
1799, the assumption has been that star systems form out of large
swirling nebulae of interstellar gas and matter. The light elements
end up in the center and ignite as a sun, while the heavy elements
end up farther out on the disc and coalesce into planets. Standard
theories hold that tremendous amounts of matter, and thereby
tremendous gravity, are needed to form a star, while planets can
form only on the star's outer boundary. Yet the Oph1622 pair appear
to have formed in the absence of tremendous gravity, plus with star
and planet sharing the same orbital track. Asked by Napoleon what
Looks like Pierre-Simon
LaPlace didn't know
everything.
role in the creation of star systems is played by God, LaPlace famously replied, "Je n'ai pas besoin
de cette hypothèse," -- "I do not need this hypothesis." Now it seems there is something very basic
unknown to LaPlace and his modern counterparts -- some way stellar objects can form without a
nebula of great mass. Perhaps God is chortling, "Je n'ai pas besoin de l'hypothèse de LaPlace."
Meanwhile astronomers at the University of Chile discovered a "brown dwarf" about 16 light-years
from Earth, close in galactic terms. Brown dwarfs are small star-like bodies similar to the star-like
body in Oph1622 -- made of the stuff of suns, but not engaged in nuclear fusion. The new
discovery, designated Den 0255-4700, is another of many recent findings suggesting that the
galactic neighborhood close to Earth is significantly richer in stars, planets and other cosmic objects
than astronomers only recently assumed. Here, for example, is another newly found brown dwarf
about 12 light-years distant. These discoveries suggest that once people devise the means to journey
out of our solar system, there will be many relatively nearby destinations from which to choose.
New Deal Details: Stated in today's dollars, the first salary cap in 1994 was $44 million; the 2006
cap is $102 million. That's a 132 percent real-dollar increase in player earnings. Over just a dozen
years, the NFL golden goose more than doubled the real-dollar sum earned by players -- no other
sport comes close. Nor does any white-collar profession. During the same period when NFL pay
was rising 132 percent, inflation-adjusted earnings by surgeons rose 29 percent, for example. Now
consider that two franchises have been added since 1994, meaning more players have access to the
much larger pot, while pension benefits for retired players have steadily increased. Overall, in 1994
about $1.5 billion was paid to NFL active and retired players; in 2006, about $3.7 billion will be.
Remember, I'm stating all figures in today's dollars, so the huge increases are after inflation.
(Here's the fine print. Most teams do not max out the salary cap, but on the other hand playing-time
bonuses for low-paid players, plus pension and health-care benefits for retired players, do not count
against the cap. In 2006, about $18 million per team will be spent on retired-player benefits, this
money moving outside the cap framework. When retired players are added to the calculation, total
spending on players is somewhat above the salary cap.)
There is also now a cap floor that mandates minimum spending. This year the floor is 84 percent of
$102 million, meaning teams must spend a minimum of $86 million on players -- and $86 million
was last year's maximum! Next year the salary cap floor will be 90 percent of $109 million,
mandating teams spend at least $98 million on players. Owing to the new cap floor, total monies
paid to active players will rise by at least 20 percent in the first two years of the new agreement,
which is simply outstanding. And that $3.7 billion in payments to players in 2006? If that number
strikes you as familiar, it should -- $3.7 billion is the amount the league will earn in 2006 from its
rich new network deals. In effect every dollar paid to the NFL by ESPN, CBS, DirecTV, Fox and
NBC goes directly to the players. Ticket sales cover the clubs' non-player expenses, while owners
make their money on the third and least lucrative category, all the miscellaneous other stuff.
TMQ in the News: Last week your columnist was on "Newshour with Jim Lehrer," PBS's ultraserious evening news show, talking about global warming. Note they identified me as "Gregg
Easterbrook, Brookings Institution." Not "Gregg Easterbrook, ESPN."
Bonus Movie Complaint: The new "Miami Vice"
movie was promoted with the weird tag line, "Crime
without compromise." What was this supposed to mean,
that the movie was unafraid to glamorize crime? Surely
it could not have meant the movie depicted crime
realistically, since "Miami Vice" is about as realistic as
a Pokemon film. Consider just the body count.
According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, there
were 54 murders in Miami last year. That's plenty bad
enough, but the murder rate depicted in "Miami Vice"
projects out to thousands per annum. Also according to
the FBI, three law enforcement officers were killed in
the line of duty in Florida last year, none in MiamiDade County and none in drug-related incidents. That's
plenty bad enough, but compared to the movie …
Crockett and Tubbs have their work cut
out for them.
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at
[email protected] Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I may
quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise.
Next Week: My AFC preview, plus Paul Bunyan demands a retraction.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Updated: August 15, 7:11 PM ET
TMQ AFC Preview
By Gregg Easterbrook
This time of year, many NFL teams are crowing about the new offense they are installing. Teams
installing a new offense for 2006 include the Bills, Dolphins, Jets, Lions, Rams, Redskins, Saints
and Vikings. Often "new offense" means that instead of saying "power 80 slide quick," the
quarterback will say "blue X-under 247." Both translate as "square out right" -- much of the
installation of a new offense boils down to new terminology for standard plays. But there's a larger
trend. In recent years, NFL offenses have converged toward a homogeneous product where
everybody runs roughly the same stuff, hybridizing previously distinct offenses.
As recently as 15 years ago, some teams were power rush, some teams were run-and-shoot (no tight
end, three small receivers running complex crossing patterns), some teams were West Coast (most
passes short), some teams were Bart Starr classic (don't throw much but when you do, throw deep),
some teams were hurry-up -- there were distinctly different philosophies of offense. Now
everybody's using a little of everything. For instance, the five-wide, empty-backfield set, which a
decade ago only a few teams were willing to show, is now in every NFL playbook. It's now in every
high school team's playbook! The "bunch," which in the early 1990s only Minnesota was using,
now shows up everywhere. Once only Buffalo and Cincinnati would go no-huddle before the last
two minutes; now most teams show this tactic occasionally. And with the exception of Arizona and
Philadelphia, everyone's run/pass ratio has converged. Nobody in the NFL has tried the Texas Tech
offense yet: very wide splits from the linemen, emphasis on throwing lanes. But otherwise, in recent
seasons every team has sampled a little of every offensive philosophy.
The kickoff game this season is Miami at Pittsburgh. Twenty years ago that game would have
matched distinctly different offensive philosophies: power rush versus an up-the-field passing game
based on the post and sideline fly. In 2006, the Dolphins and Steelers likely will show a similar mix
of formations and plays. Everybody's trying a little bit of everything. It is, after all, the 21st century.
In other football news, who are Tony Romo, Earnest Graham and Rashied Davis? The NFL's
leading passer, rusher and receiver. Enjoy your 15 minutes of fame, gentlemen. Now my AFC
preview.
Baltimore
It's 2006, do you know who the Ravens' quarterback is? Since arriving in Charm City a decade ago,
the Ravens have started quarterbacks Tony Banks, Jeff Blake, Kyle Boller, Stoney Case, Randall
Cunningham, Trent Dilfer, Elvis Grbac, Jim Harbaugh, Scott Mitchell, Chris Redman, Vinny
Testaverde, Anthony Wright and Eric Zeier. Now Steve McNair takes over. Fourteen quarterbacks
in 10 seasons -- honk if you've played quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens! Brian Billick is
supposed to be an offensive genius, yet can't keep a quarterback on the field. Of the multitude of
starters only one worked out: Dilfer, who brought home a Super Bowl ring. Billick immediately got
rid of the guy.
It's become a broken record for the Ravens: plenty of defense, little offense. Last year Baltimore
finished fifth in defense (yards allowed), 25th in offense (yards gained). The year before the Ravens
were sixth in defense, 31st in offense. The year before that fourth in defense, 20th in offense.
Lather, rinse, repeat. Billick came to the Nevermores with a rep as an offensive guru, but
increasingly that seems a fluke of his being offensive coordinator of the 1998 Vikings, who had the
NFL's highest-scoring season ever at 556 points. That was a stacked team on offense that played
indoors. Gary Anderson, Cris Carter, Jeff Cristy, Randall Cunningham, Randall McDaniel, Randy
Moss, Robert Smith, Todd Steussie and Korey Stringer -- nine Pro-Bowl caliber offensive stars in
their primes, plus other quality players such as Chris Liwienski and Jake Reed. Hard upon the heels
of the 556-point season, Billick was hired to be Baltimore's coach. Since then he has had average
offensive talent and coached seven consecutive poor seasons on offense.
You can see how frustrated Billick is. It's painful to watch him on
the sidelines during games. Whenever the Baltimore offense trots
onto the field, Billick starts to wince. At the first incomplete pass or
stuffed run, he throws something. By the start of the second quarter,
Billick is making all manner of ugly faces. You'd be frustrated too if
you were supposed to be an offensive guru and had overseen seven
consecutive poor offensive seasons. But coach, maybe a little
Positive Mental Attitude is in order. Read your Norman Vincent
Peale. Ravens offensive players pick up the vibration that you
expect them to fail. Every team has incompletions; stopping freaking
out about them.
Ravens note No. 1: Despite its image as a dangerous club,
Baltimore has lost its opener four consecutive years.
Ravens note No. 2: Why did Baltimore give up a fourth-round
choice for McNair, knowing the Titans would cut him anyway?
Norman Vincent Peale was
Tennessee could not have signed its draft choices without unloading all about positive thinking.
McNair's $9 million salary. Also, it's rumored Baltimore relieved
Tennessee of a $1 million bonus due to McNair, so in effect, Baltimore sent the Flaming
Thumbtacks a fourth-round choice plus $1 million in salary cap room -- nice price for a player who
would have been waived soon.
Ravens note No. 3: The Ravens and M&T Bank Stadium put on
one of the best game-day experiences in the NFL, with a marching
band (now rare in the pros), artsy National Anthem performers,
scantily clad cheer-babes and the league's only cheer-hunks. Here is
the very studly Sean. But even though for warm-weather games the
Ravens' women wear next to nothing, the men are fully clothed in
running suits. Come on, it's the 21st century -- shorts and sleeveless
tees to entertain the female demographic, please.
Buffalo
Last summer TMQ's AFC preview said Bills coaches faced "a
vexing choice, whether to sacrifice the season to the education of
J.P. Losman" or play veteran Kelly Holcomb and try for the
postseason. Instead Buffalo did neither: The Bills started Losman for
a while, then Holcomb for a while, then Losman, then Holcomb.
The result was a worst-case outcome: Losman did not have his
Gotta wonder how much
learning year and the Bills did not mount a playoff run. Departed
cheer-hunks get paid ...
coach Mike Mularkey wasted the 2005 Buffalo season by refusing to
make up his mind about who should be under center. Compare to Marvin Lewis, who in 2004 stuck
with Carson Palmer during Palmer's learning season, and in 2005 was rewarded with premium
quarterbacking. Because 2005 was bungled away, Buffalo again faces the choice it faced last year:
keep Losman on the field and let him struggle, or let Holcomb try to gain the team its first playoff
appearance of the 21st century.
After winning more games than any NFL team during the 1990s, Buffalo has been one of the
league's worst clubs in the new century. Maybe the football gods are simply balancing the books.
Quarterback turmoil and poor offensive lines have been themes of the Bills' decline. Since Jim
Kelly retired nine years ago, Buffalo has invested in the quarterback position three first-round draft
picks, one second-round pick, plus third-, fourth- and fifth-round choices -- and has no clear starter
to show for it. Plus, the Bills just passed on drafting Matt Leinart, arguably the most Kelly-like
signal caller to leave the collegiate ranks since Kelly last taped his ankles. Yumpin' yiminy.
The Bills also have struggled under novice coaches. Former president Tom Donohue hired two
consecutive gents with no pro or college head coaching experience: the tastefully named Gregg
Williams, then Mularkey. Both were in over their heads. Now the Bills finally have a taskmaster
with substantial head coaching experience, and Dick Jauron is well-regarded. But there's a
comparison that concerns TMQ. As this column has documented, over the last five seasons
Williams and Mularkey led the league in Preposterous Punts: punting in opposition territory, even
when trailing or facing fourth-and-short. Two of many examples: Trailing New England by 10,
Williams ordered the Bills to punt from the Pats' 32 on fourth-and-2; trailing San Diego by 25,
Mularkey ordered a punt from the Chargers' 40. Now I review my file on Jauron and find it contains
numerous entries regarding him ordering Preposterous Punts. Last year, the Lions were trailing
Cincinnati by 17 in the second half, facing fourth-and-1 at midfield: Jauron sent in the punter. From
that play on, the Lions were clobbered. Is there one chance in a million Bill Belichick orders a punt
on fourth-and-1 at midfield when down by three scores in the second half? Victories don't come in
the mail, they must be seized. Buffalo gets its third consecutive coach with a weird tendency to punt
the ball away in scoring position, rather than go all-out to win.
Bills note No. 1: One of Marv Levy's opening moves was to give up on tackle Mike Williams, the
fourth overall choice in 2002 and among the worst draft busts in NFL history. A reason the Bills
have descended toward the cellar is the 2002 draft -- Buffalo had the fourth overall choice plus two
second-round selections, yet likely will have no 2006 starter to show for it.
Bills note No. 2: With the trade of Eric Moulds to Houston, there is no one left on the Buffalo
roster who played with Kelly. The last link to Buffalo's Golden Age is gone.
Cincinnati
Sure, it was a strange experience last year writing about the Cincinnati Bengals as contenders. And
remember, despite losing Palmer on the second snap of their playoff game against Pittsburgh, Cincy
led the eventual Super Bowl winners at halftime. The knockout play of that game was not Palmer's
injury, rather, Cincinnati's field-goal attempt midway through the third quarter. Leading 17-14, the
Bengals botched a try from the Pittsburgh 15. A 20-14 lead at that point would have been
significant. Instead, the Steelers were energized, scoring touchdowns on their next two possessions.
Then the clock struck midnight on the Bengals' magical season.
Other than those who might be jailed, Cincinnati returns
all starters from 2005 and so should contend again. If
you want Bengals tix you're too late -- all Cincinnati
home games are already sold out. The Bengals of 2005
were the mirror image of the Ravens: plenty of offense
(fourth in points), suspect defense (22nd in points).
Tuesday Morning Quarterback does not place much
score by looking ahead to the schedule before the
season starts. Dates that seem like monster games in
August might seem ho-hum by November, while games
that seem like sure wins have a way of becoming
Waterloos. Nevertheless, checking Cincinnati's schedule
The season's biggest battles can't all be
we observe that the Bengals' final three dates are at
predicted in August.
Indianapolis on Monday Night Football, at Denver and
then playing host to Pittsburgh. That's as impressive a sequence of games as any team faces in 2006.
Bengals note No. 1: Josh LeFevre of Cincinnati was among many readers to propose TMQ resume
calling this team the Candy Corns: "The Bengals look much more like giant Candy Corns running
around than they look like giant Tootsie Rolls." See Page 30 of this section of the team's press guide
for a five-page history of Cincinnati's constant changes in its Halloween-themed uniforms.
Bengals note No. 2: Here, the team's FAQs page explains why the scoreboard at Paul Brown
Stadium will not announce proposals of marriage.
Bengals note No. 3: To speed response to the string of Bengals in trouble with the law, the
Cincinnati media relations department now uses this fill-in-the-blank press release:
CINCINNATI, XX DATE. The Cincinnati Bengals today announced that player (________) has
been arrested and charged with (________). Witnesses said he was also caught in possession of
(_______) and was waving (_______). "We apologize to our fans for the (____)th time," coach
Marvin Lewis said. After arraignment, the player was returned to team headquarters, "where he can
be with his peer group," sources said. Hey kids! Did you know there is now a collectible series of
trading cards based on replicas of arrest warrants for Cincinnati Bengals? Collect them all today!
Cleveland
Since rematerializing in the NFL in 1999, the club this column first called the Cleveland Browns
(version 2.0), then the Browns 2.1, and last season was calling the Browns (3.0 Beta), has had only
one winning season. The Browns have myriad problems, starting with their roster: no Cleveland
player has made the Pro Bowl as a Brown, which is especially awful considering the cornucopia of
high draft picks. It's not just the well-known first-round picks who never produced: Tim Couch,
Courtney Brown, Gerald Warren, William Green. Who are Rahim Abdullah, Andre Davis and
Kevin Johnson? Recent high second-round picks who didn't pan out either. (Though Abdullah has
ripped up the CFL.) Meanwhile the Browns' first choices of 2004 and 2005, Kellen Winslow Jr. and
Braylon Edwards, have yet to do anything.
Pretty much every other barometer about Cleveland is negative, too. Only 232 points scored in
2005, worst in the league. Back-to-back losses to Detroit and Houston: that hurts. A 41-0 punch in
the nose by Pittsburgh. A miserable 36-78 record since re-entering the league. A quarterback of the
future, Charlie Frye, with a 69.8 passer rating.
And yet -- and yet. Cleveland's got Romeo Crennel, and you know in your bones he will be an NFL
success. Last year the Browns shut out the Dolphins, and played credible games against
Indianapolis and Cincinnati. Then there's that Cleveland crowd energy. Browns Stadium is not the
loudest in the league, but somehow is most energetic -- Cleveland spectators have maintained full
enthusiasm despite that 36-78 number. If this year's iteration can mount any kind of respectable
September, the Browns surely will have the wind at their backs in terms of public support.
Browns note: Though Cleveland struggled on the field, it leads the league in mascots.
Denver
Talk about lather, rinse, repeat: The Broncos are stuck in a cycle of great regular seasons followed
by playoff wheeze-outs. Over the last three years the Broncos have gone 33-15 in the regular
season, 1-3 in the playoffs. In that span, their scoring margin in regular-season games is plus-8
points -- in playoff games it's minus-15. Each collapse has included the vaunted Denver running
game disappearing in the playoffs. During the 2004 regular season, Denver had the league's fourthbest rushing attack. Then in the playoffs, the Broncos rushed for an anemic 78 yards. During the
2005 regular season, Denver had the league's second-best rushing attack. Then in losing the AFC
Championship Game at home in the thin mountain air, which offers little resistance to running
backs, the Broncos were held to 97 yards rushing.
How to explain Denver's January folds? One explanation might be that the depleted air at 5,208 feet
is a bigger home-team advantage during the regular season, when a visitor can lose without his
season ending, than during the postseason, when everyone plays on pure adrenaline. In the last three
seasons, the Broncos are 21-5 at home, 13-13 on the road. Over the past decade, Denver has the best
home-field record, a sterling 64-14. But if the Broncos played at sea level, they'd lose at least one
more home date per year. Denver's incredible altitude-based home-field advantage might make the
team overconfident. During the regular season the Broncs cruise to relatively easy home wins over
opponents gasping for air, and need only a few road wins to qualify for the postseason. But when
the postseason arrives, Denver is on the road or facing an extremely pumped opponent not
intimidated by the altitude.
The Broncos have a lot of strengths, none more important than their offensive line. Chop blocks
aside, all Broncos offensive linemen have played their entire careers for Denver, and four of five
current starters have been together five years. Offensive line cohesion is an overlooked essential of
football success. Last year's Super Bowl teams, Seattle and Pittsburgh, both sported offensive lines
composed of high draft choices who had significant time together as units. Four of the five Steelers
offensive line starters had played only for Pittsburgh; three of the five Seahawks offensive linemen
only for Seattle. Yet many teams don't get the message of offensive line cohesion, constantly
shuffling blockers or treating them as disposable. Len Pasquarelli recently noted that in the last
decade, NFL teams averaged 2.2 new offensive line starters per season. Teams that win on a
consistent basis keep their offensive lines together.
Broncos note No. 1: Here's the net of Denver's four high-profile trades in this year's draft. The
Broncos swapped the 22nd and 29th selections of the first round, two third-round choices and a
fourth-round pick in 2007 for Jay Cutler and Javon Walker. That's a pretty penny. Of course,
Denver has wasted so many high picks in recent years, the Broncos might feel that high picks aren't
really worth conserving.
Broncos note No. 2: It's not that oxygen is lacking in the Denver air, it's that pressure is lacking.
The oxygen ratio of air in Denver is the same as at sea level, but lower pressure means less air of all
kinds. Barometric pressure at 5,208 feet is 625 millimeters per hectogram, versus 760 millimeters
per hectogram at sea level. This leaves only 81 percent of the oxygen molecules per volume of air in
Denver as at sea level. Athletes who train at high altitude develop more hemoglobin, which
compensates for low air pressure. Young, healthy people arriving in Denver from sea level begin
producing more hemoglobin in two to three days, which is why smart teams should fly in early
when playing Denver.
Broncos note No. 3: While air pressure in Denver is
low, natural background radiation is high. Denver
residents receive, on average, 400 millirems per year of
natural radiation, versus 300 millirems for sea-level
Americans. Colorado residents also live longer than
Americans as a whole, and suffer lower cancer rates,
leading to the puzzle that mild exposure to low amounts
of radiation is not harmful and may even be beneficial.
Alternatively, Colorado's outdoor lifestyle might
account for the state's longevity stats. Whatever the
One of the top squads in the NFL -- the
answer, Tuesday Morning Quarterback has long
believed radiation is good for beauty, since the Broncos' Broncos' cheerleaders.
cheerleaders consistently finish top five for TMQ Cheerleader of the Week distinction.
Big Plus: Parking Cannot Be Outsourced To India:
Parking -- not the kind you did as a teenager -- is now a
$500 billion industry worldwide. That sum is larger
than the United States' defense budget, and represented
about 2 percent of the global GDP in 2004. This means
the world now spends on parking roughly what it
spends on environmental protection, and considerably
more than it spends on all books and libraries combined.
If parking has become a major industry, there must be a
trade association for parking. And there is: the
International Parking Institute. Click here for info on its
educational seminars, annual conferences, awards for
Hmmm ... sports journalism is cool and
excellence and trade magazine, Parking Professional.
all, but maybe we should have gone into
parking?
Awards for parking excellence? Parking is a leading
hassle of modern life -- society has an interest in
encouraging well-planned and well-operated parking facilities. Click here for the story of Mark
Schtul, a parking expert who was late to speak at an urban-planning conference because he couldn't
find a parking space.
Houston
In four years of existence, the Houston Texans have won 10 home games. That is not very good.
Houston has the same core problem as the Browns: namely, its players. Return man Jerome Mathis
and wide receiver Andre Johnson are the sole gentlemen on the roster who have made the Pro Bowl
as a Texan. Check the Houston depth chart -- it's not for the faint of heart. Offensive line woes have
exemplified this team's struggles; the Texans have surrendered 229 sacks in four years. No team can
give up 57 sacks per season and be a contender. Yet year after year, Houston neglects the offensive
line in the offseason. Consult the depth chart for the all-important left tackle position: Listed first is
Seth Wand, who did not start in 2005, and his backup is draft choice Charles Spencer, who played
only one year at left tackle in college.
Moo Cows note: Title inflation has come to the NFL,
and no team is more inflated than the Texans. Houston
has a CEO, a chairman, a vice chairman, a president, a
general manager, three senior vice presidents, six
regular vice presidents, 11 directors, a controller, a
coordinator, and someone with the title "risk manager."
The Texans are roughly a $250 million per year
business, small in corporate terms -- that's about the
annual revenue of 10 Macy's department stores. But
being small does not seem to prevent the Texans from
needing loads of people with imperious titles. If Exxon
Mobil had the same ratio of titles to sales as the
Houston Texans, Exxon Mobil would boast 4,584
senior vice presidents, 9,168 vice presidents and 16,808
directors.
There are certainly a lot of hands in the
kitchen in Houston.
Indianapolis
Everybody talked about the Triplets of the Colts' offense, but last year it was really the Septuplets:
Dallas Clark, Marvin Harrison, Edgerrin James, Peyton Manning, Jeff Saturday, Reggie Wayne and
Ryan Lilja, an unknown who had a Hawaii-caliber season. Since six of those seven remain, another
big offensive season should be expected.
Can the team's psyche recover from last season's playoff deflation and from the lingering sadness of
the suicide of Tony Dungy's son? Like Denver, Indianapolis of late has been great in the regular
season and awful in the postseason -- and the Colts' playoff record would look worse if they hadn't
gotten two shots at Denver in January. In the last three years Indianapolis is 38-10 in the regular
season, 2-3 in the postseason; for his coaching career, Tony Dungy is 102-58 in the regular season,
5-8 in the postseason. Perhaps James Dungy's death a few days before Christmas rendered irrelevant
anything the Colts did in subsequent games. Somehow you felt the Colts' spirit was already
wavering before the tragedy.
Indianapolis jumped out 13-0, then went 1-3 the remainder of the season. Once 13-0 was reached,
the Colts had locked up home-field advantage throughout the playoffs and Dungy told the team they
would not go all-out to win the final three games. At that point, which came before James' suicide,
esprit seemed to depart from the squad. Yours truly wrote at the time that in order to keep the Colts
fired up, Dungy should declare a goal of a 16-0 season, publicly challenging his team to be the first
to reach this mark. Instead there was a month between the last regular-season game Indianapolis
played full-bore to win, a Dec. 11 victory over Jacksonville to reach 13-0, to the next time the Colts
went full-bore, their Jan. 15 postseason loss to Pittsburgh. In the first half of the Pittsburgh loss, the
Colts looked fuzzy and out of synch; by the second half they were red-hot and the Steelers had to
hang on to prevail. You can't help but feel Dungy's decision not to go all-out to win after 13-0 cost
Indianapolis its edge.
Colts note: Indiana taxpayers, you might watch your tax dollars disappear here, a webcam of the
construction of the team's new stadium.
Jacksonville
The Jaguars quietly compiled a 12-4 record in 2005, a record that would have won six of the eight
divisions last season. Then Jacksonville dematerialized in the playoffs, losing 28-3 at New England
to end their season. But Jacksonville's season really ended a month before, and there's a harmonic
convergence here with Indianapolis' demise. Jacksonville's year really ended when the Jags played
host to Indianapolis on Dec. 11. Coming into that game, the 12-0 Colts were the toast of the sportsyak universe, while Jax was determined to prove itself a true contender. Jacksonville took the
opening kickoff and drove to fourth-and-1 on the Indianapolis 43 -- and punted. Jacksonville punted
on fourth-and-1 in the territory of the highest-scoring team in the NFL! Scarcely dost thou even
need'st be told that verily the Colts took the ball and flew down the field the other way for a
touchdown. Spectators might as well have filed out at that point; as the Jax punt boomed, yours
truly wrote the words "game over" in his notebook, earliest time I'd ever writ thus. Game over,
though it's scoreless in the first quarter! Sooth, was true. By the start of the fourth quarter the
scoreboard read: Indianapolis 23, Jacksonville 3.
In retrospect, one might as well have written "season over" as that punt boomed. Jacksonville knew
victory in its final three regular-season games, but against San Francisco, Houston and Tennessee -three cupcakes with cherries on top. Then the Jags were pasted by New England in the postseason.
Look back on the Jacksonville schedule from 2005, and you'll see that early Jax beat both Seattle
and Pittsburgh, the Super Bowl pair. But the Oct. 16 victory over the Steelers was the last time in
2005 that Jacksonville defeated a team that finished with a winning record. That Preposterous Punt
against Indianapolis not only cost Jax a big game, it seemed to represent the coaching staff's loss of
faith in their own season. Note to Jack Del Rio: Victories must be seized, they do not come in the
mail.
Jacksonville has used its last two first-round picks on receiver Matt Jones and tight end Marcedes
Lewis, yet still looks suspect at receiver owing to the retirement of Jimmy Smith. My 11-year-old,
Spenser, a Jax fan, chants ERRNNN-est WIILLL-ford, ERRNNN-est WIILLL-ford during games,
because Jacksonville is 6-1 when Ernest Wilford catches a touchdown pass. Unfortunately, K.C.
Joyner's nearly omniscient stats say Wilford had the worst drop performance in 2005 of all
receivers, dropping one in every five passes thrown to him.
Jacksonville note: When Smith hung up his cleats, ESPN.com said he was retiring after 11
seasons. NFL.com said after 12 seasons. Sports Illustrated said after 13 seasons. All three reports
ran on the same day.
Jersey/B
Conventional wisdom holds the Jets are two years away, since they had a terrible season in 2005,
have lost 15 of their last 20 outings stretching back to 2004, and must break in Eric "I Was a
Teenaged Coach" Mangini, who lacks head coaching experience. TMQ wonders about the
conventional wisdom. First, Jersey/B was clobbered by injuries last season: five guys played
quarterback, including the legendary Kliff Kingsbury and Vinny Testaverde, who at this point
should be selling Medi-Gap policies on late-night TV. Second, Jersey/B has improved through the
subtraction of two malcontents, John Abraham and Herman "I Honor My Contract When I'm In The
Mood" Edwards, who quit on the team last season in a way that never would have been tolerated if
Edwards was a player. Third, Jersey/B has Mangini, a product of the New England success system.
Fourth, the Jets play seven games against teams that finished a combined 24-72 in 2005. Don't
assume this is a lost season for Jersey/B -- though discounting expansion teams, the Jets do have the
AFC's worst record since the AFL-NFL merger.
Jets note No. 1: The team's new training facility and business office will be in Florham Park, N.J.,
at a complex that was once the corporate headquarters of Exxon. The Jets are leaving their
cantonment in Hempstead, N.Y., and that in turn means both of the NFL's supposed "New York"
franchises now have no connection whatsoever to New York -- plotting, practicing and performing
exclusively in New Jersey.
Jets note No. 2: During the 2005 offseason, Laveranues Coles demanded to be traded from
Washington because the Redskins' offense was not designed to produce stats for him personally. At
Jersey/B, Coles finished the season with 845 yards receiving; at Washington, his replacement,
Santana Moss, racked up 1,483 yards. Now Coles is attempting to compile housing stats: Karen
Crouse of the New York Times reported he is building a 25,000-square-foot home in Jacksonville,
Fla. The mega-manse contains "a movie theater, a gymnasium with bleachers, two bowling lanes, a
swimming pool, an indoor golf simulator, an outdoor kitchen and a dance floor." Outdoor kitchen?
Gymnasium with bleachers? Crouse described Coles' $8 million manse as "surrounded on three
sides by pine-filled woods." Note: You can't be surrounded "on three sides" -- to surround is to
encircle.
Jets note No. 3: Mangini has adopted Green and Growing as the Jets' motto. Yes, Weeb Ewbank
once used this phrase. So did the Milwaukee Bucks of the late 1970s. Bucks forward Marques
Johnson memorably countered, "It makes us sound like some species of mold."
Superman vs. Mike Tyson Headlines Card: Computer-generated special effects increasingly
render movies unrealistic and thus uninteresting -- film action was much more impressive when a
stuntman or stuntwoman actually had to do the stunt. But there's something in the actually done
stunt category that drives me nuts: the misrepresentation of the lowly punch. First, in the movies, a
single punch often knocks someone cold. In the James Bond flick "Die Another Day," twice Bond
knocks someone unconscious with a single punch. In "Mission Impossible III," Tom Cruise knocks
several people unconscious on the first punch, and once knocks someone unconscious with a single
head-butt. Some of this is Hollywood preposterousness, some of it star ego -- you suspect Cruise
wants the scenes to suggest to audiences that he is so incredibly ultra-strong and ultra-fit, one swing
of his fist will make a strong man crumple. But though a single-punch knockout is possible in real
life, usually real-life fist fights go on for some time.
Worse is the Hollywood punch that sends a person flying backward across the room. You've seen
Mike Tyson deliver what might be the most powerful punches in world history -- did the other
boxer fly backward across the ring? In order to cause the punched person to fly backward, a punch
would have to deliver considerably more force that the person's body weight. And that just don't
happen.
Consider a scene in "Superman Returns." Supe is lured to Lex
Luthor's crystal island which, the Man of Steel does not know, has
kryptonite soil. After waiting long enough for the kryptonite to
deprive Superman of his powers, Lex punches him -- and Supe flies
backward about 20 feet. Ridiculous! Lex Luthor has no
superpowers, he's just an evil genius. Superman has been described
earlier in the film as weighing 225 pounds. For Luthor to deliver 225
pounds of force with a single arm would be the rough equivalent of
bench-pressing 450 pounds with both arms, and that is the benchpress range of NFL defensive linemen. But Luthor would need to
deliver a punch with many times 225 pounds of impact to make
Supe fly backwards. Force is inversely proportional to the square of
distance. Perhaps some incredibly scientifically advanced reader can
figure this out exactly, but my guess is that to cause a 225-pound
superhero to fly backward 20 feet, a punch would need to deliver
several thousand pounds of force. Multiply that times two for the
bench-press ability represented, and you've crossed into the realm of
Sorry, but Kevin Spacey just
ain't that strong.
the laughable.
Kansas City
At Kansas City they use the Cover 2: cover two receivers and ignore the rest. The Chiefs of 2005
came very close to being an elite team. They finished 10-6, joining the honor roll of 10-6 clubs that
did not make the playoffs. Kansas City was first in the NFL in offense as measured by yards, first in
average yards per play with a sparkling 5.8, and near the top for points scored, yards per pass
attempt and first downs. The Chiefs also rushed more than they passed, appeasing the football gods.
Yet awful defense held Kansas City back. The Chiefs finished 30th in pass defense, and while some
of that links to opponents who were behind and threw a lot, most of the explanation is that the
Kansas City defense was bad again. As noted by reader David Myszewski of Newark, Calif., the
key stat was that Kansas City allowed 5.4 yards per play on defense, 28th in the league. That means
it took the Chiefs' opponents an average of two snaps to attain a first down. Those kind of numbers
say you can't get the other team off the field, and sure enough Kansas City forced only 69 punts in
2005, versus, say, 97 forced by Chicago.
The weak 2005 defensive showing came after an offseason during which Kansas City management
had pledged a major push to get stronger on defense. Now the Chiefs have added Ty Law and
Herman "I Honor My Contract When I'm In The Mood" Edwards, both with good reps for defense.
But remember, both Bill Belichick and his protégé Eric Mangini didn't want to keep Law around,
and this pair has fairly good instincts. Law in April: "I've made five Pro Bowls. I should have made
nine, because I feel I got ripped off for four others." Any NFL player who considers himself the
victim of injustice because he's only gotten five Pro Bowl garlands has serious me-first issues. Last
year with the Jets, Law played for interceptions too often, more concerned with his numbers and
free-agency bonus potential than with the Jets' chances of winning.
Who else with the Jets last year was more concerned with himself and his contract than with the
Jets? Hey, Herman Edwards! By quitting on the team in midseason and becoming a malcontent in
order to force Jersey/B to release him from his obligation, Edwards showed serious me-first issues.
Keep this in mind, Kansas City: When you hire someone who's only in it for himself, you get
someone who's only in it for himself.
Fantasy players have been falling all over themselves to draft stats machine Larry Johnson, a joy to
watch in the open field. But the core of the Chiefs for the last several years has been the NFL's best
offensive line. Watch tape of these guys -- they block so effectively it often looks like a walk
through session, in which defenders are supposed to step out of the way. Let's give credit where
credit is due and name the Chiefs' blockers of 2005: Jordan Black, Willie Roaf, Will Shields, Brian
Waters, John Welbourn and Casey Wiegmann. If Roaf really has taped up his ankles for the final
time, we say goodbye to one of the best. And remember: Roaf and Wiegmann were shown the door
by previous employers who didn't want them, while Waters went undrafted.
Copy Desk Debate Roils New York Times: Does a Naked Dominatrix "Wiggle" Or
"Wriggle?" Tuesday Morning Quarterback has done not one but two previous items on the sense
of civic obligation that moves the august New York Times (that's the august newspaper, not an
August edition) to devote space to the vital public-policy issue of the breasts of Las Vegas
showgirls. In 2001, the Times ran a Page 1 article on the fact that the traditional feather-boas-andheaddress Vegas topless showgirl was being supplanted by modern, friskier types who gyrate
naked, while the traditional elaborately choregraphed Vegas showgirl stage extravaganza has given
way to edgy revues featuring woman-on-woman erotica. The Times allowed that dancing naked is
better for a showgirl's health -- no backaches caused by a heavy headdress! -- and even rolled out a
professor described as an "expert" in strip-show culture. Then, in 2004, the Multicolored Lady
delivered a Page 1 article on the vital public-policy implications of nude dancers moving from
South Florida, long an exotic dance haven, to Vegas, where tips are better.
Now this Sunday, the New York Times offered a section-lead
feature by Erika Kinetz on Jubilee, the last traditional Vegas
showgirl production that features beautiful dancers in headdresses
performing Busby Berkeley numbers with sets and props. This
tradition-honoring review promises "50 stunning topless women" -only slightly more than in TMQ's standard fantasy. Bear in mind that
50 women dancing topless now seems "traditional." Inevitably this
means that at some point Las Vegas reviews comprised of naked
women simulating girl-girl sex will be considered "traditional."
What, then, will be edgy?
Here's the best quote from Sunday's Times story: The woman who
manages the "Jubilee" show told Kinetz audiences "get more value"
that costume looks a
when showgirls are topless. TMQ is in favor of value! Here's a fun Yeah,
little heavy ...
Web game. Want to find the 2001 New York Times showgirls story?
Type the search terms "nude," "Las Vegas" and "feather boas" into the Times search engine. Want
to find the 2004 story? Type in "dominatrix" and "wiggle naked." Want to find Sunday's story?
Enter "topless," "stripper" and "Pussycat Doll Lounge."
Miami
The Marine Mammals seemed strong by the end of 2005, and if they play strong in 2006 they will
prove to be an exception to the rule that football-factory college coaches don't transition well into
the NFL. Nick Saban seemed to know what he was doing with the team, though he struggled with
the personal-comportment part of the college-to-pro adjustment. Coaches at football-factory
colleges are little gods worshipped everywhere they walk, while the knives are always out for NFL
coaches. Early in his first Dolphins season Saban had several "how dare they criticize me"
moments, but by December he seemed to understand that criticism comes with the territory. The
question mark is whether Miami's strong finish last year is deceptive. The Dolphins won their final
six games, but only one victory (against San Diego) came against a quality team. The other wins
were against Oakland, Buffalo, Jersey/B (i.e., the Jets), Tennessee and a New England team resting
starters after locking its playoff seeding.
Saban has added Dom Capers and Mike Mularkey as assistants; both were head coaches last year,
so Miami now boasts one of the league's most qualified staffs. Capers is likely to replace Miami's
conservative, position-oriented defensive philosophy with the zone-blitz scheme perfected by
Pittsburgh. How will Mularkey, the league's most conservative play caller, mesh with Daunte
Culpepper? KC Joyner's nearly omniscient stats show that in Buffalo last year Mularkey called the
fewest deep passes of any NFL coach, with Bills quarterbacks throwing more than 10 yards
downfield only 6.4 times per game and more than 20 yards downfield only 2.9 times per game.
(Small wonder Buffalo had the worst offensive performance in its history in 2005.) Culpepper's
forte is the deep heave-ho. If Mularkey endlessly calls 5-yard outs, the Dolphins' offensive may
sputter and Culpepper could become unhappy.
As Culpepper was heading from Minnesota to Miami, front office dude Rick Spielman crossed him
going in the opposite direction. Bottom line on the cycle of trades Spielman initiated in 2004 for the
Marine Mammals? Miami gave a second-round draft choice and Adewale Ogunleye, a young Pro
Bowl-caliber player, for journeyman Marty Booker and Cleo Lemon, who has never played a down.
(The third-round choice Miami obtained in the Ogunleye deal is canceled out by the third-rounder
the Dolphins traded for Lamar Gordon, already waived.) This raises the question of how Miami
looks good going into this season when its recent trading and drafting has been suspect. In the last
dozen years, the Dolphins have blown first-round picks on Billy Milner, Yatil Green, John Avery
and Jamar Fletcher, while surrendering two first-round choices for the exiled-to-Canada Ricky
Williams. You must go back to 1992 and Troy Vincent for a Miami first-round pick who was an
unqualified success.
New England
Three Super Bowl rings and a divisional appearance in the last five years, despite a never-ending
procession of who-dats and low-drafted rookies in key positions. The world wonders what
Belichick's secret is. Maybe it's this: New England just never has a play where someone is standing
around doing nothing. Everybody watches the ball area in game tape. Watch NFL film away from
the ball, and you'll be astounded how often there is at least one player who stands like a piece of
topiary doing nothing. Offensive linemen are the worst offenders -- it's simply stunning how often
these gentlemen, professionals and millionaires all, simply push the person in front of them once,
then stand there watching the play unfold. But receivers, defensive linemen and lots of others are
guilty of taking plays off, usually when they think the action is moving away from them. (Emphasis
on they think.) I don't have stats to back this, but I suspect there is a direct relationship between
winning in the NFL and 11 guys always working. Losing teams are more likely to have players who
shove someone once, then stand around watching; winning teams don't tolerate this. Review Flying
Elvii film from any Belichick game. You just never see a guy standing there doing nothing. Look at
Bills, Cards, Lions, Raiders, Rams film -- there's so much standing around you wonder where the
barista is. Belichick has impressed on his charges the high school maxim "play to the whistle," and
this might be an unnoticed secret of his success.
Or maybe it's the Pats' incredible luck with not being sent on West Coast trips. Some analysts
maintain that East Coast and West Coast teams flying to the opposite coast do about the same in
opposite-coast games as they do in road dates overall. Nonetheless, players hate to fly oppositecoast, and such trips must have a wearying effect as the season progresses. Which team made the
fewest three-time-zone trips in the last dozen years? The New England Patriots, who've been
assigned just five in all that time. Surely this is a factor in their dynasty. Who's made the most
opposite-coast trips in the same period? The Arizona Cardinals, with 46 three-time-zone journeys.
Surely this is a factor in the Cactus Wrens' losing ways.
Last season New England quietly finished 31st in passing defense -- the first year during their
winning run in which the Patriots have simply failed in any major aspect of the game. Yet New
England won seven of its final nine, discounting the regular-season finale in which it rested its
starters, and for the most part the Pats outplayed Denver in their playoff loss, Tom Brady's only bad
game in memory. The Patriots remain one of the teams to beat.
Pats note No. 1: In last year's regular-season finale, understudy quarterback Matt Cassel threw two
touchdown passes -- two more than he had thrown in the previous six years. Cassel never actually
played in college; he backed up Carson Palmer and then Matt Leinart at USC. Before that, Cassel's
most recent touchdown pass came in 1999, at Chatsworth High School in California. Yet he enters
this season as the stand-in to Tom Brady. And this being New England, something tells you that if
Cassel has to play, he'll look like a polished veteran.
Pats note No. 2: New England has two recent first-round draft choices at tight end, yet chose tight
ends in the third and fourth rounds.
Oakland
Last season this team was picked by many touts to go deep into the playoffs but instead finished 412, honking seven of its final eight. The Raiders were 21st in offense, 29th in defense; basically
they did nothing well. And the idea that opponents are intimidated about having to play at the
Coliseum -- which never made all that much sense; are opponents supposed to be afraid because
Raider Nation guys in the crowd are wearing tinfoil? -- surely had no bearing in 2005. When the
Broncos punched out the Long Johns 22-3 in Oakland, all pretense of Raiders mystique was
finished.
Al Davis' arrow is up right now because everyone respects what he did to help prevent an ownersunion meltdown in March. Otherwise, his meddling seems to link to the Raiders' decline. Since
Tom Flores left in 1987, the Raiders have suffered constant coaching turmoil. First Davis fired
Mike Shanahan, who seems to have turned out all right. Then Art Shell was shown the door despite
a winning record and an AFC championship appearance. Then Mike White and Joe Bugel were
cashiered after just two seasons and one season, respectively. Jon Gruden was a success, but he was
so anxious to get out from under Davis that he engineered his own trade to Tampa. Then Bill
Callahan and Norv Turner got quick hooks. Now Shell is back, after Davis practically needed to
hire a headhunter to find anyone willing to accept the post. Ay caramba.
This year the Raiders passed on California golden boy Matt Leinart in the draft in order to hand the
quarterback position to free-agent signee Aaron Brooks. Brooks had five full years as a starter in
New Orleans, a much better shot than most struggling quarterbacks get, and Saints management
even traded away Jake Delhomme so Brooks wouldn't feel threatened. Why should Brooks
suddenly become a better player with the Raiders? Two untested backups wait behind Brooks.
Expect at least one of them to be tested.
Raiders' note No 1: Randy Moss' cap number for 2007 will be about $12 million, 11 percent of the
$109 million salary cap next year. Unless Moss has a great season in 2006, the Raiders are unlikely
to devote that much of their cap to a player who isn't a quarterback. And if Moss doesn't have a
great season, he may draw only lukewarm interest if Oakland waives him next winter for cap
reasons. The mighty haven't exactly fallen in Moss' case, but he's teetering.
Raiders' note No. 2: Many readers have pointed out that TMQ was wrong to laud the Patriots for
having the NFL's first Chinese-language official Web site. Oakland was first -- here is the Raiders'
Chinese-language site. Plus the Raiders' front office has two women whose portfolio is
"multicultural initiatives."
Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, which won four consecutive non-home playoff games to take the Super Bowl, also has
the NFL's best road record in the last decade at 44-36 -- an indicator of NFL home-field dominance.
Twenty-five of 32 NFL teams have losing road records over the last decade. The Steelers' ability to
win away from home not only stands out in the stats but also was essential to Pittsburgh's Super
Bowl championship.
Usually this column has the least to say in the preseason about the defending champion, and
Pittsburgh of 2006 is no exception. Obviously the Steelers are a terrific team. They don't have any
clear fault, though their weakside linebackers are sometimes slow to redirect the tight end on
second-and-long drag routes. Sorry -- that was an attempt to sound like I know what I'm talking
about.
Pittsburgh note No. 1: The Steelers have had just two coaches in the past 37 years: Chuck Noll and
Bill Cowher. That's unprecedented stability by the standards of NFL coach-a-rama.
Pittsburgh note No. 2: The Steelers train at Saint
Vincent College, where the football program has a 249word mission statement. Saint Vincent College is
located in Latrobe, Pa. -- which until a few weeks ago
was home of the brewery for renowned Rolling Rock
beer. Anheuser-Busch just purchased the Rolling Rock
brand and shifted production to the company's
sprawling Budweiser brewery in Newark, N.J.
Pittsburgh note No. 3: Ben Roethlisberger is 27-4 as a
starter in the NFL, his four losses to teams that made the
playoffs that season. Stretching back to college,
Roethlisberger is on a 40-4 run. Um, that's adequate.
Latrobe will miss Rolling Rock.
Disclaimer Watch: Try ordering the hip America's
Best Colleges Guidebook from U.S. News. Before the magazine will
allow you to complete this $10.95 purchase, you must click "accept"
to a 2,912-word disclaimer. Among other things the disclaimer
cautions, "U.S. News does not warrant or make any representations
regarding the use or the results of the use of the materials at the Web
site in terms of their correctness, accuracy, timeliness, reliability or
otherwise."
San Diego
The Chargers finished seventh in attendance in 2005, a stout
achievement for one of the NFL's few franchises that often has seats
for sale on game day. The last two years have been excellent at the
turnstile, and a principal reason was the strong quarterback play of
Drew Brees. Yet in the offseason, Bolts management
unceremoniously showed Brees the door, making a bummer 2006 a
strong possibility. Even if Philip Rivers becomes a solid
quarterback, the odds are against him playing well in his first
season.
Who reads disclaimers,
right? Maybe we should.
What happened to Brees (and, by extension, to San Diego fans)? Bureaucratic politics. Brees was
drafted in 2001 by the late San Diego general manager John Butler. When Butler died in 2003,
Brees lost his management-suite champion. A.J. Smith took over the front office and used the first
pick of the next draft on Eli Manning, who was traded for Rivers (the fourth pick). In doing so,
Smith effectively declared the previous management's guy a failure and his guy the solution. But
Brees trained like mad during the 2004 offseason while Rivers held out; Brees won the starting job,
led the Chargers to the playoffs and made the Pro Bowl. Most general managers would be happy if
their team reached the playoffs and their quarterback got a free ticket to Honolulu. Not Smith, who
reportedly fumed that the Not Invented Here guy became the star while his own choice ran the scout
team.
In 2005, San Diego was bitterly disappointed to miss the playoffs, though the Chargers had a rough
schedule, finished with a winning record and Brees played only one bad game: the Christmas Eve
wheeze-out at Kansas City, during which everybody on the Chargers' roster performed poorly.
Brees capped the season by getting hurt in a meaningless finale. Smith seized on the injury as the
pretext to send Brees packing, making no bona fide effort to re-sign him, nor tagging Brees to
insure San Diego could match any offer. Sports pundits evinced bafflement that Smith would
behave as if he were eager to let a young Pro Bowl quarterback go. Yet Smith was eager to do
exactly that -- he wanted Brees off the team in the worst way. Sure, the San Diego general manager
would have liked draft choices in return. But Smith did not wish to take any chance, via a bona fide
contract offer or by tagging, that Brees would don powder blue in 2006.
Brees gone, Marty Schottenheimer turns to Rivers. If the Bolts falter, Smith will blame
Schottenheimer for playing Brees in the meaningless 2005 finale and exposing him to injury. If
Rivers succeeds, Smith will crow that it was his personal super-brilliant genius that put the right guy
at quarterback. Wait -- Smith is already crowing this. "Smith has been masterful on draft day," the
Chargers' Web site declares, citing Smith's deal to acquire Rivers. Don't you get the feeling Smith
wrote this sentence about himself? If the goal of the San Diego front office was to win the
maximum number of games in 2006, giving the boot to Brees was crazy. If the goal of the front
office was to indulge Smith, everything that happened makes perfect sense.
Bolts note: The misnamed Charger Girls -- they're women -- are
pressing for a place among the league's elite. Auditions for this
year's squad were held at the Jenny Craig Pavilion at the University
of San Diego. For sheer allure, it's hard to top Chargers cheerleader
Casie.
Tennessee
This is Year 3 of the Tennessee cap crash. The Flaming Thumbtacks
made the Super Bowl after the 1999 season, missed victory by a
yard, and seemed poised for more Lombardi Trophy tries. Indeed,
the Titans reached the playoffs three of the next four seasons. But a
deal was made with the devil -- Tennessee management awarded
bonus money like crazy to keep the core players of the Super Bowl
run together. It made sense; Tennessee had a Super Bowl-quality
roster, why not keep the group intact as long as possible? Inevitably
the cap crash came. For three consecutive offseasons it was waivers- Casie's surely captured a
city as the Titans let go numerous stars to clear their salary cap, and few hearts in her day.
loss after loss ensued. Now the team the Titans will field in 2006 has nothing to do with the Super
Bowl group, other than its high school-inspired uniforms. Take a look-see at Tennessee's depth
chart and try to guess which is the sole gent who started for the Titans their Super Bowl season.
Hint: it's Brad Hopkins.
Finally the club's finances are back in order. This offseason the Flaming Thumbtacks were able to
open the checkbook and sign quality players such as David Givens and David Thornton, whom
TMQ views as one of the NFL's least-noted performers. (As a matter of policy this column does not
use the word "underrated.") Jerome Solomon of the Boston Globe has pointed out that the $8
million ex-Patriot Givens will earn this season at Tennessee is double the total New England paid to
its entire receiving corps in 2005. It's been a while since the Titans could be described as big
spenders.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback continues to admire coach Jeff Fisher. First, his 13-year tenure,
second-longest in the NFL (behind Cowher), is remarkable in an age when coaches are viewed as
corporate day laborers. Second, Tennessee is widely viewed as one of the best places in the league
for a coach or player to land, partly owing to the normalcy Fisher projects on the team's operations.
Normalcy is weird in modern pro football. Finally through the last two years of cap-induced losses -
- 9-23 following five seasons in the limelight -- Fisher hasn't panicked, cried, thrown a tantrum or
issued a list of nonnegotiable demands. Not panicking is also weird in modern pro football.
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at
[email protected] Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I may
quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Note: giving your hometown improves your
odds of being quoted.
Next Week: Tuesday Morning Quarterback considers basketball roughly 1 percent as interesting as
football. So next week's column will devote 1 percent of my annual space to basketball issues. Plus
some football stuff -- you can squeeze a lot into 9,000 words.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Updated: August 25, 10:14 AM ET
TMQ hoops it up
By Gregg Easterbrook
Last week's TMQ noted that NFL offensive philosophies, once distinctly different, have converged
to the point that most teams use the same mish-mash of formations and tactics. This week we ask
why all NFL defensive philosophies have not converged to the same tactics -- namely to the Tampa
2 defense, perfected by Tony Dungy. Last season, four clubs used the Tampa 2: Tampa, Chicago,
Indianapolis and St. Louis. They finished first, second, 11th and 30th in fewest yards allowed, and
that No. 11 finish for the Colts happened though Indianapolis was often way ahead and playing
reserves on defense in the fourth quarter. Yet the Tampa 2 is still relatively rare in the NFL.
What's the essence of the Tampa 2? Both safeties usually play a deep zone against passes; all four
defensive linemen try to disrupt rather than "fill gaps;" the linebackers need to be speed players.
There's more to it, of course, but those are the basics. Almost every team sometimes uses tactics that
would fit a Tampa 2, especially having both safeties deep. That's Cover 2, which some football
announcers speak of in mystical tones, but simply means the safeties are playing a deep zone. (In
most teams' nomenclature, Cover 1 means only one safety is back deep and Cover Zero, a rare
tactic, means a double safety blitz.) But few NFL defenses have linemen disrupting at the expense
of guarding gaps; most defensive philosophies emphasize that the defensive tackles, especially, dig
in to prevent anyone from coming through their areas. And most NFL defenses seek linebackers
with size, whereas the archetype of the Tampa 2 linebacker is Derrick Brooks, relatively small at 6foot and 235 pounds, but wicked fast.
Why don't more teams go Tampa 2? Probably the main reason is that the defense requires really
good players. Few NFL linebackers and defensive tackles are ideally suited to this scheme. A team
with average defensive talent should expect an average result using a conventional 3-4 or 4-3,
whereas average defensive talent would be likely to produce a below-average result using a Tampa
2. Basically, that's what happened with the Rams last season -- and note that new St. Louis
defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is switching to a new scheme. But if a team has top-flight
defensive personnel, as Tampa, Chicago and Indianapolis did last season, the Tampa 2 is the cat's
meow.
In other football news, three weeks ago TMQ had an item on a Connecticut high school coach
named Jack Cochran who was so antagonistic about running up scores, the state athletic association
threatened to suspend him. Cochran's New London High won four games in 2005 by more than 50
points, once winning 90-0. And New London wasn't an unstoppable state champion -- rather, just a
team that relentlessly ran up the score against weak opponents. "Running up the score," the column
said, "is bully behavior, while the desire to destroy lesser opponents is a sign of poor character.
Coaches who practice bad sportsmanship and teach bully behavior aren't doing their schools or their
athletes any favors." As pointed out by dozens of readers, including Stew Dunsmore of Groton,
Conn., last week Cochran was arrested for allegedly punching the coach of a rival high school, and
has resigned his coaching position. Did Cochran punch a rival? That's for the legal system to
determine. But the association between running up the score and bully behavior has never been
more clear.
Running up the score is a big problem in high school football, somewhat of a problem in college
football and rare in the pros, which itself suggests that the more sophisticated the coach, the less
likely to run up the score. Coaches who run up the score on a regular basis have character problems,
their ideal being not sportsmanship but standing over a humiliated opponent and laughing. Coaches
who play to humiliate others make their high schools or colleges look bad: New London High has
gotten nothing but bad press from its displays of poor sportsmanship last season. More importantly,
such priorities harm the education of students. Teaching young athletes to taunt and gloat places
into their minds concepts that will hold them back in life, or spoil whatever success they achieve. (If
you've got to win by 50 to be happy, you will never be happy.) Teaching good-natured
sportsmanship places into the young athlete's personality a positive trait that will serve him or her
well in far more than athletics.
Consider two possible sports events: One is a hard, well-played game against an equal opponent, in
which you win by a single point and then embrace your opponent on the field and call him brother.
The other is an easy blowout win, after which you stand along the sideline mocking the defeated as
they slink off. The former is not only more impressive in sports terms and more satisfying for the
victor, it's a constructive life lesson. The latter is the inculcation of bully behavior, and few bullies
go far in life. We live in a society in which cooperative ability, tolerance of others and interpersonal
skills grow steadily more important. Well-run athletic programs can teach these values, while
bullying athletic programs actively harm students. It is time high school principals and college
presidents pay attention to coaching behavior and sportsmanship as aspects of education.
In other sports news, Tuesday Morning Quarterback considers basketball roughly 1 percent as
interesting as football. And so each year, in the doldrums of August, TMQ devotes one percent of
the column's annual line length to roundball issues. This is an "up" year to talk basketball -- the
NCAA men's and women's tournaments were both exciting as always, and in a shocking reversal,
the NBA was pretty good too, especially the fantastic Dallas-San Antonio playoff series. TMQ had
feared the NBA was locked in a cycle of doom caused by high school draftees, guaranteed contracts
and me-first mania among players. Now I think there's a chance, at least, the NBA can be saved.
In other Tuesday Morning Quarterback news, reader comments will run as a separate column on
Wednesdays, beginning tomorrow.
This Year's Big Basketball Complaint: OK, so traveling is legal in the NBA -- take as many steps
as you want so long as you score. A player would have to carry the ball out of the arena, hail a cab,
show his passport and board an airplane bound for Sweden to get called for "traveling" in today's
NBA. In the second game of the Mavs-Suns playoff series, Dirk Nowitzki scored the key late
basket. Nowitzki drove the baseline, then took SIX STEPS without dribbling before launching the
deciding shot. No whistle. Traveling is now legal: Please, NBA, just make it official.
But something worse than runaway traveling has recently evolved: the "hop through." On a hopthrough, the player drives the lane, jumps into the air, comes down and stops for an instant, then
takes more steps and launches a shot. It's both traveling and up-and-down (which is a form of
traveling) on the same play, and officials aren't calling it either. Against the Suns in the playoffs,
Josh Howard of Dallas did so many hop-throughs he practically sprouted cute fuzzy rabbit ears. In
the Dallas-San Antonio series, the Spurs made the incredible blunder of actually observing the
rules, while Jerry Stackhouse repeatedly used the hop-through without being whistled. In the NBA
Finals, Dwyane Wade used the hop-through so often the organist should have played "Here Comes
Peter Cottontail" when Wade started down the lane. At one point in the Finals, Shaq drove the lane
and stopped dribbling, then took steps, then jumped and came back down, then took more steps and
jumped on his shot. No whistle.
Nobody hops like LeBron James, and his success is one reason other players are imitating the move.
Watch tape of any James performance; half a dozen of his shots per game come at the end of a
hopping move on which he has both traveled and committed an up-and-down violation. TMQ
attended a Cavs-Whizzies playoff contest this spring, and was struck by two things about James.
First, he almost always took possession of the ball outside the opponent's three-point arc. Michael
Jordan came off picks and caught the ball close to the basket. James can't come off picks because
Cleveland does not run picks, or any other kind of play -- James just stands outside the arc and
someone hands him the ball, then he goes one-on-one. The second thing that struck me about James'
performance was the sheer number of times he went down the lane, traveled, jumped into the air,
came back down, then jumped again without being called for anything.
NBA offensive basketball continues to be ugly -- the Suns and Mavs were such joys this year
because they were pretty to watch. If players are allowed to barrel down the lane out of control,
traveling and committing up-and-downs and not being whistled, why should they take sensible
shots or cooperate to set picks to get teammates open? Why not just barrel down the lane out of
control and then heave the ball in the general direction of the basket? That players even call the new
move the hop-through -- James coined the term -- tells you they know what they're doing isn't legal.
But they will keep doing it until the officials enforce the rules. And the game will become more
artistic when that happens.
Tragically Misplaced Network Priorities No. 1: The extremely
aesthetically appealing Miami Heat Dancers danced in next to
nothing during home games of the NBA Finals, their allure an
indicator of a power shift -- the best-looking beach babes now
congregate in south Florida, not California. But ABC aired only
fleeting glimpses of the Heat Dancers. Today, prime-time television
shows of all the major networks revel in graphic depictions of crime
and violence, obsess about sex and glamorize infidelity, celebrating
the tawdry and the vulgar. Yet when fit, athletic, beautiful women
are dancing in public -- and want to be looked at -- this makes the
networks get shy and turn the cameras away. Janine Thompson, the
Heat Dancers' director, runs basketball's hottest dance squad; in this
case the league champion and the league's best dancers come from
the same franchise. Thompson has achieved the cheerleader trifecta:
Her charges are glamorous, barely wear clothing and put on an
impressive performance of complex hip-hop dance, rather than just
jumping around. Television might not show you the Heat Dancers,
but TMQ will.
Needed: South Florida
update on the Beach Boys'
song "California Girls."
First Amendment Purists Rally Behind Bryant Gumbel's Right to Be Wrong: You know it
must be August since so many are taking in such seriousness that Bryant Gumbel of the NFL
Network said NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue should show his replacement, Roger Goodell,
"where he keeps Gene Upshaw's leash," because "the docile head of the players' union" has become
the commissioner's "personal pet." Hey everyone -- this was not a speech to the United Nations
General Assembly, this was a comment about football on HBO. At the end of the summer there are
always "August scandals," mini-controversies that become conflated because celebrities and
politicians are on vacation and not producing gaffes at the normal rate. Gumbel's Grumble is an
example of the August scandal, and was obviously the sort of opinionated speech that needs
protection.
As to the substance of Gumbel's claim, he's way off. Tagliabue shot back that Gumbel was
"uninformed," and that's exactly the right word. Baseball long-term has had the most
confrontational labor relations of the major sports, so let's compare MLB player pay with NFL
player pay since the onset of the NFL salary cap in 1994. Adjusting for inflation, the average pro
baseball player's pay has risen 71 percent since 1994, while the average pro football player's pay has
risen 132 percent. NFL player pay increases have dwarfed all other team sports, which hardly
sounds like the union is on a leash. More, there's been no interruption of pay in the NFL, while there
have been those unfortunate months in baseball and a full year in the NHL during which players
received nothing at all. Gumbel further complained that the NFL Players Association has not won
its members fully guaranteed contracts. This is true -- but the lack of fully guaranteed contracts is a
reason football pay is rising so fast! Guaranteed contracts in the NBA have been a disaster for
quality of play, since players can defy coaches, perform poorly and still receive full pay. If fully
guaranteed contracts came to the NFL, the first few years would be golden for players. But then
quality of play would decline, ratings would decline and raises would decline.
A running question about labor unions is whether they should make a theatrical show of confronting
owners, or quietly work for the best possible deal for members. Manhattan media types tend to like
theatrical confrontation, because it provides good broadcasting material. Quietly obtaining the best
possible deal is what is in the members' interest, and at this the NFL Players Association excels.
NBA Prescription: More College, Less Influence for Shoe Companies: Pro basketball is in an
"up" cycle partly because the new collective bargaining agreement forbids high school players from
jumping directly to the NBA. The drafting of high school players was an unmitigated disaster for
pro basketball -- it's no coincidence the league's decline in television ratings coincided with the
arrival of high school kids. The high schoolers have immature games that drag down the quality of
the sport: And never forget, quality is the essential feature of all products. With a few exceptions,
the only style of play a high school kid knows is hey-look-at-me. Selfish basketball is far less
entertaining than the ensemble version -- just consider the difference between last season's Phoenix
Suns and New York Knicks.
Plus, by jumping directly to the NBA, 18-year-old prospects fail to go to college and become wellknown players about whom fans would be excited. It's this second point that seems haunting,
because it means the NBA has spent the past decade depriving itself of stars who might otherwise
have come into existence. Yes, LeBron James was terrific in the NBA right out of high school. But
James also would have been great coming out of college. The players who have made the highschool-to-NBA transition successfully (Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, a few others) always were
bound to become stars. It's the players who did not become stars, because they jumped too young,
the NBA has cheated itself of.
Think about Kwame Brown, the high-schooler taken first overall in the 2001 NBA draft. Gifted
with incredible physical talent, Brown is an embarrassing underachiever -- plus his personality
appears stuck at his 17th birthday, lending him no marketing appeal. Now imagine an alternate path
for the same young man. Instead of jumping directly from high school to the NBA, he goes to
Kentucky or UCLA or any good basketball college. His game improves, he learns on-court concepts
other than brooding selfishness, and off-court he matures in his ability to handle the world. Kwame
Brown becomes a nationally known college star. When he's drafted first overall into the NBA, fans
are excited. By now, people like me would be saying to my kids, "Wow, Kwame Brown is coming
to town, let's get tickets and go see him!" Instead not one person has ever said, "Let's get some NBA
tickets to see Kwame Brown," and it seems likely no one ever will.
This squandering of potential NBA stars is especially maddening because the pushing of too-young
players into the NBA has been driven foremost by shoe companies. Somehow Nike and Reebok got
it into their heads that teen sneaker buyers would identify more with 18-year-old unpolished NBA
players enjoying instant wealth more than they would with mid-20s high-quality NBA players. I
don't know how this idea arose, since by far the most successful sneaker endorser, Jordan, did not
realize his marketing success until he was a mature player in his mid-20s. Perhaps thrusting high
school players into the NBA maximized income for Nike and Reebok. But it was a disaster for
NBA product quality, and hence hurt ratings.
Now the new league-union agreement mandates draftees be at least 19, a rule intended to require at
least one year of college. And you'd hope that even gifted, NBA-bound athletes, after experiencing
college for a year, might think, "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get an education, maybe
I should stick around." You'd also think the shoe companies would be aligning themselves with
education over ignorance. Apparently you'd think wrong. According to this New York Times story
by Pete Thamel and Thayer Evans, a shoe company consultant has been making the rounds,
suggesting to some teenage future NBA prospects that they skip the minimum year of college and
play in Europe, then file for the NBA draft. To avoid the horror, the horror, of having to sit in class
and think!
The Times didn't connect the dots on this, so allow me. Dot 1: Most players being encouraged not to
attend college are African-American. If athletic shoe companies believe African-American males
are incapable of handling college coursework, they should state this for the record. Dot 2:
Shallowness is a core problem of big-deal athletics. The NBA, NFL and MLB create celebrity
athletes looked up to by the young. A few do become role models for an informed, intelligent
approach to life -- think Tiki Barber. But most celebrity athletes couldn't tell you what Ernest
Hemingway wrote, or what just happened in the Mexican presidential election, if their lives
depended on it. Now the NBA is taking the high road, urging its prospects back toward the
educational system. The shoe companies are resisting, while street-hustler types have been steering
promising basketball prospects to storefront diploma-mill "schools" that make no attempt to teach -see the Thamel-Evans article on that. In their 2000 book "The Shape of the River," William Bowen
and Derek Bok showed that in recent decades African-American career women have closed most of
their degrees-earned and income gaps with white career women, while African-American males
have made less progress compared to white males. One factor might be that many young black men
look up to ill-educated athletes and pop stars, while young black women have role models such as
Oprah Winfrey, who constantly emphasizes books and learning. Both the NBA and NCAA need to
do far more to educate basketball prospects, if only for the role-model effect on young men. And
while we're on this, thanks to Thamel, Evans and their editors for fighting the cultural assumption
that it's OK for star athletes to be functional illiterates.
NBA commissioner David Stern is aware of the problems described in the above paragraphs.
Recently he said it was wrong that college recruiters are highly restricted in their ability to talk to
high school basketball prospects about attending college, but "street runners or shoe
representatives" can promise tall teenagers the moon. For Stern to criticize the shoe companies is
gutsy, given their business relationship with the league. Perhaps the commissioner has realized shoe
firms and pro basketball have divergent interests. Shoe firms might do fine financially by
glamorizing minimally-educated prodigy athletes, while the NBA needs to develop quality players
and protect its image, lest the league become perceived as an opponent of learning. Stern is floating
the idea of the NBA establishing a basketball academy for the top few hundred teen prospects in the
United States -- essentially a private high school that would emphasize basketball, but enforce real
classroom and graduation standards. This would be preferable to the current system, which actively
discourages NBA-bound young men from seeking educations.
Given This, It's Amazing 100 percent of NCAA Basketball Players Didn't Get a 1600 on Their
SATs: Another basketball-and-education problem is the incredible laxity of NCAA enforcement of
high-school graduation and admissions-test minimums. Consider these passages from a recent
Washington Post story by Mark Schlabach -- now with ESPN.com -- about Omar Williams, a starter
on George Washington University's NCAA men's tournament team:
"Williams was accepted at George Washington after failing to graduate in five years from his
original high school and receiving no grades at three prep schools in the next two years,
including one that burned down after he was there five days. The National Collegiate Athletic
Association certified his transcript without any verification, making him academically qualified
for a basketball scholarship. ... The NCAA's eligibility certification process is handled by a
private company it created, Clearinghouse, which approves high school courses and transcripts
of recruits. Under Clearinghouse policy, there was no requirement to check if any of the schools
on Williams's transcript existed, if the grades were real or if he attended the schools, said Kevin
Lennon, an NCAA official. The SAT scores of applicants, critical for certification, are allowed
to be submitted in handwriting, instead of on an Educational Testing Service document. Those
scores are not compared to official results, Lennon said."
Is there any accredited college or university in the United States that would admit a regular
academic student based on a handwritten test score, rather than a form supplied by the testing
agency? Yet the NCAA allows you to play Division I basketball if you simply make up a score. It's
an intelligence test of sorts -- a test to realize if you can spot obvious NCAA loopholes.
Aging Dictator Item No. 1: Henry the Fifth, victor at the battle of Agincourt, died of dysentery in
1422 at age 34. A short time before his death he had married Catherine of Valois, daughter of the
king of France, and signed the Treaty of Troyes, which would have ended the Hundred Years War
by making Henry regent over France. Had Henry become ruler of France, the history of Europe
might have unfolded very differently. Instead, Henry died young. Following his demise, Joan of Arc
inspired France to expel the English, thus preventing the union of the nations.
Why do I mention this? This is Tuesday Morning Quarterback -- I don't have to have a reason. But
it bears on the "biological solution" the United States has been pursuing regarding Fidel Castro. In
olden days, when lifespans were short, simply waiting for a leader to die was often an effective
strategy, because leaders rarely lived long in power. With modern longevity, waiting for a leader to
die doesn't work. Castro is 80 years old and has been in power for 47 years. Kim Il-sung was
dictator of North Korea for 46 years, until he died at age 82; if his son Kim Jong-il lives as long as
his father, he will be dictator until 2023. As longevity continues to increase, dictators stay in power
ever longer. Whole generations suffer while waiting for their dictators to expire.
Aging Dictator Item No. 2: If you're going to be a dictator, at least be colorful. That's how the New
York Times remembered Alfredo Stroessner last week, headlining his obituary: General Alfredo
Stroessner, Colorful Dictator, Dies in Exile. Oh those zany, wacky Paraguayan dictators!
Tragically Misplaced Network Priorities No. 2:
During games played at the American Airlines Center,
we barely saw the Mavs Dancers, either. Now check
this, the audition application for aspiring Mavs Dancers.
The form includes a waiver granting Dallas' billionaire
owner, Mark Cuban, nearly unlimited license to use the
dancer's image for any commercial purpose, yet says
nothing about pay. Being a Mavs Dancer requires two
to five rehearsals per week, plus game performances;
also, prospective dancers must take these classes at their
own expense. So what's the pay? Across professional
sports, cheerleaders are unpaid or receive only token
They're beautiful and scantily attired,
amounts such as $50 per game, while the men at all
but too wholesome to be on "Desperate
levels of professional sports organizations are raking in Housewives."
money like crazy. There's a word for this: The word
begins with "s," and it's not "sexy." Come on NBA and NFL owners, your leagues are multi-billiondollar enterprises dependent on many kinds of public support and tax subsidies: Offer fair pay to the
women who dance. Do this before some crafty lawyer files a pattern-of-discrimination suit that will
cost you far more than simply paying cheerleaders fairly to begin with.
I Don't Care Whether Pluto Is a Planet or a Pluton, And Don't See Why Anyone Else Cares:
Last week the International Astronomical Union issued a 3,472-word fact sheet about its epic
struggle to define one single word, "planet." Check the tormented 124-word definition of the goofy
neologism "pluton," verbosity that might have been boiled down to "any mostly round rock circling
the sun beyond the orbit of Neptune." Check the tormented explanation of why the large satellites of
Earth and Jupiter are just moons but Charon, the tiny satellite of Pluto, gets to be a pluton. The IAU
says it took several committees two years to come up with the goofy word "pluton," and even that is
not final -- the definition must be voted on at the IAU General Assembly now meeting in Prague.
Note the sessions at the IAU General Assembly -- one is "Near Earth Objects, Our Celestial
Neighbors." Let's invite them in for tea! But don't you mean our celestial mortal enemies? While the
definition of a planet, or agreement on the exact number of planets in the solar system, will never
have the slightest bearing on anyone's life, that our world might be struck by a near-Earth object is a
grave, pressing danger. About 10,000 years ago, something enormous crashed into the Argentine
pampas, obliterating a significant chunk of the South American ecology with a force thought to be
18,000 times that of the Hiroshima bomb. In the year 535, multiple medium-sized meteorite impacts
around the world caused a generation of crop failures and cruel winters that helped push Europe
into its Dark Ages. In 1908, a meteorite or comet about 250 feet across hit Tunguska, Siberia,
detonating with a force perhaps 700 times the power of the Hiroshima bomb. Had this strike
occurred in Tokyo or Paris instead of the Arctic Circle, millions would have died.
Estimates hold that 500,000 rocks roughly the size of
the Tunguska object drift in the region of Earth's orbit,
along with perhaps 1,000 asteroids big enough to cause
global devastation on the order of the comet strike that
did in the dinosaurs. Yet NASA is taking no action to
protect Earth against space objects, while astronomers
debate how many plutons can dance on the head of a
pin. Space-object impacts are statistically unlikely in
any one person's lifetime, but that is no assurance one
will not happen tomorrow. Rock and comet strikes have
caused mass extinctions in Earth's past. A large impact
today could kill vast numbers, while causing frigid
winters, global acid rain as bad as battery acid, and crop John Tierney of the New York Times
proposes calling this a "planetino."
failures that plunge humanity into famine. Astronomers
ought to stop wasting time on wordplay and sternly warn the world that space agencies should be
researching ways to prevent something big from falling on our heads from space. If NASA stopped
an asteroid or comet strike this would be, well, the greatest achievement in human history.
Goodnight, and Good Grief: When Katie Couric sat last week for
interviews with USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and the
Associated Press, she was accompanied by not one but two publicrelations officers -- and USA Today reported she followed their
instructions, rather than the other way around. A holder of the chair
of Edward R. Murrow who can't speak or handle an interview
without corporate minders present?
Clang! Clang! Clang!: At the NBA All-Star Game, Nate Robinson
missed 20 of 22 attempts during the dunk contest -- which he won.
In the game itself Ray Allen, Gilbert Arenas, Kobe Bryant, Dirk
Nowitzki and Rasheed Wallace combined to shoot 0-for-21 from the
3-point line.
Do you see a corporate
publicist in this picture?
Clang! Clang! Clang!: New Orleans missed 22 of its final 23 shots in losing to the Los Angeles
Clippers 89-67. The Hornets also missed every 3-point attempt they took during the game.
Clang! Clang! Clang!: For the second consecutive year, Allen Iverson joined the small, elite group
of basketball players who have missed 1,000 shots in a season. In 2004-05, Iverson took an NBAleading 1,818 shots and missed 1,047; in 2005-06, Iverson took 1,822 shots and missed 1,008. But
Iverson is staring at the tail lights of Kobe Bryant, who this season heaved an NBA-leading 2,173
shots in the general direction of the basket, missing 1,195. Bryant came within shouting distance of
one of the few sports records likely never to be broken, Wilt Chamberlain's 1,592 missed shots
during the 1961-62 basketball campaign. But Chamberlain also made 1,597 field goals that season - that is, he hit more often than he missed. Bryant missed 217 more times than he hit. Though Kobe
led the league in scoring, his shooting percentage didn't even finish in the top 50.
Dear NFL: Please Enact the NBA's Sunglasses Rule:The NBA now has a dress code. Here it is,
along with Kevin Garnett looking classy in a pinstriped suit. Basically the dress code is business
casual, and prohibits the wearing of sunglasses indoors.
$135 Million Buys You a Boeing 767 or One Year of New York Knicks Losses: The New York
Knickerbockers will have a payroll of around $135 million in the 2006-07 NBA season,
approaching the Yankees' current $194 million for highest payroll ever in team sports. The Knicks'
2006-07 payroll will be more than double the NBA's salary cap. (The NFL salary cap is a hard cap
that can be fudged only in minor ways; the NBA salary cap is a soft cap that means nothing so long
as a club is willing to pay penalties to the league, as the rolling-in-dough Knicks are.) And at $135
million, the Knicks are likely to be a terrible team!
One reason the Knicks' player expenses are so high is the team's February 2006 acquisition of guard
Steve Francis, who makes around $15 million annually. The Orlando Magic traded Francis, a threetime All-Star performer but a player with a bad reputation, to New York for a benchwarmer you've
never heard of and a player Orlando immediately waived. That is, Orlando sent Francis to New
York solely to get his guaranteed contract off the team's books. The week before, Detroit traded
Darko Milicic, not long ago the second pick in the NBA draft, to Orlando for reserve Kelvin Cato;
the point of the trade was to get Milicic's guaranteed contract off Detroit's books. By contemporary
NBA standards, you're much better off with nothing than with an expensive failure like Milicic or a
selfish gunner like Francis. Fans might want to look at the Knicks City Dancers but certainly not at
the Knicks.
So Long Charlie: You are forgiven if you've forgotten the name Charlie Ward. He's left basketball
after 11 mostly invisible years in the NBA, with career averages of 6.3 points and 4 assists per
game. What a fabulous quarterback Ward was in college -- winner of the 1993 Heisman Trophy,
quarterback of Florida State's 1994 national championship win in the Orange Bowl. The basketballfootball salary gap is so great, perhaps Ward made more money as a journeyman in the NBA than
he could have made as a star in the NFL. As reader Chris Monjoy of Valencia, Calif. points out, the
Denver Nuggets just signed the basketball oddity Nene, with career averages of 11 points and only
29 minutes per game, to a fully-guaranteed $60 million contract, more than twice the guaranteed
value of the deal signed by Mario Williams, first choice in the NFL draft. But I'll always regret we
were deprived of seeing Ward run an NFL offense -- whereas seeing him run an NBA offense made
me shrug.
So Long Darko: One ray of hope in the NBA is that the two overall
best clubs of the new century, the Detroit Pistons and San Antonio
Spurs, play team ball. Consistent success by Detroit and San
Antonio proves that team ball trumps the NBA's main offensive
style, which is four guys standing around watching while who's got
the ball goes one-on-one. Now that Ben Wallace has left the Pistons,
Detroit might falter. Think what a multi-year champion the Pistons
might have had, had they not blown the second overall pick of the
2003 draft on Darko Milicic. The three players selected after Milicic
were Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade! Maybe we
should blame ESPN The Magazine ("Published on Earth: The
Planet") for the Milicic blunder -- it featured him on its June 2003
cover, shortly before Detroit made the fateful pick.
ESPN The Magazine looks
He's Sure to Throw Another Pass At Some Point in His Career: like "Published on Pluto:
During the NBA Finals, at one point Hubie Brown said, "That was a The Pluton" to Pistons fans.
beautiful pass by Antoine Walker." This constituted the first time the words "pass by Antoine
Walker" had ever been uttered.
This Year's Most Amusing Salary Cap Trades: Minnesota traded Brandon Roy, whom the
Wolves had taken with the sixth overall choice, for Randy Foye, drafted seventh. Wait a minute -- if
Foye was available when the Timberwolves drafted at No. 6, why didn't they just take him then?
The trade dropped Foye down one slot in the NBA's rookie contract system. Going seventh rather
than sixth meant Foye will earn about $1.5 million less per season, freeing salary cap space for
Minnesota to sign a veteran. For all intents and purposes, Minnesota traded the sixth choice in the
draft for the seventh choice plus $1.5 million in cap space. Philadelphia traded Lee Nailon and a
2006 second-round pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for a conditional second-rounder -- that is, a
choice the 76ers might never receive. Philadelphia was paying Cleveland a second-round pick to
accept Nailon's salary. Meanwhile Phoenix sold the 27th selection of the NBA draft to Portland for
cash. The Suns thought there was no one at 27th who could make their team, and wanted to avoid
getting stuck paying a guaranteed contract for someone they'd waive.
Tony Kornheiser, TMQ Demand Earlier Start Times: Why have recent NBA Finals telecasts
not begun until 9 p.m. ET? Yes, the West Coast doesn't get home from work until 9 p.m. ET. But
the bulk of the American population lives east of the Mississippi; a 9 p.m. tip-off means the East
Coast has gone to bed when the fourth quarter starts. Game 5 of this year's NBA Finals actually
started at 9:16 p.m. ET and ended in swirling controversy at 12:33 a.m. the following day, with
most of the East Coast already slumbering. Football games that start at 9 p.m. ET are bad enough -note ESPN is moving up the start time of "Monday Night Football" this year to avoid games ending
after midnight on the East Coast. At least in football, sometimes the first half is the best part. In
basketball, the fourth quarter is usually the best part, and the late NBA Finals tip-offs mean much of
the country does not see the best part. Plus, don't get me started on those Suns and Mavs' playoff
games that didn't tip until 10:30 p.m. ET. The Suns and Mavs put on some of the NBA's most
exciting ball this season, and unless you lived west of the Rockies, you missed it. The NFL plays
night games in Arizona and Texas without them starting at 10:30 p.m. ET. Why can't the NBA do
the same?
Get Out a Magnifying Glass and Read the Fine Print on Your
Home Warranty: Until recently I considered myself a smart
consumer. For years I have been paying premiums on a home
warranty. Home warranties cover repair or replacement of
appliances, furnaces, air conditioners and so on. At least, that's what
they are supposed to do. The compressor in the central air of my
house needed replacement. No problem -- I'd read the fine print in
the contract, and failure of central air was specifically covered. The
company sent a representative, and announced it would pay nothing
because, the insurer said, my A/C had not been adequately
He said: "This product
maintained. Buried in microscopically small type was a clause
comes with my personal
saying all coverage was voided by inadequate maintenance. But the guarantee -- if anything
contract did not define adequate maintenance. So I asked on what
goes wrong, I don't know
what you can do about it."
grounds the company claimed inadequate maintenance, and here
was the answer: "Our representative determines whether the
maintenance was adequate." I've been kicking myself for not realizing, years ago, that the policy
was a con -- akin to Groucho Marx's sham insurance company which promised, "If you lose a leg,
we'll help you look for it." I can't be the only one this has happened to. If you've got a home
warranty, read the maintenance clause. You might be paying for nothing.
A Made 2-Pointer Counts More Than a Missed 3; There Seems Some Confusion on This
Point: Tuesday Morning Quarterback has nothing against the 3-point shot -- it's a smart play when
a good shooter takes one uncovered. On Final Four night in this year's NCAA men's tournament,
both winners, Florida and UCLA, attempted more treys than the losers. But there's the smart 3 taken
by an open player, and the silly feed-my-ego 3. The latter, already an NBA mainstay, has been
spreading into the college ranks.
When No. 1-ranked Connecticut was upset by unknown George Mason in the men's tournament, at
halftime UConn led by nine. In the second half, Connecticut began to hoist up hey-look-at-me 3s,
surrendering its inside power advantage. Through the second half and overtime Connecticut shot 2for-13 from the 3-point line, versus 13-for-25 on regular attempts. Had Connecticut simply
attempted nothing but 2-point shots in the second half against George Mason, the favorites likely
would have prevailed. Meanwhile in the Elite Eight, favored Memphis lost to UCLA by five points
as Memphis missed 15 consecutive 3-points attempts. Had all those ego-feeding 3s simply been 2point tries, Memphis likely would have advanced to the Final Four. Too many 3s in college last
season were taken for player-ego reasons.
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at
[email protected] Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I may
quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Note: Giving your hometown improves your
odds of being quoted.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Updated: August 29, 3:36 PM ET
TMQ's 7th Annual NFC Preview
By Gregg Easterbrook
Ten of the league's 32 head coaches are new, prompting reader Chris Sypolt of Seattle to propose
that all people wearing an NFL headphone hold the title interim head coach. As in, "Interim head
coach Gary Kubiak of the Houston Texans said today ..."
Seven of the 10 new faces are coordinators becoming NFL head coaches for the first time: Brad
Childress (Vikings), Scott Linehan (Rams), Eric Mangini (Jets), Rod Marinelli (Lions), Mike
McCarthy (Packers), Sean Payton (Saints) and Kubiak. If the history of promoted coordinators
holds, the majority of this group will be fired soon. After all, six of the seven new coordinators
becoming first-time head coaches were hired to replace former coordinators who became first-time
head coaches and then were fired.
Previous TMQs have detailed the marketing dynamic behind the cashier-o-rama that is the NFL
coaching guild. Two-thirds of NFL clubs do not make the playoffs, meaning two-thirds of fan bases
end the season hopping mad; since most ticket sales occur in the offseason, teams that missed the
playoffs must do something each offseason to give customers a reason to believe next season will
be better; firing the head coach is the easiest dramatic action an NFL owner can take.
In a nutty way, it is economically rational for NFL owners to give coaches a quick hook. But this
begs the question: Why do owners who have just fired a coach for marketing reasons so often hire
coordinators who have never been head coaches before? The reason is the supply of experienced
NFL coaches is limited, while most big-college coaches do not want NFL jobs.
You might assume the typical football-factory college coach longs to ascend to the NFL. Most do
not, and longevity is a prime reason. In the last 15 years, average annual turnover among NFL head
coaches has been 20 percent, compared with less than 5 percent among Division I-A head coaches.
Coaching tenure in the NFL is maybe three years; in Division I-A, more than a decade. At the NFL
level, all clubs have similar talent (the talent differential between the Super Bowl winner and the
league's worst team is just not that much), while 20 of 32 fail to make the postseason. At the
Division I-A level, recruiting advantages mean the football factories possess a huge talent edge,
while every last one of the top 32 teams heads to a bowl game. An orangutan could compile a
winning record and become bowl-eligible at Ohio State, Florida State, Texas and many other
football-factory colleges.
Not only are the teams stacked in big-college football, the schedules are stacked: National title
contender West Virginia plays seven home dates and five road games this season, for example. The
cupcake teams that allow themselves to be clobbered at football-factory stadia for money reasons -West Virginia will host Division I-AA Eastern Washington -- have just shy of zero chance of
winning, giving every big-college coach several annual guaranteed Ws.
In the NFL, by contrast, there are no pushover opponents: Even a cellar-dwelling NFL team is
always a threat to beat an NFL division leader. Big-college coaching is a very sweet deal, plus
coaches get treated like little gods, whereas at the NFL level the knives are always out. In recent
years, only a handful of football-factory coaches have been willing to accept offers to work in the
pros. NFL owners always say they aren't pursuing college coaches because college coaches might
not transition well to the professional environment. But the more basic reason is that most big-
college coaches don't want NFL jobs. If you had a sure thing at a football factory, would you
exchange it for a job with 20 percent annual turnover?
In other football news, it's late August -- which means there's not much time left for fans to pretend
they believe their teams' annual summer promises. Here are three of the most annoying NFL
summer clichés:
"This year we're really going to run the football." All teams claim this during training camp,
though most will panic and go pass-wacky by the end of the first quarter in Week 1. Why do
NFL coaches always seem apologetic about passing? Most analysts believe passing success
ties more closely to victory than rushing numbers. Check the past 20 Super Bowl winners.
Only two -- the Ravens in 2001 and Giants in 1991 -- used run-focused game plans.
"We will play aggressive, attacking defense." Has any coach ever promised to a docile defense?
Just once I'd like to hear an NFL coach say in August, "We're going to play a soft zone and
drop back into coverage."
"We're going to take it one game at a time." There is no other way to take it.
And now Tuesday Morning Quarterback's NFC preview:
Arizona
I've been flirting with making the same mistake every football pundit made last year at this time -saying something nice about the Arizona Cardinals. Chain me to the mast before I surrender to the
Sirens! Or preferably surrender to the Cards' cheerleaders. A year ago, football experts from Merrill
Hoge, Joe Theismann and Steve Young of ESPN to John Clayton and Len Pasquarelli of ESPN.com
to Mark Maske of the Washington Post to Peter King and Michael Silver of Sports Illustrated to
Clark Judge and Pete Prisco of CBS Sportsline, predicted the Cards would have a playoff season.
Instead it was cover-your-eyes as usual for Arizona fans.
This summer many are pointing to the fact the Cactus Wrens were the sole club last year to finish in
the Top 10 in both offense and defense, and wondering if this means things finally will come
together in the desert. Yes, I actually considered joining the list of the gullible who have made
favorable forecasts for the Cardinals. But then I checked the record books and noticed this team has
two postseason victories in 86 years of existence. Plus, the Cards wear quite silly-looking highschool-inspired uniforms. I'll play the percentages and say Arizona will get under .500 yet again.
Counting sacks and scrambles, Arizona coaches called 757 passing plays last season and only 360
rushes, the 68 percent passing ratio making Arizona's the least balanced offense in the league. Yet
even though the Cards passed so much, meaning defenses were expecting the pass, Arizona's
rushing attack was still pitiful. The team finished last in average yards per rush at 3.2. If you've got
the defense expecting pass and still have the least productive rushing game in the NFL, that is not
very good.
The Cards' impressive new rolling-field stadium has opened, and initial reviews are very favorable.
But why isn't this facility named Pat Tillman Field? You get the creepy feeling the NFL has backed
off from Tillman's memory now that we know he was killed by friendly fire, rather than charging up
a hill, and now that the Army, which lied about how Tillman died, seems to want to pretend Tillman
never existed. But the sad circumstances of Tillman's death do not in any way detract from his
patriotism. And remember Tillman died in Afghanistan, not Iraq. Whatever the morals of the Iraq
war might be, our presence in Afghanistan is clearly justified as self-defense; on the day of his
death Tillman was an honorable soldier fighting on the side of right. Come on Arizona, name the
place Pat Tillman Field.
Not only is the new stadium impressive, the seats are sold! All
Arizona home games for 2006 are sellouts; this will be the first
season since the Cards came to Arizona in 1988 that all games will
be shown on local television. (To top it off, while most NFL
facilities charge you $20 to get out of your car, at Arizona parking is
free for season-ticket holders.) Excitement over the new stadium and
the arrivals of Matt Leinart and Edgerrin James probably drove
sales. Or maybe it was Paris Hilton strutting at Matt Leinart's postdraft celebration at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas. Surely, Leinart
was the first person ever to celebrate after being drafted by the
Cardinals. According to Paola Boivin of the Arizona Republic,
Hilton "danced seductively" at the party while "an all-girl band
wearing black bras and leather boots swung from the ceiling on red
feather boas." Feather boas can support the human body?
TMQ continues to not understand why Paris Hilton is considered a
She gets $50,000 for
beauty. I'd take any fit, athletic, alluring member of the Arizona
attending your party and
cheer-babe squad over Hilton any day of the week. Here's Kayla of $100,000 for not attending.
the Cardinals' cheerleaders, an elementary school teacher. I suppose
I should just give up wondering why no teacher I ever had looked remotely like this.
Atlanta
At this point, the Falcons' faithful must accept that Michael-Mike Vick is an average quarterback
and unlikely ever to be more. His Pro Bowl invitations stem from publicity, not performance. Vick
has thrown just 51 touchdown passes in 51 career starts. Last season, he finished 25th among NFL
quarterbacks in passer rating, trailing Josh McCown.
Vick's running ability is impressive: The Falcons led the league in rushing last season both because
Vick gained ground and because defenses were so focused on stopping Vick's rushes, they allowed
Warrick Dunn to run for 1,416 yards. You'd figure a team that leads the league in rushing and has a
Pro Bowl quarterback would finish better than 8-8. But Vick is a Pro Bowl QB strictly on paper. On
the field, he's average, and while to be an average NFL QB is an accomplishment -- lots of highly
drafted, highly paid gentlemen wish they could say they became average NFL QBs -- there now
seems little reason to believe Vick carries any chance of greatness.
Executive Vice President-Head Coach Jim Mora -- that's his title! -- seriously mismanaged the end
of Atlanta's 2005 season. Going into the Falcons' 15th game, Atlanta was in the rare situation in
which a tie would have kept the team's playoff hopes alive. Mora did not know this. Atlanta took
possession on its own 16 with two minutes remaining in overtime. Rather than run into the line
three times and drill the clock to cause a tie, Falcons' coaches called three consecutive passes; two
clanged to the ground incomplete, Atlanta punted and City of Tampa had enough seconds to get into
position to kick the winning field goal as time expired. That Atlanta entered this game unaware of
the playoff permutations was inexcusable. Each week in December the NFL devises a playoff
permutations grid that allows teams to calculate the consequences of every possible combination of
wins, losses and ties in every game. The grid is not hard to use and is not super-secret, it's public
information posted on NFL.com. Yet no one in Atlanta's overcrowded management suite -- see
below -- bothered to check the Falcons' circumstances coming into the game. You've seen the
highlight clip of Mora bellowing angrily into a cell phone on the Falcons' sideline as his players line
up to boom the fateful season-ending punt that could have been avoided. Mora is shouting,
"WHAT???? I should have played for a tie???? Why didn't you tell me????" Why didn't you think
of this yourself, Mr. Executive Vice President-Head Coach?
Atlanta front office note No. 1: The Falcons have a CEO, a president-general manager, three
executive vice presidents, six regular vice presidents, two coordinators, one controller, an executive
director, four senior directors, nine regular directors, three managers and someone who has both
director and coordinator in his title. Yet none of these 32 fancy-pants-title folks checked the playoff
permutations grid. Surely, they were all too busy engaged in bureaucratic turf fighting.
Atlanta front office note No. 2: These 32 fancy-pants officials have made some puzzling decisions.
Two of last three years, Atlanta traded its No. 1 choice for a veteran who was demanding a megacontract from his original team. In both cases, the Falcons swapped a mid-first-rounder, which
would have been used on a rookie who would have signed for a manageable bonus, for someone to
whom they gave a cap-paralyzing mega-contract. Now, Atlanta has shipped another draft pick,
probably a third, for veteran receiver Ashley Lelie, who wants a new contract. Lelie had one
touchdown reception in 2005, despite playing for the red-hot Broncos. A sizeable chunk of this
season's Atlanta salary cap will be tied up in payments to recently acquired high-priced veterans
whom their previous teams wanted to get rid of. When a team wants to get rid of a player, usually
there is a reason.
Will "24" Do An Extra Episode If a Disaster Begins on the Day
That Daylight Savings Time Ends? Now that Keifer Sutherland
has won an Emmy for "24," maybe Fox will debut a new show
called "365" that is nothing but Sutherland all day long every day.
According to the internal reality of the show, Sutherland has singlehandedly prevented an assassination, saved Los Angeles from a
nuclear bomb, saved Los Angeles from another nuclear bomb, saved
Los Angeles from an unstoppable bioweapon, saved Los Angeles
from nerve gas, rescued the Secretary of Defense from terrorists,
prevented the meltdown of a nuclear reactor, recovered the missing
presidential briefcase of missile-launch codes, faked his own death,
and done all these things in just five days.
Sure, Sutherland was able to stop the reactor disaster by stealing
back from terrorists a government-built device that sends a signal
that causes nuclear reactors to melt down. Probably you'd think it
He may have a pistol in his
would make absolutely no sense for the government to build a
pocket, but no extra ammo
device that sends a signal that causes nuclear reactors to melt down - clips.
- that's why you are not a super-spy and Keifer is. And sure,
Sutherland has the advantage of carrying one of those pistols that never runs out of ammunition no
matter how many times it is fired. There sure aren't any spare magazines in the pockets of his extratight jeans! (Note to ESPN.com Art Department, have just created an excuse for you to show a
beefcake photo of Keifer's buns in jeans.)
Sutherland's gun also can be fired repeatedly in small, enclosed spaces without his ears being
damaged, another big plus. But what TMQ really likes about this show is that every time a nuclear
warhead or bioweapon is about to destroy California, Sutherland must act alone because everyone
else in the entire United States government is busy. "Hello Jack? Terrorists just stole an
experimental wormhole generator and they're about to use it to rip the fabric of space-time, making
the entire West Coast disappear. Would you mind handling this alone? Everyone else in the entire
United States government is in a meeting today."
Carolina
The Panthers made the NFC title game last season, and are a popular choice to advance again this
season. Carolina was third in defense, played well on special teams, outscored opponents by an
average of a touchdown per game and kicked the tails of the Giants and Bears on the road in the
postseason. The Panthers were especially good in the fourth quarter, outscoring opponents 125-72.
That Carolina ran out of gas in the title contest at Seattle does not diminish an excellent season.
Here's the only downside: Of the Panthers' 11 regular-season wins, just two came against other
playoff teams (the Patriots and Bucs). Look at the rest of Carolina's schedule -- Arizona, Buffalo,
Detroit, Jersey/B, New Orleans twice -- there were enough cupcakes to make a "Saturday Night
Live" video. The Panthers ended the season performing really well in the playoffs. Whether that
was a hot streak or means the team has advanced to elite standing will be determined this fall.
Steve Smith was unstoppable last season, particularly when opponents didn't try to stop him. The
decision first by Jersey/A and then Chicago coaches to single-cover Smith was inexplicable, and
proved the key factor in these teams' home playoff defeats. Smith had 45 percent of Carolina's
receiving yards in 2005, an NFL record for highest share of receiving yards by one player. But if the
ball didn't get to Smith, it didn't get to anybody: Ricky Proehl, Carolina's second-most productive
receiver, had just 441 receiving yards.
Having seen Smith rip up the Giants' and Bears' single coverage, the Seahawks basically played
Smith box-and-one, shutting him down in the NFC Championship Game. Yet Jake Delhomme did
not respond by looking for flanker Keary Colbert, who at least three times in the title game was
streaking uncovered, his arm raised, as Delhomme forced the ball unsuccessfully toward Smith.
Now that Keyshawn Johnson has arrived in Charlotte, presumably there will be more balance in the
Cats' passing game. It is essential that Delhomme spread the ball around. Every competent
defensive coordinator will have looked at tape of how Seattle frustrated Smith, and emulate the
tactic.
Panthers note No. 1: Now that oft-injured power back Stephen Davis has departed, Tim
Biakabutuka remains Carolina's all-time leading rusher -- with just 2,530 career yards.
Panthers note No. 2: Increasingly, NFL teams seek offseason revenue by renting stadium facilities
for corporate meetings. At Bank of America Stadium, corporate groups can rent a meeting room
with full-sized goal posts, play host to a luncheon in a replica Panthers' locker room (no replicas of
moldy towels, one hopes) or convene in a "simulated" press box. The food in the simulated press
box looks pretty good, so I guess it's not that realistic.
Chicago
The Bears defense allowed just 195 points in 2005, among the most impressive achievements in the
league last season. Now factor in that the Bears' defense also scored 35 points (crediting point-afters
to the D) and the net allowed by Chicago defenders was a spectacularly low 10 points per game. It
ended badly as Chicago, playing at home in the divisional round, allowed Carolina 29 points. The
Ming Ding Xiong ("Bears whose outcomes are decided by fate" in Mandarin) had a bye week while
Carolina was performing on the road at Jersey/A, yet the Panthers seemed more ready for the game.
The Giants had tried to cover Smith one-on-one and paid the price, especially on stop-and-go
moves; inexplicably, Chicago gave no safety help to the corners covering Smith, who bit repeatedly
on the stop-and-go. An inglorious end to a season that saw Chicago win its division with cupcake
help, finishing 2-3 against other teams that made the playoffs.
As to the Chicago offense -- Ye gods! Subtracting for points scored on defense and special teams,
the Bears generated just 14 points per game on offense, which is awful. Bears quarterbacks threw
more interceptions than touchdown passes, also awful. Kyle Orton was hardly the only problem.
Offensive performance did not change much when Rex Grossman stepped in, and both quarterbacks
finished the season with identically bad 59.7 passer ratings. Now Brian Griese takes over, and
though he is a career 79.6 passer, last season he threw as many interceptions as touchdown passes.
Maybe that's what drew the Bears to him.
Chicago note No. 1: Soldier Field fans were treated to the NFL's lowest scoring games, an average
result of 19-8. Why is it Chicago's field perennially makes both the Bears and their opponents
struggle to attain points? Are there kryptonite deposits beneath the stadium?
Chicago note No. 2: Prosecutors charged the cleaning lady of former Bears cornerback Jerry
Azumah with stealing $251,000 from him. The Chicago Tribune headline: FORMER BEAR
TAKEN TO CLEANERS.
Wacky Food of the Week Reader Lysa Whitt points out this delight served at Mulligan's, an
Atlanta tavern: "A hot dog wrapped by a beef patty that's deep fried, covered with chili, cheese and
onions and served on a hoagie bun, topped with a fried egg and two fistfuls of fries." The tavern
also offers a double cheeseburger served between two Krispy Kreme donuts. Apparently, Mulligans
does not want its patrons to survive for return visits.
Dallas
Remember when the Cowboys were a monster team? If you do, then
you probably remember when Robert Goulet was synonymous with
beefcake. The Dallas Cowboys, who took home three Lombardi
Trophies in the mid-1990s, have not won a playoff contest since
1996 and are 40-57 in the 21st century.
The Cowboys' decline has been strangely unemotional. Dallas has
fielded three consecutive strangely unemotional coaches -- Chan
Gailey, Dave Campo and Bill Parcells. All seemed unfazed by
letdown after letdown; Parcells gives the impression of being
annoyed that he must attend Cowboys' games. Fans have been
strangely unemotional: There's been no rending of garments, no
gnashing of teeth, no Texas angst. Owner Jerry Jones has been
strangely unemotional, enduring disappointing season after
disappointing season without tirades, seemingly not even
particularly concerned. Even the cheerleaders no longer look like the
league's hottest. They look bored and late for something they would
rather be doing.
Once the world's most
handsome man, now looking
for work as a restaurant
greeter.
Into this strangely unemotional landscape we introduce -- Terrell Owens.
TMQ is sick of T.O.'s act and does not know anyone who isn't. Yet maybe this guy is what the
Cowboys need to reconnect with their emotional selves. Dallas seems to lack enthusiasm about
football, and who would have thought that would ever be said about a Texas city? Owens isn't
exactly what the doctor ordered, more like what the meshuggener ordered. Perhaps he can light the
fire in Dallas, if only by making the rest of the team want to perform in order to shut him up. Of
course, first he must make the team. When Owens signed his Cowboys' contract, he released a rap
song in which he boasted, "I got what I wanted up front, 10 mil," the amount he demanded in
Philadelphia. Actually, Owens got only half upfront. He must be on the Dallas opening-day roster to
receive the second $5 million, and with Owens, nothing is certain until it happens.
Maybe Someday I'll Be Called "Puckish" Last week, the United Kingdom's Independent
newspaper ran a retrospective of obituaries of renown cricket aficionados. Prominent was Sir Arthur
Conan Doyle, but also among them was my distant relative Basil Easterbrook, 1920-1995, an
English cricket and football (that is, soccer) writer. "Easterbrook was a much-loved member of the
press corps with a puckish humour," reads the obit. Let's hope mine is as favorable. Oh, and in my
obituary, please spell "debonair" correctly.
Detroit
It has been asked before but bears repeating -- what bizarre Rasputin-like hold does Matt Millen
have over the Ford family, owners of the Lions? In 2001, the Lions hired Millen, a broadcaster with
no management experience of any kind, to be the team's president and CEO. He started at the top in
both positions, rather than learning first. Since the point Millen took over, the Lions have the worst
record in the NFL at 21-59. And Millen did not accede to a faltering team: The club he inherited
had gone 9-7 and missed the playoffs only when an opponent hit an improbable 54-yard field goal
on the final play of the final regular-season game.
Weirdly, the team's official bio says of Millen, "With a paramount desire to steer the Lions'
franchise in a new direction ... Lions' chairman and owner William Clay Ford appointed Matt
Millen to the position of president and CEO (on) Jan. 9, 2001." Millen has steered the Lions in a
"new direction" all right -- from winner to laughingstock! Yet the Ford family recently awarded
Millen with a contract extension.
Thank goodness Millen has nothing to do with the production of Ford's cars. Maybe the Fords
should hire Carlos Ghosn to run the Lions. And if Web site management is any indicator of larger
problems, the Lions are even worse than feared. Millen's official bio on the team's site boasts of his
genius in drafting Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams.
Horrible drafting has plagued the Lions under Millen, and let's briefly review how horrible. In 2002,
Detroit used the third overall selection of the draft on Harrington, since run out of town on a rail. In
2003, the team used the second overall selection on Rogers, who has 36 receptions in three years -which would be an OK figure for a backup tight end, but not for a wide receiver taken second
overall. In 2005, Detroit burned the 10th overall selection on Williams, who is third string and
might be waived were it not for the salary-cap penalty this would cause.
Who was selected by other teams shortly after these blown picks? In order to take Harrington,
Detroit passed on Dwight Freeney, Levi Jones, John Henderson and Roy Williams. To take Rogers,
Detroit passed on Kevin Williams, Jordan Gross, Troy Polamalu, Terrell Suggs, Byron Leftwich
and Andre Johnson, who made the Pro Bowl at Rogers' position. To take Williams, Detroit passed
on the next two guys selected, DeMarcus Ware and Shawne Merriman. In each of these years,
choose any name from the list of players Detroit passed on, and the Lions might be a different team
today.
Hmmm -- suppose Millen did have something to do with the production of Ford's cars. Here would
be Millen's business plan for the current Ford corporate predicament.
Cancel production of all hybrids and high-mileage cars, commit to manufacturing an ultra-large
SUV called the Godzilla.
Reject the Nissan alliance and form a joint venture with Fiat.
Close Ford Motor Credit. As the company's profitable division, it is a constant distraction.
Cancel the beautiful new Mustang, Ford's hottest-selling product. It's retro -- we need to steer in
a new direction!
Hire lots of older workers and give them guaranteed pensions and health-care benefits.
Green Bay
"Everybody keeps talking about lack of talent on the Packers. I've been around less, I'll say that." -New Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal.
Well then. There's a ringing endorsement! One of my favorite sports quotes comes from the hapless
former Buffalo Bills coach Hank Bullough, who preceded Hall of Famer Marv Levy. Bullough said,
"We keep beating ourselves, but we're getting better at it." McCarthy's "I've been around less talent"
has the same warm, hopeful quality.
The Packers finished first in pass defense in 2005, so there's a temptation to say that at least
McCarthy has some defensive talent to work with. But the Jets finished second in pass defense, the
Saints third, the Browns fourth -- losing teams tend to have good pass-defense stats because
opponents are ahead in the second half and attempt few passes. The Bears, at fifth overall, were the
sole winning team of 2005 with a top-rated pass defense. The four championship-round teams
finished ninth in pass defense (Carolina), 16th (Pittsburgh), 25th (Seattle) and 29th (Denver). The
championship-round teams were usually ahead in the second half, and so got thrown on more often.
Talent is especially a concern on the offensive line. If Brett Favre is to have any victories in his
victory-lap season, he needs to remain upright. Yet new Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson
has shown little interest in offensive line issues. Arriving in the winter of 2005, Thompson's first big
decision was to make no attempt to resign the Packers' stellar guards, Mike Wahle and Marco
Rivera. Yes, Green Bay had salary cap problems, but a general manager concerned with the survival
of an aging star quarterback would have found a way to keep one or the other. This winter,
Thompson let center Mike Flanagan walk as a free agent, while signing no important free agent for
the offensive line. Favre might get hit a lot or forced into a lot of ill-advised releases to get rid of the
ball. But, I've been around offensive lines with less talent, I'll say that.
Packers note No. 1: Green Bay is the sole NFC team with a winning road record in the past decade.
Packers note No. 2: Thompson's title is "executive vice president, general manager and director of
football operations." Imagine trying to explain to Alfred P. Sloan or Arthur D. Little why modern
executives need such puffed-up titles to make themselves feel important.
Packers note No. 3: Green Bay is the NFL's only publicly owned franchise, making its annual report
the best window into NFL club finances. For their last fiscal year, which was basically the 2005
season, the Packers disclosed operating revenue of $208 million, up from $200 million the previous
year, and profits of $18 million, down from $25 million. Don Walker of the Milwaukee Journal
Sentinel reported that last season's total player costs for the Packers were $103 million, while the
salary cap was $86 million that year. (Player health care and pensions do not count against the cap.)
Total operating expenses, meaning player costs and all other costs, were $188 million. The team
created a fund against future increased health-care costs and future costs of firing coaches,
explaining why profit was somewhat lower than it otherwise might have been. So the Packers are
now saving against the cost (contract buy-outs) of firing coaches. So should every NFL team!
News from Space This column often observes that every time
instruments or research techniques improve, the universe is seen to
be bigger and life to be older. The universe just grew again, this time
by about 15 percent. Researchers led by Krysztof Stanek of Ohio
State -- he's one of the hot names in astronomy -- demonstrated that
a galaxy called M33 is 3 million light years away, not 2.6 million
light years as had been believed since the 1950s. This is telling
because M33 is known to astronomers as the Triangulum Galaxy,
and used as a yardstick for measuring cosmic distances. If it's 15
percent farther away, that might mean everything in deep space is 15
percent farther away, and thus the universe 15 percent larger and 15
percent older than assumed. Stanek's finding further suggests the
Hubble Constant, used to measure intergalactic distance, might be
off in a manner that systematically understates the magnitude of the
distant cosmos. Should Stanek prove right, that would get us up to
roughly 60 billion galaxies in existence for 16 billion years, as
opposed to the current consensus guess of about 50 billion galaxies
formed 14 billion years ago. And just wait till the next advance in
instruments.
Every year it's farther away
-- sort of like the day you
pay off those credit cards.
Jersey/A
The Jets are moving their team headquarters to New Jersey, ending the last major tie of either "New
York" team to New York. "We're the only NFL team left in the state," Melvin Fowler of the Buffalo
Bills said last month. A reader offers, in haiku, this slight correction, since the Giants still hold
summer camp at the University of Albany:
Gotham's ties not torn:
Jersey/A yet practicing
Yon upstate New York.
-- Wray Blattner, Dayton, Ohio
John Branch of the New York Times recently reported that few "New York" Giants live in New
York, either. One of the few is Tiki Barber, and exposure to New York culture seems to have
worked well for him. Barber is known to this column as TTNY, The Toast of New York, for his
combination of on-field performance and all-around good-guy achievements in Manhattan
philanthropy, society-set life and news reporting. Note of Barber that his media appearances, with
Fox News, have to do with news, not sports-yak. A fair number of professional athletes become
involved in soft-media stuff such as reality shows and celebrity reporting, how many go into news
commentary?
Anyway, because the Office of Management and Budget recently divided the nation into CoreBased Statistical Areas, Barber could be TTNYNJCBSA -- The Toast of the New York-New Jersey
Core-Based Statistical Area. With government flair for brevity, the Census Bureau now calls the
same region the New York-Newark-Bridgeport-New York-New Jersey-Connecticut-Pennsylvania
Combined Statistical Area. Using airport codes, this makes Tiki
TTLGAJFKTEBEWRBDRNYNJCTPACSA. Or one could employ the agency's jaunty shorthand
and call Barber TT408, The Toast of Census Bureau Region 408. Whatever you call him, Tiki
Barber is a mensch.
Giants note: Eli Manning took every snap at quarterback in 2005. At least Jersey/A got its money's
worth on that monster contract!
Minnesota
It's sink or swim for the Vikings staff in 2006. Minnesota has a new head coach who has never been
a head coach, assisted by an offensive coordinator who has never been an offensive coordinator and
a defensive coordinator who has never been an defensive coordinator. Disarray extends to other
areas. Last season, the Vikings finally had a half-decent year on defense -- then promptly allowed
four defensive starters to depart in free agency. The flame-out of Koren Robinson coupled to the
nothingburger first season of highly drafted Troy Williamson leave the Vikes weak at wide receiver.
Since management unloaded Randy Moss, the Minnesota offense has sputtered, finishing in the
bottom third statistically last season. The running back situation isn't encouraging either.
The Vikings got into the playoff picture in 2005 by taking seven of its last nine games, but only two
victories came over teams that finished with a winning record. On the season, Minnesota went 2-5
against opponents with winning records, and one of those wins came in a meaningless regularseason finale contest against a Bears team that already had locked its seeding and was resting
starters. Given Minnesota's novice coaches and roster holes, it's unrealistic to expect much more
than a rebuilding season.
Vikings fade-out note: In the past decade, Minnesota has winning records in September, October
and November and a losing record in December. And this season the NFL plays five December
games.
Vikings front office note: Minnesota sets some sort of record by having three people with the title
"owner" -- Owner/Chairman Zygmunt Wilf, Owner/President Mark Wilf and Owner/Vice Chairman
Leonard Wilf.
Vikings cheerleaders note: Minnesota's cheer squad might not rival Philadelphia or Washington for
dance complexity, but certainly offers lots of northern beauties. Here are the Vikings cheerleader
veterans in a pose that includes only slightly fewer women than TMQ's standard fantasy.
New Orleans
Sports teams can have rebuilding years but this is ridiculous -- New Orleans is rebuilding an entire
city. The Saints were 3-13 last season, playing a regular away slate plus games in San Antonio and
Baton Rouge. Considering NFL teams were .410 on the road in 2005, New Orleans' all-away finish
seems less bad. Meanwhile, Tuesday Morning Quarterback continues to be amazed by the New
Orleans-Jersey/A link. Last season the Giants were, before Katrina, the first team scheduled to
appear at the Saints. This game was held in the Meadowlands, making the Giants the sole club in
NFL annals to play nine regular-season home games, and helping grant the Giants the standings
edge that gave them the NFC East title over Washington. (Had the Giants played the Saints in New
Orleans in 2005 and lost, the Redskins would have won the division by tiebreaker.) A schedule
formula determined years ago called for New Orleans to play at the Meadowlands in 2006. I remain
scandalized that this game has not been shifted to New Orleans, paying back the Saints for one
aspect of their 2005 handicap and paying back the rest of the league for the standings gift Jersey/A
was granted in 2005. The Giants are the sentimental-favorite club of most NFL staffers at league
headquarters on Park Avenue. You've got to suspect that if any other team except the Giants had
been involved in this pairing oddity, that team would be playing seven home dates in 2006 and
traveling to New Orleans for the Saints' extra home game.
New Orleans had a decent defense in 2005, though its return on recent draft investments has been
small. The Saints have invested four recent No. 1 picks on their defensive line (Charles Grant, Will
Smith and two No. 1s traded for Jonathan Sullivan) yet in 2005 were 27th against the run and 31st
in sacks. New management has cut the losses: In June, New Orleans traded Sullivan and Courtney
Watson, total investment two recent No. 1s and a recent No. 2, for a couple of backups. Meanwhile,
New Orleans added Drew Brees and Reggie Bush. Brees is a quality performer; Bush has as much
chance as anybody to be that rare impact rookie. New Orleans might benefit from a fantastic 12th
Man effect. When the team returns to the Superdome on Sept. 25th -- and oh look, it's on ESPN -the crowd energy and emotion will be poignant. Last season everything that could have gone wrong
did go wrong for New Orleans. This year the Saints will have more wind at their backs than any
professional sports team in memory.
Reggie note: Many cannot understand why Bush is forbidden to wear No. 5. Offensive linemen
must be numbered from 50 to 79 in order to help officials enforce the eligibility rule. Otherwise,
who cares which player wears what jersey number? The NFL once forbade Brian Bosworth from
wearing No. 44 at linebacker in Seattle, and this year will allow linebacker Julian Peterson to wear
No. 44 for the same team. How silly it is to say the number system is critical in one case and can be
waived in another! Except for offensive linemen, any player should be allowed to don any digits.
That's the way it is in college, and the earth is not rent asunder. The NFL is at heart a form of
entertainment, and watching Reggie jitterbug in No. 5 would provide maximum entertainment.
Superdome note: Superdome roof repairs included a daily helicopter-delivered catered meal atop
the crown so workers did not have to climb down 21 stories of catwalks during their lunch break.
Mary Foster of the Associated Press reported that contractors built "a small village" on the
Superdome roof, including restrooms, safety equipment and pads onto which supplies were lowered
from helicopters.
Philadelphia
My first Tuesday Morning Quarterback NFC preview, seven years ago, began by complaining that
the Eagles were complacent about the running back position. I used the same item pretty much
word-for-word in August 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005. I've now simply placed the item into
my AutoText: "Once again the Eagles seem content to enter the season without a power back and
without depth at running back." Maybe a team that passed on 57 percent of its plays in 2005 doesn't
care about the running game. But wait -- that figure is for passes when Philadelphia led in the
second half. That's right, when leading in the second half, the Eagles nevertheless threw more than
they ran. Counting sacks and scrambles, last season Philadelphia coaches called 721 passes and 365
rushes, the 66 percent pass ratio trailing only Arizona for the league's least-balanced attack. Perhaps
Philadelphia coaches say to themselves, "We're got to pass, we have nobody who can run the ball."
Then get somebody who can run!
Now the Terrell Owens business is over for the Nesharim -- Eagles in Hebrew. (Philadelphia is the
sole NFL team whose logo faces right to left, as does Hebrew.) Philadelphia fans wish the 2005
season had been one of those science-fiction shows where incredible things happen and then at the
end, everyone wakes up to discover it was just a dream. Well, 2005 was plenty real for Philadelphia.
But the Eagles remain one of the NFL's best clubs of recent outings, and TMQ thinks football
pundits are selling them short by speaking as if their run is over.
Beefcake note: The same agent represented Philadelphia's No. 1 draft choice, defensive tackle
Brodrick Bunkley, and fifth-round selection, athlete/male model Jeremy Bloom. The agent told the
Philadelphia Inquirer he gets more media calls about Bloom.
St. Louis
The Rams had a rare three No. 1 draft choices in 2001, and all of them are gone. St. Louis' middleround picks from that draft are gone, too. You can't whiff an entire draft without starting a cycle of
decline, and that is what has happened to the former Super Bowl victors. Les Mouflons (Rams in
French) had only one win over a playoff team in 2005, while losing twice to the lowly 49ers. Kurt
Warner departed two years ago; Isaac Bruce and Marshall Faulk are shadows of their old selves;
Richie Incognito is listed as a 2006 starter, and I bet you don't even know who he is. OK,
sportswriters -- the season hasn't even started and that joke has now been used up.
Marc Bulger finished strong last year with a 94.4 rating, and ESPN.com's KC Joyner says Bulger
was the league's most accurate passer -- impressive since Bulger threw deep so much. Otherwise
The Greatest Show on Turf will likely this year be A Show That Happens to Occur on Turf. And the
Rams' defense last season was pliant, which even the defensive-minded Jim Haslett probably cannot
fix in just one year.
Les Mouflons note: The Rams' colors are, officially, New Century Gold and Millennium Blue. In
2101, will they change the name to Old Century Gold?
Fox Calls Bill O'Reilly "A Former Thinker" Fox Sports' own bio describes football pundit John
Czarnecki as "a former sportswriter."
San Francisco
When you finish the season last in offense and last in defense, you've got problems. Given how bad
San Francisco was statistically in 2005, it's vaguely amazing the Squared Sevens won four games.
Among its many lasts, San Francisco ended the season last in passing offense. The Niners have
thrown draft picks at this problem, using the first overall selection of 2005 on a quarterback and
three of their four top picks in 2006 on receivers. The fix might or might not work, but at least San
Francisco management has taken action regarding the passing attack -- though TMQ continues to
feel the chain of events that led San Francisco to spend that first overall pick on Alex Smith, then to
pass on California golden boy Matt Leinart in the 2006 draft, is one Niners fans will be ruing for
years to come.
But while there's hope on offense, defense is another matter. San Francisco also finished last in
passing defense. This finish was especially dreadful considering the Niners lost 12 games and were
blown out six times, meaning opponents held comfortable leads and threw little after intermission.
Denver finished 29th in pass defense in 2005, but as Aaron Schatz of footballoutsiders.com has
noted, much of the surrendered yardage came after the Broncos attained big second-half leads and
removed starting defenders from the contest. Green Bay finished first in pass defense in 2005
because opponents were way ahead in the second half and didn't attempt many throws. So the fact
that San Francisco finished 4-12, facing opponents who threw little in the second half, yet ended up
last in passing defense, is pitiful. What did San Francisco do to shore up its secondary? The Niners
did not draft any cornerbacks and signed only one, Walt Harris. Meanwhile, San Francisco lost its
best defensive performer, Julian Peterson, to free agency. Ye gods.
Radio City note: During the NFL draft at one point I stood next to San Francisco's first selection,
Vernon Davis, who is astonishingly large and sculpted. I said to him, "What does the sky look like
on your home world?" Davis laughed, but maybe he was just being polite.
Seattle
Traditionally the Super Bowl runner-up plays host in one of the
NFL's headliner games on opening weekend. This September the
Seattle Seahawks open at -- umm, Detroit. In the NFL's return-toaction weekend Atlanta, Carolina, Indianapolis, Jersey/A, Miami,
Minnesota, Oakland, Pittsburgh, San Diego and Washington appear
in an unprecedented bonanza of nationally televised games -- while
Seattle at Detroit will be beamed solely to Wayne County and King
County. On opening weekend four teams that did not make the
playoffs in 2005 will perform in nationally televised prime-time
games, while Super Bowl entrant Seattle isn't seen. Over the
season's early weeks, 14 teams appear nationally in prime-time
contests, including seven clubs that did not make the playoffs,
before the Blue Men Group take their first night-game bow at
Chicago on October 1.
But the league isn't mad at Mike Holmgren for criticizing the
officials. Heck no!
Will Alexander suffer from
the Madden curse?
In 2005, Shaun Alexander set an NFL record with 28 touchdowns, and what really impressed the
determined TMQ readers who reviewed miles of tape was that 15 of these touchdowns came on
untouched runs. Only two other NFL players, Larry Johnson and LaDainian Tomlinson, had 15
touchdowns last season; Alexander had 15 touchdowns on which no one so much as brushed him!
Now Hawks fans are worried that Alexander is on the cover of the new Madden video game, and
previous cover boys Eddie George (2000), Daunte Culpepper (2001), Marshall Faulk (2002),
Michael Vick (2003), Ray Lewis (2004) and Donovan McNabb (2005) all promptly got hurt or had
off years. But Alexander will continue to run behind one of the league's best offensive lines. Steve
Hutchinson is gone to Minnesota, but the Tuesday Morning Quarterback Non-QB Non-RB NFL
MVP of 2005, tackle Walter Jones, returns. And attention must be paid to Seattle's other tackle,
Sean Locklear, whom KC Joyner rated the most efficient blocker in the NFL in 2005. Come on
Seahawks, you know the league front office wants you to go away. Drive them crazy and return to
the Super Bowl!
Cheer-babes note: Reader John Elkin of Vancouver, Wash.,
commends to our attention the minimalist new warm-weather
uniforms the Sea Gals will debut in 2006.
Urban renewal note: Seattle plans to move its headquarters to
Renton, Wash. The facility under construction will have a 120,000square foot office, locker room and medical complex, plus an indoor
practice field. It's on Lake Washington, on 20 acres owned by
Hawks owner Paul Allen. He would give up Lake Washington real
estate! Much of the Lake Washington shoreline is already
developed, and remaining virgin real estate is extremely valuable.
But Allen has had trouble developing this particular parcel, which is
adjacent to an old Superfund site that once held toxic waste. Most
studies show that Superfund sites pose no threat to public health.
Now, if the Gatorade begins to glow …
Tampa
Sea Gals to sport new
The Buccaneers lost a lot of close games in 2004 and won a lot of
"Hello, Sailor" look this fall.
close games in 2005. Many NFL games are close -- last season 45
percent were decided by a touchdown or less. And of course you prevail in a lot of close games if
you have the league's No. 1 defense. For Tampa it all boiled down to a strange home loss in the first
round of the playoffs. The Bucs' defense held the visiting Redskins to just nine first downs and 120
yards of offense, but Tampa succumbed owing to killer turnovers and two missed fourth-down tries
in the fourth quarter. The game, of course, was close.
One auspicious sign for Tampa's upcoming season is that linebacker Derrick Brooks took a pay cut
in order to close out his career with the Bucs. This means the defense is likely to play well again -more than any other person on the roster, Brooks makes the Tampa 2 defense work with his
combination of speed and field sense. That Brooks stayed home also strengthens his eventual Hall
of Fame bid. The Canton electors tend to look askance at performers who are in it strictly for the
money, while rewarding those who show loyalty to their city. It is a wise policy, and one more star
players approaching the ends of their careers should be aware of. Playing every down with the same
team gets you valuable bonus points in the Canton ballot. Compare to, say, Ted Washington. By
performance he is among the best defensive linemen ever. But he's squeezed so many helmets over
his head -- San Francisco, Denver, Buffalo, Chicago, New England, Oakland and now Cleveland -after complaining so often about his paycheck that Canton electors should turn thumbs down.
Brooks, by contrast, is now sure to be fitted for a garish yellow sportsjacket.
Washington
Once again the moment midnight of free agency arrived, Chainsaw Dan Snyder revved up his
turbocharged checkbook. Once again the Redskins snagged what seems on paper the league's best
free-agency haul, including big-name players Adam Archuleta, Andre Carter and Antwaan Randle
El. Chainsaw Dan granted these and other newly acquired gents contracts with a paper value of
about $130 million, including about $35 million in bonuses or other guarantees. Only about $13
million of the bonuses and guarantees count against this year's cap, meaning some $22 million in
accounting charges are being delayed to future years -- nearly insuring another Washington cap
crash in the future.
Were the acquisitions worth it? Archuleta has enjoyed
mojo publicity, but in 2005 looked like an average
safety playing for a 30th-ranked defense. Carter was
chosen high in the draft, but in 2005 looked like an
average defensive end playing for the 32nd-ranked
defense. If Archuleta and Carter are so good, why were
the defenses they played on two of the league's three
worst? Randle El is cool and widely admired, but in
2005 had just 35 receptions and one touchdown. Other
Chainsaw Dan acquisitions included quarterback Todd
Collins, receiver Brandon Lloyd and power back T.J.
Duckett. Collins was once a fair-haired boy but has
Randel El will be expected to put up
thrown one touchdown pass in the last eight seasons.
bigger numbers in Washington.
Lloyd and Duckett are underachievers whom their
previous employers wanted to unload; Washington gave both money and a bushel of mid-round
draft picks to acquire them. While the Redskins were spending freely for those whom other teams
wished to discard, Washington failed to re-sign two of its own free agents: Robert Royals, last year
the best blocking tight end in the NFL, and safety Ryan Clark, who had a Pro Bowl-caliber season.
It might turn out that after spending a huge amount in money and draft choices, the Redskins will
wish they had simply kept together the squad that finished strong last season.
Meanwhile the Skins, who have had the fewest draft picks since 2000, already have traded away
their second, third and fourth choices of 2007, and even traded away a 2008 pick! In Washington,
the "the future is now" formula has been in practice so long it should be changed to "the past was
then." Washington had no first-round selection in 2006, and quarterback Jason Campbell, taken in
the first round in 2005, might not contribute this season, meaning no young-talent infusion. Sooner
or later the Skins' profligate ways will catch up with them.
Redskins victories note: Washington has the best current opening-day streak, with four consecutive
wins.
Redskins staff note: Joe Gibbs' staff includes three former head coaches: Joe Bugel, Al Saunders
and the tastefully named Gregg Williams. Williams in turn has three assistants who have been
defensive coordinators: Greg Blache, Jerry Gray and Dale Lindsey.
Redskins titles note: Several teams now have gentlemen bearing the title Assistant Head Coach,
among them Mike Sherman in Houston and Marty Mornhinweg in Philadelphia. Assistant Head
Coach is not simply an honorific for former head coaches working as assistants, as Jim Fassel, Jim
Haslett, Mike Martz and others who once were bosses do not now carry this title in their assistant
roles. At Miami, Dom Capers sounds even better as Special Assistant to the Head Coach. But no
sideline tops that of the Redskins, which has both an Assistant Head Coach, the tastefully named
Gregg Williams, and the league's only Associate Head Coach, Saunders. What's next for
Washington -- a Provost and a Dean of Players?
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at
[email protected] Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I may
quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Note: giving your hometown improves your
odds of being quoted.
Next Week Still America's only all-haiku NFL season predictions.
Monday, September 4, 2006
Updated: September 6, 10:35 AM ET
The only all-haiku NFL preview
By Gregg Easterbrook
Finally the real thing approaches and the NFL artificial universe resumes. Pause now to contemplate
this: you will behold your favorite team snap the ball 1,000 times this season. Some laws of nature
seem plucked from a hat, such as Planck's constant, which is 6.626 times 10-34th joule-seconds.
Others seem hauntingly round numbers; during a normal lifespan, the human heart beats two billion
times. Another hauntingly round-number constant is Easterbrook's Law of 1,000 Plays.
Seattle ran 1,020 plays last season, Tampa ran 985. Atlanta ran 1,021 plays, and so did Jacksonville.
San Diego ran 1,022 plays, while Oakland snapped the ball 997 times and Cincinnati 1,018 times.
Everyone in the league was within a pollster's standard margin of error of 1,000 snaps, and it's been
that way since the 16-game format was adopted. Each time your team runs a play this season, you
are beholding one in a thousand: and every snap reduces the time remaining on the season by onetenth of 1 percent. Savor each snap. Like practically everything in our short lives, the season will go
by amazingly fast.
And now -- still America's only all-haiku NFL season predictions!
AFC East
Cut costs, yet win games:
Pats the Wal-Mart of pro sports.
The Flying Elvii.
Forecast finish: 12-4
Bikini heaven!
Not South Beach -- the cheerleaders.
Miami Dolphins.
Forecast finish: 10-6
Harvard GM, Yale
coach. Lead league in SATs.
The Buffalo Bills.
Forecast finish: 6-10
Have league's youngest coach.
Does Mangini get carded?
The Jersey/B Jets.
Forecast finish: 4-12
It's easier to bring South
Beach to the stadium than
bring the game to the
beach.
Cheerleading Squad of the Week: Speaking of the Dolphins
Cheerleaders, here they are in their glory. The new Dolphins' Cheerleaders calendar is not exactly
shy about the key to their appeal. Bud Light sponsors this view of Fins cheerleaders in Bimini,
while the Dolphins are now "presented by Wachovia" and their season "delivered by DHL." Does
that mean if you don't like a game, you can mark it Return to Sender? Nick Saban has a blog. "Golf
is kind of like a metaphor of life," Saban muses.
AFC North
Cowher crowned; now must
find reason to keep growling.
The Pittsburgh Steelers.
Forecast finish: 13-3
Trick or treat! Team has
Halloween every Sunday.
The Cincy Bengals.
Forecast finish: 9-7
The public beta
of new version 3.0.
Latest Cleveland Browns.
Forecast finish: 9-7
It's Sunday at 1,
do you know who QB is?
Bal-a-mer Ravens.
Miami's cheerleaders will never be
accused of being overdressed.
Forecast finish: 6-10
In Praise of Losing Teams -- College Edition: What if
the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers played only
the Houston Texans and Detroit Lions in 2006 -- and
played every game at home? That is the scenario
evolving in football-factory big-college football, where
teams can choose many opponents, and increasingly
choose cupcakes with cherries on top.
Consider West Virginia, hyped on a Sports Illustrated
cover and chosen by CBS Sportsline as favored to play
in the BCS title bowl. West Virginia's schedule is
among the weakest, if not the weakest, of 119 teams in
Division I. The Mountaineers play just three schools
Local bakery item -- or West Virginia's
that finished 2005 with winning records, and only one home opponents?
that appeared in the top 25. Here is the West Virginia
schedule, which might as well be a cupcake menu at the local bakery. There's Eastern Washington,
not even in Division I-A. There's Syracuse, 1-10 last season, and Mississippi State, 2-9. The
Mountaineers' home opponents stumbled to a combined 34-47 in 2005; their road opponents were
also losers, a combined 21-24. Four of the 10 teams on the schedule of my son's high school team
made the state playoffs in 2005; his high-school team plays a significantly tougher schedule than
West Virginia! Perhaps someone on West Virginia's schedule will turn out to be a hot opponent:
you never know. But based on the schedule, West Virginia plans to take the 2006 season off, then
demand a BCS bowl bid.
Taking the season off and then demanding a bowl bid became easier for the football factory schools
this season as Division I expanded to 12 games. The added weekend makes financial sense given
that big-school football is among the few collegiate sports that is a net producer of revenue. But
with a 12-game slate and six wins required for bowl eligibility, an orangutan could coach a top 25
school into a bowl.
Plus, the football factory colleges increasingly shun the road, paying lesser schools to come to them
and be clobbered. The Mountaineers play seven of 12 at home; just imagine what the Denver
Broncos' record would be if they could play 10 of 16 at home. Nebraska, Michigan, Miami of
Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame all fearlessly play seven with the home-crowd
advantage and just five on the road. Virginia Tech takes the cake, or in this case the cupcake -Virginia Tech has eight home games versus four road dates. The Hokies and Mountaineers join
hands across the Blue Ridge for college football's phoniest 2006 schedules!
In order for the football factories to play most games at home, the downtrodden must be willing to
travel. This year the University of Buffalo has seven road dates and five home appearances. As Pete
Thamel reported in the New York Times, the hapless Bulls, perennial losers, are in such demand as
a visiting cupcake that their fee for appearing at a big school has risen to $600,000. The Bulls were
originally scheduled to play at West Virginia this fall -- hmm, why does that not surprise us? -- but
balked because the Mountaineers offered only $350,000, below the prevailing market price. This
season the University of Buffalo has away games at Wisconsin, Auburn and Boston College.
Let's hope the University of Buffalo knocks off some
cocky football-factory school that basically wants the
Bulls to be movie extras, standing around watching
home-team players streak past. All cupcake teams can
draw inspiration from Saturday's game in Boulder,
where the University of Colorado was beaten by
Division I-AA Montana State, which Colorado had
hired expecting an effortless walkover. And let's hope
that as the price of visiting cupcakes continues to rise, at
least this will improve the Gini coefficient of college
football, reducing inequity of funds. This year Nebraska
is paying Troy University $750,000 to come and
Hey, you got University of Buffalo on
presumably get clobbered, raising the cupcake
prevailing rate close to the million mark. Wouldn't it be your schedule too!
a great day if Troy won! Regardless, likely-to-lose teams -- demand $1 million per appearance! It's
a seller's market, max out the price of your services!
AFC South
Annual playoff
choke; please call Dr. Heimlich!
Indy Lucky Charms.
Forecast finish: 12-4
Motto: When in doubt,
punt. Punts doomed '05 season.
Jacksonville Jaguars.
Forecast finish: 10-6
Forget the Titans!
That's the word till team rebounds.
The Flaming Thumbtacks.
Forecast finish: 5-11
Four years, 10 home wins.
Reliant crowd leaves early.
The Houston Texans.
Forecast finish: 4-12
Bust-a-Rama: The Lions waived bust wide receiver
Charles Rogers, second selection of the 2003 draft, and
the Jags placed bust tackle Mike Williams, fourth
selection of the 2002 draft, on injured reserve after he
reported out of shape and immediately hurt himself.
Rogers got a $14.2 million signing bonus and made 36
career receptions -- $395,000 per catch. What's puzzling
about Williams is that after he was benched and then
waived by Buffalo at the end of 2005, Jax awarded him
a $1.4 million signing bonus, funds he keeps though it
seems unlikely he will ever play a down for
Jacksonville. The Jags gave Williams a nice bonus after
it was known he was a bust. At least the Lions can say
they showered money on Rogers before knowing what
they were buying.
He charges $395,000 per catch. Per
drop? You can't afford it.
In Praise of the Losing Team -- High School Version: The reverse of high school teams that run
up the score are high school teams that never win. Red Boiling Springs in Macon County, Tenn., a
countryside school with only a few hundred students in the upper grades, has not won a game since
2002, and has been outscored 287-24 in its past five outings. Reader Nick Meals of Knoxville
protested that the Tennessean, Nashville's newspaper, just put the school's football futility on Page
1: "Is it right that the lead story in one of the major newspapers in the state focuses on the losing
streak of a tiny rural school? If the Titans lose then fine, make fun of professionals, but give this
treatment to 14- to 18-year-olds?" Nick, the story made me admire the players and coaches of Red
Boiling Springs. No special qualities are required to play on a stacked winning team, no fortitude
needed to take the field among superior teammates, knowing victory is likely. To keep trying after
40 straight losses is extraordinary -- compare such resolve to pro athletes who whine following the
slightest minor setback. The kind of kids who still turn out for a high-school team that has little
chance of winning, who still run hills in the August heat -- who never give up -- learn a lesson that
will serve them well in life. Players and coaches of Red Boiling Springs School -- ESPN salutes
you! Here's a quote for the locker room bulletin board: "Red Boiling Springs football exemplifies
the larger purpose of sports: learning teamwork, fair play and determination. Anyone can walk an
easy path. To refuse to quit in the face of great odds requires heart."
AFC West
Hey, you a running
back? Then you are a star here.
The Denver Broncos.
Forecast finish: 12-4
Herm in mood? Let's hope.
Keeps word only when in mood.
Kansas City Chiefs.
Forecast finish: 9-7
Brees blows out, Rivers
flows in. Haiku or senryu?
San Diego Bolts.
Forecast finish: 7-9
Apparel still sells
big. Guess kids don't know standings.
The Oakland Raiders.
Forecast finish: 4-12
If Edvard Munch Had Gotten Weather Channel, His Most
Famous Work Would Be Called The Smile: Everyone's glad "The
Scream" by Edvard Munch has been recovered. But this painting
does not, as commonly assumed, express existential dread. It's a
painting about the weather! Chemicals pumped into the sky by the
1883 explosion of the Krakatoa volcano colored sunsets around the
world as red as blood. In an era before television and Internet people
did not know a strange-looking atmosphere was about to happen.
Munch was walking with two friends in Oslo and observed the sky
turning blood-red. The painter was terrified by this unexpected
omen: "I watched the flaming clouds over the fjord and the city … I
stood there shaking with fear and I felt a great unending scream … I
painted the picture, painted the clouds as real blood." Bad weather,
not man's inhumanity to man, is what the funny guy in "The
Scream" is screaming about.
If Edvard Munch were alive
today, this painting would
be about his cell phone bill.
Brett Favre Vows to Play 20 More Years, Pass Andy Kelly in
Record Books: Brett Favre needs 25 touchdown throws to surpass
Dan Marino as the NFL's all-time leader. Even if he takes the NFL mark, Favre will have thrown
only about half as many touchdowns passes as Andy Kelly of the Arena Football League's Utah
Blaze, whose 767 career TD passes towers over Marino's 420. TMQ assumes that if high school,
college and pro are combined, Andy Kelly has thrown more touchdown passes than any other
member of genus Homo. If any reader has the exact career total for Kelly, send it to me using the
address at Reader Animadversion.
NFC East
"Sopranos" ending,
but Jersey still has G-Men.
Jersey/A Giants.
Forecast finish: 11-5
Tom Cruise at QB,
team trains at Six Flags. Redskins
branded toothpaste next?
Forecast finish: 11-5
T.O. gone, focus
back where belongs: on cheer-babes.
The Philly Eagles.
Forecast finish: 10-6
Terrell, Parcells: the
Kramer vs. Kramer team.
Them Dallas Cowboys.
Forecast finish: 6-10
The Rigors of the New York Publishing Life: Months ago I received from an acquaintance in
New York publishing an e-mail that ended, "Have a great weekend." The e-mail was sent Thursday
afternoon. I saved it, planning to do an item on the exhausting regime of New York publishing life.
Then last week I received another e-mail from a prominent figure in New York publishing, ending,
"Have a good weekend." The e-mail was sent Wednesday morning.
TMQ Fashion Tips: Want to leave J-Lo, P-Diddy and L-Dopa in
your stylistic dust? Now you can spend perfectly good money on
ESPN TMQ hats and T-shirts featuring the new column logo. The
hat is especially cool with logo in front and Tuesday Morning
Quarterback stitched onto the side. And OK, so there is no celeb
nicknamed L-Dopa, but there should be. (L-dopa is 3,4-dihydroxyL-phenylalanine, used to treat Parkinson's disease; Arvid Carlsson
and William Knowles won Nobel prizes for aspects of its
discovery.)
Television Outsourcing Begins: The Wall Street Journal reported
that MyNetworkTV, the new channel devoted to cheesy soap operas,
is buying scripts from telenovela producers in Mexico and simply
translating the scripts into English.
NFC North
For them, 3-0
considered high-scoring game.
The Chicago Bears.
Forecast finish: 9-7
Favre stumble on his
victory lap? Could happen.
The Green Bay Packers.
Forecast finish: 7-9
Forget the trucker hats, the
cool celebs will soon be
wearing a TMQ hat.
All-novice coaching
staff; owner new on job, too.
Minnesota Vikings.
Forecast finish: 6-10
Matt Millen in charge?
Like Paris running Hilton.
The Detroit Lions.
Forecast finish: 2-14
Journalists Decry Lack of Hurricanes: Don't you sense the media are disappointed there have
been no deadly hurricanes this season? Especially after all those reports last year claiming 2005
hurricane incidence proved an artificial greenhouse effect. (The scientific case for greenhouse gases
regulation is now strong, but hurricane incidence varies randomly; no one year proves anything.)
Friday evening, as the remnant of Ernesto crossed the Carolinas, CBS Radio News led with a
correspondent on the scene who breathlessly shouted into her mike, "The wind sure feels like more
than 45 miles per hour!" My guess is that if the wind gauge said 45, then the winds were not, in fact,
more than 45 mph. You could hear the disappointment in the correspondent's voice. Television
loves hurricanes because they produce dramatic visuals that keep viewers glued to the tube. This
season has been such a letdown! Maybe CNN and Fox will advocate more greenhouse gas
emissions in hopes of increasing the number of future hurricanes.
Magazine Calls Date with Pit Bull Sexy: Annually TMQ chortles over the "What's Sexy Now"
issue of InStyle magazine, which appears each September. The new "What's Sexy Now" issue
crash-lands on newsstands at 606 pages -- the Collected Plays of Henrik Ibsen is 510 pages -- with
four-fifths of the page count being advertising. People pay $6 to purchase InStyle, and lord knows
how much in gasoline to drag its mass around, in order to flip through ads. Paying to look at ads:
only in America!
The annual "What's Sexy Now" issue attempts to determine, using
the time-tested method of interviews with celebrities, what, at this
exact moment in human history, is sexy. A few years ago, InStyle
came to the counterintuitive conclusion that beautiful naked women
are sexy. In another recent year, the magazine discerned gloom
among celebrities and concluded that nothing was sexy. This year's
verdict? It was "empowering" for Eva Longoria to wear a revealing
bathing suit to the MTV Video Music Awards last year. Next, "black
is sexiest when it envelopes entire objects." Jessica Biel is sexy
because she is "playful but not frivolous." Biel's ideal romantic
outing, InStyle informs us, would be a beach picnic with "Tina, her
pit bull puppy." (It's left unclear whether Tina would be Biel's date.)
Hugh Laurie likes to have sex in hotels because this allows "a
chance to reinvent oneself in a new setting." Have you ever
reinvented yourself in a hotel?
Amy Adams declares "there's a sexiness to the unknown," so
perhaps she is aroused by thinking of distant galaxies. Blindfolded
If you want to woo Jessica,
you'd better be able to catch
a Frisbee in your mouth.
and gagged is sexy, but only if the necessary toys are bought at the ultra-expensive Kiki de
Montparnasse boutique in Manhattan. Rosario Dawson comes to the counterintuitive conclusion
that "passion is sexy." Kanye West thinks it would be sexy to have your name mentioned in the
Bible. (This means Kezia and Kadmiel are sexy, but not Kanye.) Tiger Woods is the sexiest athlete,
Angelina Jolie the sexist woman and Maroon 5 the sexiest band, InStyle concludes. Apparently the
really sexy thing about Maroon 5 is that they do not produce any music.
NFC South
Cats' playbook: Smith right,
Smith left, Smith over middle.
The N.C. Panthers.
Forecast finish: 11-5
Gruden aging fast:
Should draft Ponce de León.
City of Tampa.
Forecast finish: 10-6
Move over Cowboys:
This now America's team.
The New Orleans Saints.
Forecast finish: 8-8
Mora on cell on
sideline; talking to Joe Horn?
Atlanta Falcons.
Forecast finish: 6-10
Clang! Clang! Clang! LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Joe Johnson and Chris
Paul combined to shoot 5-of-20 from the 3-point line as the United States lost to Greece, the third
consecutive international flameout for a stacked American roster. Of course, NBA players are at a
disadvantage in international games: Traveling is not legal, for example. The larger key makes it
harder to barrel down the lane out of control until you slam into someone and draw the foul.
Differences in rules and styles cause coordinated offensive plays to be essential in international
games, and most NBA stars refuse to do anything but go one-on-one; many haven't run a back-pick
since high school.
What struck TMQ about the coverage was that every story emphasized Greece won despite having
no NBA players on its roster. Greece won because it had no NBA players on its roster! As Michael
Wilbon of the Washington Post noted, while the Greek players showed teamwork and executed
complex plays, the NBA guys on the U.S. side spent the contest strutting and pointing at
themselves. The culture of shoe contracts and strut-oriented AAU basketball is ruining the
American version of the sport, Wilbon asserted; TMQ cries, "Here here!" Let me add this thought.
Once the United States dominated international basketball; our recent decline has coincided all but
exactly with the decision to allow NBA players on U.S. Olympic and international-tournament
teams. Obvious solution? Get rid of the NBA showoffs and go back to collegians. TMQ thinks the
dozen best college basketball players of the United States, given a decent amount of practice time,
would have beaten Greece. The NBA guys seemed not to have a clue what they were up against,
since the Greeks used a tactic that is banned in the NBA: They performed as a team.
NFC West
Believe played Super
Bowl 11 on 18.
Seattle Seahawks.
Forecast finish: 11-5
Good news -- all seats sold!
Bad news -- crowd sees Cardinals!
AZ Cactus Wrens.
Forecast finish: 8-8
"Greatest Show on Turf"
now "Show That Occurs on Turf."
The St. Louis Rams.
Forecast finish: 4-12
May be league's worst team:
How the mighty have fallen.
The S.F. Niners.
Forecast finish: 4-12
Obscure College Score of the Week: Manchester 26, Tri-State 22. Located in Angola, Ind., TriState University "features Zollner Golf Course, a top-ranked 18-hole course, available to students
right on campus." In TMQ's experience, virtually every college and university in the United States
boasts of doing well in the influential annual U.S. News rankings -- though it cannot be that every
school places highly. Tri-State proclaims, "For the third consecutive year, Tri-State University has
been ranked among the top 50 comprehensive colleges in the Midwest by U.S. News." The
"comprehensive colleges in the Midwest" category contains 52 listings.
Obscure College Score of the Week No 2: Central Missouri State University 78, Lincoln on
Missouri 0. Ahead 59-0 at the start of the fourth quarter, Central Missouri nonetheless kept passing
the ball in a frantic attempt to run up the score. Hey, CMSU coach Willie Fritz -- you should be
ashamed of teaching your players such bad sportsmanship. Here you can listen to the Central
Missouri marching band play the school fight song, "Go Mules."
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at
[email protected] Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I may
quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Note: Giving your hometown improves your
odds of being quoted.
Next Week: During the preseason, Tuesday Morning Quarterback uses bland "vanilla" items to
confuse scouts from other sports columns. Next week the season starts for real, and I'll open up the
playbook -- multiple-formation grammatical structures (you should see the sentence diagrams!) and
adjectives that come at you from all directions.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Updated: September 13, 8:38 PM ET
Follow the Monday money
By Gregg Easterbrook
Man, let's hope you enjoyed that first-of-a-kind Monday Night Football doubleheader on ESPN.
Airing those games cost ESPN only $129 million. And that's just for the rights fees. Cameras,
techies and announcers are extra: ESPN had about 150 production personnel at each game.
Typically, prime-time network programming costs a couple million dollars an hour. This year,
ESPN is paying $1.1 billion for the Monday Night Football package, which works out to $65
million per contest and about $20 million per hour. Ten times the normal cost of prime-time
programming. Sure hope you liked those games!
All rights fees shot up in the new round of NFL network contracts in effect this season, reflecting
the incredible popularity of professional football. For television broadcast rights, the NFL now gets
about $3.7 billion annually from ESPN, CBS, Fox, NBC and DirecTV (which holds the odious
monopoly on the wonderful NFL Sunday Ticket), plus advertising income from the league's
upcoming self-published games on NFL Network, plus additional millions for radio and cell phone
broadcast rights from Sirius and Sprint. Forty years ago, commentators were shocked when NBC
and CBS agreed to pay about $340 million (in today's dollars) per year to broadcast NFL games.
Now the same rights are selling for considerably north of $4 billion, a dozen times as much as a
generation ago. This fall, just two weekends of games will bring the league the present-dollar value
of all pro football broadcasting in 1966.
The way the latest NFL-NFLPA agreement works, for all intents and purposes, broadcast fees go
directly to players. Ticket sales cover the clubs' expenses (coaching, facilities, overhead), and
owners make their profit on everything left over (local radio rights, tie-in marketing, parking and
food sales). Let's stop to consider what this means to the average NFL athlete. This season, average
NFL pay -- monies actually received, not contract paper value -- will be somewhat more than $1.7
million per gentleman. That's almost exactly the $3.7 billion in broadcast rights fees, divided by
roughly 2,000 NFL players on rosters or on injured reserve.
Now think about the amount the typical NFL player will earn this year just from ESPN. Ready? An
average of $550,000 per player. That's the amount ESPN is putting in the average NFL player's
purse for the 2006 season, and for seasons to come. From ESPN directly to you, dear NFL player:
$550,000. The sum works out to $32,000 per Monday Night Football game. If you are an NFL
player, every time you tune in Monday Night Football this season, bear in mind ESPN is sending
you $32,000 worth of thanks. The next-highest rights fee on the landscape works out to about
$12,000 from CBS to each NFL player for each game the Columbia Broadcasting System airs. So
guys, ESPN is being almost three times as nice to you and your families as CBS! Remember this
when interview requests come in.
In other football news, often TMQ approves of going for it on fourth-and-short. The situation is
different within likely field goal range, in which case my rule becomes: Kick Early, Go For It Late.
Through the first three quarters, usually it's best to put three points on the board. (Exception: If way
behind, gamble early.) Once the fourth quarter is reached, when the endgame is clear and the coach
knows how many points are needed to take the lead or ice the lead, then go for it. Many's the coach
who went for the first down in likely field goal range in the first three quarters, then by the fourth
quarter really, really wished he had sent in the kicker. Field goals are not letdowns or wimpy plays.
Field goals are critical: In 2005, one in four NFL games was decided by three or fewer points.
Never was TMQ's law of Kick Early, Go For It Late on better display than Sunday. Leading Denver
9-0 in the second quarter, St. Louis faced fourth-and-3 on the Broncos' 33. Scott Linehan sent in
Jeff Wilkins, whose three points proved essential in the fourth-quarter dynamic of the Rams'
victory. Trailing Detroit 3-0, NFC defending champion Seattle faced fourth-and-goal on the Lions' 2
in the second quarter. Mike Holmgren sent in Josh Brown, whose three points proved the game's
margin of victory. Had it been the fourth quarter, either team might have been advised to gamble.
Because it wasn't the fourth quarter, Kick Early, Go For It Late ruled.
Now for the flip side. Leading New England 17-7 early in the third
quarter, Buffalo faced fourth-and-1 on the Patriots' 7. A gamble here
is surely attractive, as success would position the Bills for a
commanding lead. But it's still early in the third quarter, and a 20-7
lead sounds awfully good. Equally important, Buffalo had been
controlling play; a missed gamble might change that. As the Bills
reached this decision point, my son Grant immediately said, "They
should kick; 20-7 is a great lead, but if they miss the first down,
New England will get the momentum and make them pay." Buffalo
gambled and missed; the Patriots responded with a 93-yard
touchdown drive that was pure momentum. In fact, rarely has
momentum so swung. To the point of the fourth-down try, Buffalo
had gained 250 yards while holding New England to 109 yards; for
the remainder of the contest, New England gained 210 yards while
holding Buffalo to minus-10 yards. New England won 19-17. As the
clock showed all-naughts, Bills faithful really, really wished the
team had simply booted a field goal.
Three in the hand is worth
six in the -- no, Reggie Bush
fouls that up.
Should Kick Early, Go For It Late be waived when a team reaches
the goal line? In an upcoming column, I'll look at the data collected by David Romer of the
University of California at Berkeley, whose studies maintain NFL teams almost always should go
for the touchdown on fourth down at the opponent's 1- or 2-yard line.
In other football news, before Sunday's Arizona-San Francisco contest, many Cardinals players
experienced anxiety attacks and had to receive counseling from a psychologist. It seems Cardinals
players were disoriented and frightened to look up and see the home stands full of people.
And in still more news, a just-out football book contends Tuesday
Morning Quarterback is wrong about the blitz. See below. Note to
ESPN copy editors: The phrase "Tuesday Morning Quarterback is
wrong" is strictly a hypothetical, does not require fact checking and
will not be repeated.
Stats of the Week: The Oakland Raiders had as many sacks (9) and
punts (9) as first downs (9).
Stats of the Week No. 2: The Baltimore defense outscored the
Tampa Bay offense.
Stats of the Week No. 3: David Carr has been sacked 213 times in
60 career starts, an average of four sacks per start.
Stats of the Week No. 4: The Falcons outrushed the Panthers by
187 yards -- in Carolina.
Stats of the Week No. 5: The Ravens outrushed the Buccaneers by
77 yards -- in Tampa.
Stats of the Week No. 6: The Saints outrushed the Browns by 65
yards -- in Cleveland.
Fergie performed at the
Cardinals' home opener -but she's celebrating! That
will be 15 yards, young lady.
Stats of the Week No. 7: The Eagles outrushed the Texans by 60 yards -- in Houston. (Yes, that
says "the Eagles outrushed.")
Stats of the Week No. 8: Someone named Rex Grossman significantly outperformed Brett Favre.
Stats of the Week No. 9: Stretching back to last season, Pittsburgh has won nine consecutive
games.
Stats of the Week No. 10: Before that streak started, Pittsburgh lost three consecutive games.
Cheerleader of the Week: No NFL cheer squad
disrobes with more enthusiasm than the Philadelphia
Eagles cheerleaders. Those who click on "cheerleaders"
at the Eagles' Web site are greeted by this screen that
cautions of "age-appropriate content." Thus
guaranteeing everyone will click "continue"! The
Eagles' cutting-edge cheerleaders lingerie calendar may
be purchased here. The season's first Cheerleader of the
Week is Janet, a real estate agent who minored in
psychology, which means your lines will not work on
her. Janet's team bio says that if she could take only one
item to a desert island, it would be a treadmill. Now
An hour on the treadmill or an hour
that's the cheer-babe spirit! Note: One of the questions mooning with TMQ? Unfortunately, it's
on the Eagles cheerleaders bio pages is, "What can you an easy call for Janet.
never say no to?" The most common answer is
"Chocolate." Strangely, not a one of the cheerleaders responds, "Football columnists."
Sweet Play of the Week: With two picks in the first round of the 2006 draft, Eric "I Was a Teenage
Coach" Mangini went offensive line, offensive line, and it's already paying dividends. Score tied
with 2:15 remaining, Jersey/B on the Tennessee 12, Chad Pennington had perfect pass protection as
he scanned the field and found Chris Baker for the winning touchdown.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 2: Arizona leading San Francisco 14-7, the Cards faced second-andgoal on the Niners 6. Play-fake, and TMQ counted one-thousand 1, one-thousand 2, one-thousand 3,
one-thousand 4, one-thousand 5, one-thousand 6, one-thousand 7 before Kurt Warner casually
tossed a touchdown pass to Anquan Boldin. Blocking in Arizona!
Sweet Play of the Week No. 3: Game scoreless, Pittsburgh goes for it on fourth-and-1 on the
Miami 39. (Thank goodness no Preposterous Punt -- one reason the Steelers are champs is that they
do not launch mincing fraidy-cat punts in these situations.) Charlie Batch fakes the fullback belly,
then shifts the ball to his left hand to quick-flip to Willie Parker running left; 4 yards and the first
down, and the Steelers record the game's first touchdown on the possession. The switch-hands-flip
play on fourth-and-1 -- maybe it has a name in Steelers' nomenclature -- originally was installed in
Pittsburgh by former offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey. It's interesting that Pittsburgh still uses
the action although Mularkey no longer is employed by the Steelers; usually when a coach departs,
anything that suggests his touch is erased. And where did Mularkey depart to? The Miami sideline,
from which he watched his own play contribute to the Dolphins' defeat.
Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk: Score tied at 6-all, Detroit faced fourth-and-4 on the Seattle 37 with
3:20 remaining. This is the Maroon Zone -- too far for a field goal try, too close to punt. Manly men
go for it in the Maroon Zone! But wait, the game is being played indoors, meaning ideal field goal
conditions. It's a 54-yard attempt, and Detroit's Jason Hanson has hit 27 figgies from 50 or more in
his career. So try a field goal! Or go for it! Upset the NFC defending champs! Boom goes the punt
into the end zone for a pathetic 17-yard net, and the Lions never touched the ball again, the Blue
Men Group winning on the final play. Note to new Lions' coach Rod Marinelli: Victories must be
seized; they do not come in the mail.
Sour Play of the Week: Indianapolis leading 26-21, the Giants had
the ball on their 23, no timeouts, 57 seconds remaining. Eli Manning
threw an 11-yard pass for the first down to Jeremy Shockey at the
sidelines. But Shockey didn't step out, rather, turned back toward the
field and dove forward for an extra yard. What a boneheaded play!
The Giants got off just two more plays and the clock expired with
the Giants at midfield; had Shockey simply stepped out of bounds,
his team would have had at least one more snap.
Sour Play of the Week No. 2: The Texans ahead 7-0, Philadelphia
faced first-and-10 on the Houston 42. Donovan McNabb ran a nice
play-fake in which he hid the ball on his hip -- why don't more
quarterbacks play-fake this way? Donte' Stallworth ran a streak.
Texans safety C.C. Brown made the high school mistake of "looking
into the backfield," trying to guess what McNabb was going to do,
rather than covering his man. Stallworth caught the long touchdown
while Brown stood like topiary covering no one. When you're the
deep safety and someone from a pass-wacky team gets behind you,
that is one sour play.
The tight end position has
become critical to an
offense.
Sour Play of the Week No. 3: Baltimore leading the Bucs 20-0 late in the third quarter, the
Nevermores faced third-and-10 on their own 6; a stop here was essential for Tampa to have hope.
Baltimore play-faked, and tight end Daniel Wilcox ran a short crossing pattern; Tampa safety
Jermaine Phillips not only bit on the play-fake (it's third-and-10!) but made the high school mistake
of "looking into the backfield," trying to guess what Baltimore quarterback Steve McNair was going
to do, rather than covering his man. Wilcox caught for 35 yards while Phillips stood like topiary
covering no one. By the time Tampa got the ball again, it was too late.
Oh Ye Mortals, Trifle Not with the Football Gods: Few football-game scenes are more ridiculous
than when a defender dances and struts after a routine play. On Sunday in the Texans-Eagles game,
David Carr simply slipped and fell down; Philadelphia defender Trent Cole one-hand-touched Carr
to end the play. Cole then jumped up and danced as if he'd just won the Heisman Trophy. Excessive
defender dancing may tempt the football gods to exact vengeance. In the first Monday Night
Football game, early on Troy Williamson of Minnesota beat Carlos Rogers of Washington, then
dropped what would have been a long touchdown pass. Rogers jumped up and danced and strutted,
pointing to himself -- as if he'd just done something magnificent, rather than been beaten and the
beneficiary of good fortune. Skies darkened and lighting flashed above my house as the football
gods signaled their displeasure with this rodomontade.
Later in the game Marcus Robinson badly beat Rogers for a
touchdown reception, exacting the penalty. Tactics note: On the
Robinson touchdown, Minnesota faced third-and-5 on the
Washington 20. The Redskins rushed four, dropping seven into
coverage, with both safeties in standard Cover 2 dropping deep. The
Vikings sent out four receivers. Yet with seven to cover four,
Robinson was singled on Rogers in the corner of the end zone. Both
Washington safeties stood in the center of the field like topiary,
covering no one.
They Knew Too Much -- and Knew It Too Soon: Home fans were
booing loudly in the third quarter at Reliant Stadium as the Moo
Cows yet again looked clueless on offense. Don't you think cell
phones had something to do with the boos? ESPN and Sprint now
sell cell phones that transmit live data on games in progress. So, the
Houston crowd not only knew the home team looked awful, they
knew Reggie Bush was having a spectacular debut for New Orleans.
And they knew they could have been watching Bush.
Some parts of the Redskins'
organization went all-out at
FedEx Field on Monday
Night Football; it just wasn't
the team.
Stop Me Before I Start the Stop Me Before I Blitz Again Item
Again! Game scoreless in the second quarter, the defending
champion Steelers face third-and-2 on the Marine Mammals' 27. Here comes the blitz -- and 27yard touchdown pass to the unknown Nate Washington from Tiffin University. Later, it's Pittsburgh
14, Miami 10, the Dolphins facing third-and-7 on their own 23. Here comes the blitz -- and 52-yard
completion to Marty Booker, setting up a Miami touchdown. Yes, the blitz sometimes works: a
Jacksonville six-blitz on third-and-10 in the fourth quarter forced Drew Bledsoe into a killer
intentional grounding. But the blitz tactic backfires pretty regularly; more below.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again (Manning Brothers Edition)! Hey, Manning sure looked good at
quarterback on Sunday night! (I'm just tossing out that line in case somebody hasn't already used it.)
Big brother Manning loves it when defenses blitz. His whole game boils down to "Please Brer Wolf,
don't throw me into that blitz patch!" Yet repeatedly, the Giants did just what Peyton wanted and
blitzed him. Indianapolis 16, Jersey/A 14 at the start of the fourth quarter; six-man Giants blitz, 20yard completion plus a penalty sets up the Lucky Charms for a short touchdown run. Peyton's
touchdown pass to Dallas Clark also came against a big blitz. In contrast, with five minutes
remaining and Indianapolis facing third-and-11, the Giants did not blitz, which seemed to confuse
Peyton; incompletion. Eli knows his bro -- why didn't he tell Giants coaches not to blitz Peyton?
Aesthetics note: the touchdown to Clark was an unusually fun-looking play. Indianapolis faced
third-and-goal on the Jersey/A 2. Play-fake rollout by Indy, zone blitz by the G-Men. Peyton
sprinted all the way back to the 17-yard line -- it looked as though he was going to run out of the
building -- then threw for a touchdown to Clark, who was covered by defensive end Michael
Strahan.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again (Run Blitz Edition)! Although
passing-downs blitzing gets all the attention, there are run blitzes -defensive calls in which linebackers shoot gaps at the snap, aiming
not for the quarterback but to drop the runner in the backfield. Run
blitzing has the same Achilles' heel as pass blitzing: It'd better work
or else. Score tied at 3, Cincinnati facing third-and-1, Kansas City
coaches called a seven-man run blitz. The linebackers shot into the
backfield and missed Rudi Johnson, who went 22 yards for the
touchdown, setting in motion another big Sunday loss by a home
team with a big rep.
Preposterous Punt Avoided! Reader Mike Skelly of Erie, Pa.,
notes that as Pittsburgh lined up for its play on that fourth-and-1 on
the Miami 39, John Madden opined, "I don't think the Steelers
should go for it in this type of game, they should punt." This is the
Maroon Zone -- too far for a field goal try, too close to punt. In the Brer Eli, please don't throw
Maroon Zone, manly men go for it! A punt most likely would have me into that blitz patch!
rolled into the end zone for a net of 19 yards in field position for
Pittsburgh; the successful fourth-down run set up a touchdown. Skelly offers this haiku,
Madden fraidy-cat
in the Maroon Zone. Madden
should read TMQ.
On Page 1, Frey Fools a Major Publisher: Friday, Random House announced that buyers of the
hardcover of James Frey's fabricated memoir "A Million Little Pieces" could receive a refund by
returning the original of page 163, a page arbitrarily chosen. Personally, I preferred page 105. That's
the page on which Frey rescues Jennifer Aniston from a burning building, convenes a round of
Middle East peace talks and discovers radium. If you want a refund for Tuesday Morning
Quarterback, you must return an original printout of the 2001 column announcing the Hal Rothman
Award. TMQ is free. So a refund would be -- oh, forget it.
They Should Have Had Themselves Processed Through the Atavachron: Friday was also the
40th anniversary of the first broadcast of the first "Star Trek" serial, staring William Shatner and
Leonard Nimoy. Many fan-made tributes are proliferating on the Web. Here's the script for mine:
CHEKHOV: Captain, amidst the incredible vastness of the galaxy, which is 1018 kilometers across
and 99.999999 percent void, we once again find ourselves directly in the path of another ship.
SCOTTY: The engines can't take any more!
KIRK: I haven't ordered you to push the engines till they fail. I'll do that later.
SULU: They're hailing us.
KIRK: On screen. And why can't we get NFL Sunday Ticket on screen? This is the year 2269,
surely the DirecTV monopoly has expired by now.
[On the viewscreen, we see an old man with a long beard.]
FATHER TIME. Greetings, cast and crew. You can't hide from me in syndication.
SPOCK: Logically, I believe we are about to be confronted with our own mortality. And I say
"logically" because whenever I say this, people assume I must be right.
KIRK: Raise shields! Fire phasers!
SPOCK: Our weapons are having no effect. And I cannot attempt a mind meld.
YEOMAN JANICE. I could offer you a tuna melt.
KIRK: Warp factor nine! (Enterprise jumps to warp speed.)
CHEKHOV: We're not getting away. In fact -- no matter how fast we go, Father Time just keeps
gaining on us.
KIRK: We'll set course for the City on the Edge of Forever and transit the portal back to Earth in
the year 1966. Then we'll have our youth again! Plus, we'll buy IBM and short AT&T.
SPOCK: Logically, returning to 1966 would force us to listen to Joni Mitchell.
KIRK: Then we'll go to Talos IV. The cerebrum-beings there will give us back our illusion of
youth. That, and more!
SCOTTY: Our bodies are starting to fail! Our arteries are clogged, and our heart ventricles cannot
take this stress!
KIRK: We'll travel to the Genesis Planet, where our cellular tissue will be restored! Or we'll ask the
Organians to help us; they're omnipotent, plus they wear white robes, so you know they must be
good guys.
SPOCK: Jim. We've always known mortality comes for everyone, Jim. Well, actually not for me,
since I'm Vulcan.
KIRK: Starfleet will rescue us.
SPOCK: Jim. Starfleet never existed, Jim. This ship, our voyages -- they represent the lost youth of
Baby Boomers. Episodes like "The City on the Edge of Forever" symbolize our generation's dream
that there will be an actual place we can go to escape aging. Millions cling to "Star Trek" because it
evokes a time of adolescence, promise and anticipation. But we're old now, and so are our fans. You
saw the demographics for "Star Trek: Enterprise."
KIRK: We can't grow old. I don't believe in the no-win scenario!
SULU: Father Time is hailing us, captain.
FATHER TIME: Come with me. We'll have a nice glass of tranya and talk this out.
KIRK: Listen! This is about the human dream, the dream of tomorrow coming after today, the
dream of standing atop a hill built of dreams and shouting for all creation to hear that we are what
we dreamed we could become when we began to dream that we could dream of dreams. Do you
understand what I'm trying to say?
SPOCK: No.
DOCTOR McCOY: [Enters.] Jim, it's time for your Zocor. And you don't want to be late for the
shuffleboard tournament.
KIRK: Mr. Chekhov, sensors to maximum! Find our lost youth!
FATHER TIME: [To audience.] For those of you who were born after "Star Trek" and think it's
funny how wrinkled or flabby the show's stars have grown -- just remember, I will come for you,
too, and you too will be astonished how fast your lives went past.
SPOCK: [Puts hand on Kirk's temple.] Forget.
KIRK: Forget? Every year, it gets harder to remember!
Preposterous Punt Not Avoided: Reader Kevin Tlougan of Woodbury, Minn., notes that on the
first possession of the season's first game, Miami punted in the Maroon Zone, booming a kick on
fourth-and-5 from the Pittsburgh 44. "The first possession of the first game of the new NFL season
ends with a Preposterous Punt. Is this an omen?" If so, it's an omen of bad football.
Why Tactics Matter: In their openers, two 2005 playoff teams -- Carolina and City of Tampa -were destroyed on their own fields. The Ravens' defense played so well the Bucs' offense recorded
negative-7 points. Carolina's defense "overpursued," and Atlanta seemed to be expecting that.
Several nice Warrick Dunn and Michael Vick runs came when all Panthers' defenders went the
same way, nobody stayed home and the Falcons' ball carrier cut back. Atlanta coaches must have
seen Carolina overpursuit in film.
This Fulfills My Obligation to Say Something About
the Chicago-Green Bay Game: The Bears had six
defensive or special-teams return touchdowns in 2005,
and after Sunday already have a return touchdown in
2006. This team is most dangerous when its offense is
off the field! As for the Packers -- they were great in
1966. They were great in 1996. It's 2006.
Reader Kyle Kirchhevel of Jacksonville adds, "Brett
Favre walked off Lambeau Field and up the tunnel
before the game was over because his poor little ego
couldn't handle shaking hands with the Bears who shut
him out. When Randy Moss walked off a moment early Bat Masterson rode the range too long.
in 2004 at Washington, he got incinerated by the sports Sylvester Stallone didn't know when to
press. Why is it OK for Favre to do what was wrong for quit. Brett Favre ...
Moss to do?" I did not see the ending of Packers-Bears -- it's hard to believe anyone but immediate
family members was watching -- but if Favre did indeed walk off early to avoid shaking hands, he
deserves a round of criticism. Favre is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he has been flattered too
much by the sports media. Hard as it might seem for him to believe, the Packers' season is not about
him personally.
Professional Athletes Are Supposed To Run! In the Baltimore-City of Tampa game, 340-pound
Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata caught a deflected-pass interception and ran 60 yards down
the sideline before stepping out of bounds on the Bucs' 9. Ngata was not tackled, rather, simply
stepped out of bounds, apparently exhausted from his efforts; the Ravens had to settle for a field
goal. After the play, the television announcers gushed about how impressive it was that a 340-pound
man could run so far. Ngata is a professional athlete! The announcers should have said that it was
embarrassing that a highly paid professional athlete is in such poor shape he had to stop after
running a mere 60 yards. Any NFL player, including any lineman, ought to be able to run a dozen
such wind sprints back-to-back.
Don't Suggest She End by Saying, "Courage": Edward R. Murrow had "good night and good
luck"; Walter Cronkite had "and that's the way it is." What will Katie Couric's sign-off line be? CBS
News is asking for suggestions. My nominated Couric sign-off line: "Thanks for watching, and if
the overnights aren't good, tomorrow's show will be completely different." Alternatively, "Thanks
for watching, and sorry we did so many feature stories that we never got around to mentioning the
news."
Cosmic Thoughts -- Bummer Edition: Recently, I was
creeped out by this supernova. Detected Feb. 18 by
Swift, a satellite launched to look for gamma-ray bursts,
the exploding star already was the 24th supernova
discovered at that early point in 2006. As instruments
improve, exploding stars appear more common than
cosmologists had expected, and that's not the best news
we might have heard. Coded GRB 060218, this star
detonation began as a gamma-ray burst that lasted 33
minutes -- absolutely stunning because previous
gamma-ray bursts from space have lasted a few seconds
at the most. The gamma rays came from 470 million
Nature's weapon of mass destruction.
light-years away. That was discomfiting because strong
gamma-ray bursts usually emanate from what astronomers call the "deep field," billions of lightyears distant and thus billions of years back in the past. A distance of 470 million light-years means
the GRB 060218 supernova happened 470 million years ago. That is ancient by human reckoning,
but many cosmologists had been assuming the kind of extremely massive detonations thought to
cause strong gamma-ray busts occurred only in the misty eons immediately after the Big Bang. The
working assumption was that since life appeared on Earth, there had been no stellar megaexplosion. Now we know there has.
For several days as the giant dying star GRB 060218 collapsed, this single supernova shined
brighter than all 100 billion other suns in its galaxy combined. The detonation was so inexpressibly
luminous that, though 470 million light-years distant, it could be seen by telescopes on Earth. And
not just fancy telescopes at the tops of mountains: A few days after the Swift satellite detected the
gamma-ray surge, an amateur astronomer in the Netherlands sighted the forming supernova through
a backyard telescope. The stellar coordinates hit the Web -- it was at RA: 03:21:39.71 Dec:
+16:52:02.6 -- and soon amateur astronomers the world over were marveling at the glistening
beacon from the cosmic past. This explosion released so much energy that it happened 470 million
years ago yet the light could travel for that protracted period, plus pass through the gas and dust of
roughly a hundred galaxies along the way, and still illuminate mirrors of backyard telescopes on
Earth.
Now here's what creeped me out: had GRB 060218 happened in our galaxy, life on Earth would
have ended Feb. 18.
Gamma rays are a deadly form of radiation. Routine gamma-ray bursts course through the Milky
Way, our galaxy, all the time, and the threat from them appears small. Recently Krzysztof Stanek, a
professor of astronomy at Ohio State and one of the hot names in astronomy -- reader Jim Yrkoski
of Warsaw, Poland, notes I missed one "z" in Stanek's name the last time I cited him -- calculates
that a regular supernova causing a routine gamma-ray burst would need to detonate within about
3,000 light-years of Earth to expose our world to enough radiation to cause a calamity. Only a small
portion of the Milky Way, and none of the larger universe beyond, is within 3,000 light-years of our
world.
This does not rule out "nearby" gamma-ray bursts as
causes of past extinctions. About 340,000 years ago, a
supernova called Geminga exploded 180 light-years
from Earth, which is much too close. Calculations
suggest Geminga was bright enough to rival the full
moon; our Homo erectus ancestors must have looked up
on it in wonder. The Geminga supernova is believed to
have blown off much of the ozone layer, exposing Earth
to solar and cosmic radiation that killed many
mammals, including many of those ancestors. Another
supernova, Vela, about 1,500 light-years away,
detonated 11,300 years ago. About the same time,
Extinct, just like the Wing T.
several large mammals of North America and Eurasia
fell extinct: among them, the woolly mammoth, the giant sloth and the glyptodon, an armadillo
larger than a bear. There's a lively archeological debate about whether these extinctions were
triggered by climate change or by people armed with new hunting tools such as bow and arrow.
Maybe the extinctions were caused by the supernova bathing Earth in gamma rays.
At any rate, Vela and Geminga were normal supernovas that caused relatively mild gamma
bombardments lasting just seconds. If a 33-minute, incredibly powerful gamma-ray burst similar to
the one associated with GRB 060218 happened anywhere in the Milky Way or any nearby galaxy,
Earth would be sterilized; any life that might exist on other planets in our galaxy and nearby
galaxies also would end. Most likely, the gamma radiation from GRB 060218 ended all life in
numerous galaxies near the explosion. After GRB 060218, a team of astronomers led by Andrew
Fruchter of the Space Telescope Science Institute calculated that the class of extremely massive
blue star that caused this mega-supernova probably is not found in the Milky Way. That's some
consolation. But February's ultimate supernova tells us nature has a doomsday weapon -- and that
creeps me out.
Interstellar bonus: The Swift satellite has a marketing slogan.
Hidden Plays: Hidden plays are ones that never make highlight reels but that stop or sustain drives.
St. Louis leading heavily favored Denver 9-0 in the second quarter, the Broncos had third-and-1 on
their 29. Denver play-faked hoping for the big gain, and instead Jake Plummer was sacked by Les
Mouflons' Fakhir Brown for a 10-yard loss. Shortly thereafter, it was St. Louis 12, Denver 0.
Plummer's back-to-back interceptions are what sports radio talked about, but those came late, when
the cause was nearly lost. It was after the sack on third-and-1 that you felt St. Louis really could win
the game.
Food Should Have a Sense of Humor: Peter Pan's "no sugar added" version contains more
calories and fat per serving than regular Peter Pan peanut butter.
Braylon Edwards -- the Next Charles Rogers? Nothing makes a quarterback wince more than the
well-thrown pass that caroms off a careless receiver for an interception; the pick is the receiver's
fault but is charged against the quarterback. The Saints leading Cleveland 19-14, the Browns had
first down on the New Orleans 45 at the two-minute mark. Charlie Frye threw it perfectly to
Edwards, third overall choice of the 2005 draft. Edwards carelessly allowed the ball to carom off his
hands; the deflection was intercepted by New Orleans, ending the game.
Don't Miss This Story: Rarely will you encounter a human-interest story as touching as this one,
summarized by Sean Coughlan of the BBC last week. Be sure to read the reader comments
appended, from those who knew the late Harold and Olive Edwards. Imagine living out your days
in a quiet English town running a store selling antiquarian books, tending your garden, arguing
about adjectives, popping down to the pub and having this magnificent impact on another human
life. And the pictures of Marina Aidova! Not only was she perfectly fetching as a child, she can still
beam as an adult despite her childhood deprivation: Compare that to the millions who have been
given everything and can only complain.
How Long Until the Vikings Accept Escort-Agency Ads on Their
Web Site? Although Koren Robinson was waived by the Vikings
after he was charged with multiple counts of drunken driving,
Minnesota continues to offer his jersey for sale. Indeed, as reader
Adam Palmer of Tulsa, Okla., notes, the Vikes will sell you a
Robinson youth jersey. Some role model!
Sominex Presents the NFL Game of the Week: Seattle 9, Detroit
6. Here are the drive results, starting with the victors': Blocked field
goal, fumble, missed field goal, field goal, field goal, punt, punt,
punt, punt, punt, field goal. For Detroit: field goal, punt, fumble,
punt, punt, punt, punt, missed field goal, field goal, punt. Offensive
line note: the vaunted Hawks front five looked pretty normal without
Steve Hutchinson.
Four Books That Belong Near Your Remote: As the football
artificial universe resumes, Tuesday Morning Quarterback has
Koren Robinson, youth role
armed himself with four annuals: the league's own NFL Record and model!
Fact Book, the Pro Football Guide published by The Sporting News,
KC Joyner's Scientific Football 2006 (he also writes for ESPN Insider) and Pro Football Prospectus
by Aaron Schatz and the independent consortium called Football Outsiders. I commend all four to
gridiron enthusiasts. The first two settle arguments, and they make for pleasant Sunday afternoon
reading when your local network affiliate decides to show a pairing of cellar dwellers instead of the
week's marquee game. Scientific Football offers more football data than you would have believed
possible, and is an absolute must-have for anyone who believes sports, real or fantasy, is best
understood by the numbers. Pro Football Prospectus offers hundreds of pages of Bill James-style
analytical breakdowns. Although the stats are sometimes excessively fastidious -- the book's
formulas predict the Vikings will win 5.9 games in 2006, for example -- if I could own only one
book about the NFL, Pro Football Prospectus would be it.
But avast, ye mateys, what's this? The latest edition of Pro Football Prospectus contains an entire
chapter analyzing whether Tuesday Morning Quarterback's "Stop Me Before I Blitz Again!" is
correct. And -- this is hard to grasp -- the authors think I'm wrong.
TMQ has long contended blitzing is prone to backfire. Each year, I chart every down for a playoff
weekend, and annually my charts show that offenses gain more yards and score more touchdowns
against the blitz than against regular defense -- and that this holds even if you adjust for down and
distance. Here is last season's blitz analysis column. I found that offenses averaged 4.3 yards per
play against conventional defense and 8.7 yards per play against the blitz and scored touchdowns on
2.6 percent of plays against conventional defense and on 6.7 percent of plays against the blitz; that
conventional defense forced the offense to kick three times as often as blitzing forced a kick; and
that there was no difference between blitzing and conventional defense in terms of forcing
turnovers.
Pro Football Prospectus objects to my playoff-weekend approach, calling four games too small a
sample. One weekend of charting every play is the most I can stand! Schatz and his pals from
Football Outsiders (who, in another of those historical-dialectic reversals, are rapidly becoming
insiders) charted every 2005 NFL passing down, some 16,188 of them. Their conclusion: "Overall,
[defensive] performance is the same whether the defense sends three, four, or five men after the
quarterback. On a six-man blitz, the defense clearly has the upper hand. Send seven or eight across
the line, and suddenly the offense is gaining more yards per pass." The finding appears to be that
offenses can usually handle five rushers but that six rushers might overwhelm blocking, making the
six-blitz the effective tactic; however, a seven- or eight-blitz means a receiver covered by no one,
causing the mega-blitz to backfire. The book's advice to defensive coaches: Call the six-blitz.
Could I have been so wrong? Of course not, or I wouldn't be setting it up this way!
For all its prodigious charting, Pro Football Prospectus considered only passing plays. My annual
analysis takes into account runs, as well, and a draw against the blitz can be a devastating play for
the offense. The big difference between the sets of stats might be regular season versus playoffs.
Pro Football Prospectus charts the regular season, in which many contests pit good teams against
bad teams; I chart the playoffs, which pit good against good. Perhaps when a good defense blitzes a
bad offense, the blitz works -- just as most tactics work when good teams play bad teams. In the
postseason, when a good defense blitzes a good offenses, the blitz backfires. Good offensive lines
handle the extra pressure, and good quarterbacks get the ball out fast to the hot receiver.
If blitzing works better during the regular season than the playoffs, we'd expect to see the best teams
blitz steadily less come January. And that is exactly what happened last season. During the regular
season, the Steelers blitzed more than anyone else in the league -- Pat Kirwan of NFL.com
calculated that Pittsburgh blitzed on 32 percent of its 2005 regular-season defensive snaps, versus
the league average of about 15 percent blitzing. As the playoffs progressed, Pittsburgh backed away
from the blitz, dropping into conventional defense. Against Cincinnati in the first round of the
playoffs, the Steelers blitzed on 18 percent of Bengals plays; in the second round, Pittsburgh blitzed
on 25 percent of Colts plays; in the AFC championship, Pittsburgh blitzed on 16 percent of Broncos
plays; in the Super Bowl, the Steelers blitzed on 13 percent of Seahawks plays. That is to say -- on
the day they won the NFL championship, the Steelers blitzed less than the league average.
Pittsburgh showed blitz constantly in the playoffs but usually backed out, tricking opposition
quarterbacks into expecting an uncovered hot receiver who was, instead, covered. Maybe the lesson
to be learned from melding my stats with the Pro Football Prospectus analysis is: Once you get to
the playoffs, blitz less.
Vince Lombardi, after all, called blitzing "the weapon of weaklings." Meanwhile, reader Darren
Staley of Millers Creek, N.C., points out that the Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! viewpoint seems to
be catching on. Gil Brandt recently wrote on NFL.com that "blitzing will be down this year,
because teams don't want to subject themselves to allowing big plays." We'll see whether Gil is
proven right, and remind me someday to tell you my Gil Brandt story from 1975. (It's true: I have a
three-decades-old Brandt story!)
Adventures in Officiating: After the multiple zebra miscues of the playoffs, we have a new
officiating uniform, but do we have new results? The offensive pass interference call against Tim
Carter of the Giants with four minutes remaining Sunday, negating a first down and leading to the
game-deciding interception on the next snap, looked bogus -- and I speak as someone who believes
offensive pass interference should be called more often. The Patriots were flagged for just one 5yard infraction, although there were at least four plays on which a Patriots offensive lineman
wrapped both arms around a Buffalo pass-rusher, and the Flying Elvii benefited from an extremely
convenient inadvertent whistle that ended a play when a Buffalo runner had 50 yards of green grass
between him and the end zone.
Meanwhile, the Bills were hit with seven penalties, including a ticky-tack nudge-in-the-back call
that wiped out a fourth-quarter first down in New England territory and changed a scoring
opportunity into a punt. Worst, it is outrageous that no flag flew when Cincinnati's Robert Geathers
dove at Kansas City quarterback Trent Green while he was sliding. The feet-first-slide rule is
unambiguous: "Whenever a runner declares himself down by sliding feet first on the ground, the
ball is dead." Any contact constitutes unnecessary roughness. Geathers pile-drived into Green as he
slide, and the pile-drive is itself illegal. Not only should flags have flown, Geathers should have
been ejected. Instead, the officials were staring off into space.
Come on Mike Pereira, supervisor of NFL officials, your guys are messing up week in and week
out. Maybe the league needs new blood in this department: Pereira is no Jerry Seeman, that's for
sure. And maybe NFL officials -- who work part-time, unlike the full-time officials of other pro
sports -- simply are not up to the task as weekend warriors. The National Football League is the
richest sport. Wouldn't some funding for full-time officials be worth a try?
Four Presidential Names in the Same Play: Reader Jeff Miller of Columbus, Ohio, reports that
during the Saints-Browns game, "The stadium announcer called a play as 'Bush is the ball carrier,
tackled by Washington, McKinley and Jackson.'"
Obscure College Score of the Week: Massachusetts Maritime 19, MIT 0. The Massachusetts
Institute of Technology has a football team? What, composed entirely of 5-7 guys with thickrimmed glasses? It turns out the MIT football roster includes a 6-5, 268-pound tight end. This guy
goes to MIT? And leave it to MIT to make its athletic department sound like some sort of classified
defense installation.
Obscure College Score of the Week No. 2: Webber 13, Shorter 6. Located in Rome, Ga., Shorter
College asks parents to make donations while their children are attending -- to expect parents to pay
and donate simultaneously seems a little brassy even by the standards of contemporary college
money obsession. Shorter's honor code runs a phenomenal 9,542 words. For those accused of
violating the code, there is a 24-point trial procedure followed by a 14-point appeal procedure.
The Revenge of the Cupcakes! The big-deal
unlimited-budget programs of the University of
Colorado and Northwestern already have lost home
games to Division I-AA clubs (Montana State and New
Hampshire) they paid to come and be clobbered.
Perennial cupcake Troy University, paid to travel to
Tallahassee and be clobbered, instead was leading
Florida State midway through the fourth quarter before
running out of gas. The hapless University of Buffalo,
which Auburn, Wisconsin and Boston College have
hired to appear at their stadiums and be clobbered, took
Bowling Green to triple overtime. And kudos to the
The cupcake teams: Fear their wrath!
Eastern Washington Eagles, a Division I-AA school
hired by BCS pretender West Virginia so the Mountaineers could take the day off, for kicking a
field goal that prevented West Virginia from boasting of a shutout. (Here the Mountaineers boast,
anyway, claiming they "grounded" the Eagles, although it's a joke that a stacked team such as West
Virginia is playing an overmatched I-AA club.) It's coming -- I can feel it -- the Revenge of the
Cupcakes is in the air. College football's second echelon is tired of being hired to be clobbered.
Sometime this season, a cupcake team is going to stage a major upset of a Top 25 school. Thus
sayeth the football gods.
Running Up the Score? Reader Mary Sue Borst of Alexandria, Va., writes, "Watching the Penn
State-Notre Dame game, I was appalled at the unsportsmanlike conduct of Charlie Weis and the
Irish coaching staff. Late in the third quarter with Notre Dame up 27-3, Weis called a fake punt that
set up another touchdown. NBC showed the Penn State sideline after the fake punt and humiliation
was apparent on the faces of the players. Penn State may have lost the game, but still has dignity
and class. Where is the class and sportsmanship on the part of Notre Dame?"
I winced when that fake punt started, too. The problem is that most college coaches and many high
school coaches want to impress pollsters, and so have an incentive to run up the score. Polls are not
a factor in the pros, which is a reason running up the score is rare there. Also in the pros, teams
often play each other twice a year; or at least know they could see the opponent again soon, with
most of its starters still on the field and still smarting from any bad sportsmanship. In high school
and college, there is so much year-to-year personnel turnover that a coach knows the next time the
teams meet, most opponents' starters will not be boiling over past poor sportsmanship. Here's your
vengeance, Mary Sue -- Weis' call was bad tactics. If you have a fake punt, why waste it when
ahead by 24? Now he can't call the play when he really needs it.
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at
[email protected] Include your real name and the name of your hometown and I might
quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Note: Giving your hometown improves your
odds of being quoted.
Next Week: Paramount announces plans for the next "Star Trek" motion picture, "Where No NonGendered Individual Has Gone," in which Kirk and Spock travel through time to attend a Grateful
Dead concert, then -- upon returning to the future -- find they have altered history and no longer
qualify for Medicare.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
TMQ Nation fires back
By Gregg Easterbrook
Pro football's all-time leader for touchdown passes is Andy Kelly of the Arena League's Utah Blaze,
who has thrown 768 -- versus 420 for NFL leader Dan Marino. So far no reader has been able to
meet TMQ's challenge of figuring out how many total touchdowns Kelly has thrown in high school,
college and the pros. Hey Andy Kelly -- you yourself know the answer, let me know! Surely, Andy,
you have Google News set for your own name and must know I am pretty much the only sports
columnist who is lauding you, so e-mail me your full career total at [email protected]
Meanwhile Ian Hutchinson supposes, "Since the Arena League field is only 50 yards long, Kelly's
total should be divided by two. That gives him 384 touchdown passes, short of Marino's mark. Then
compare career passing yards: 61,361 yards for Marino, 39,948 yards for Kelly."
Mark Sangin of Chicago notes that of the 25 Pro Bowl cheerleaders this past February, two -Amy Day of Kansas City and Trina Mills of the Seattle Sea-Gals -- had also been Tuesday Morning
Quarterback Cheerleaders of the Week. How did he determine this? By looking up every 2005
Cheerleader of the Week. Mark -- you were using your time wisely. Jeff Urban of Boston wonders
why fans get to vote on the Pro Bowl players, but not on the Pro Bowl cheerleaders. Surely this
would lend spice to fantasy leagues! Meanwhile Michael of Los Angeles notes, "Every time I read
your column, it seems my wife walks by at the point with the photo of the cheerleader." Where, he
asks, is the Tuesday Morning Quarterback boss button? Stephen Kinnell of Columbus, Ohio says
he doesn't like the cheesecake pictures and requests "a Crème Brûlée instead perhaps?" Christine
Karnisky of Rochester, N.Y. reports, "In an effort to increase productivity we can no longer view
ESPN.com at the office. Each week my husband takes the time to cut and paste TMQ in its entirety
into an e-mail so I don't miss a word. This is also helpful as reading TMQ from an e-mail isn't as
obvious as reading it from the website." Tuesday Morning Quarterback converted into e-mails? No
wonder the Internet has been slow lately.
Yesterday's column noted that when Brett Favre left the Packers-Bears game a moment before it
ended, he was not slammed in the sports press, as Randy Moss was once slammed for leaving a loss
a moment early. Rabbi Dan Plotkin of St. Louis writes, "Moss left the game when the Vikes still
had a slight chance to win. Favre left when the score was 26-0 with no opportunity to get the ball
back, a vast difference especially since there is no rule (that I know of) requiring players to stay out
and shake hands."
I've been asking ESPN to create some sort of e-mail sign-up to alert readers when the column posts.
Apparently I am weeks behind in understanding tech trends -- you can already do this using the
ESPN RSS utility. A reader notes in haiku:
I know the minute
the TMQ column posts.
Thanks, RSS feed.
-- Jessica Gribble, Boulder, Colo.
The collegiate cupcake teams are angry, fear their wrath! Tuesday Morning Quarterback continues
to predict there will be a monster upset this season in which a lesser team hired to come get
clobbered instead defeats a football-factory host. Troy at Nebraska on Sept. 23, perhaps?
Meanwhile Alysia Kravitz Loshbaugh of New Orleans notes that Air Force, paid $850,000 to
travel to Knoxville and get clobbered by the University of Tennessee, instead came within a twopoint try of victory. Tony Bender of Missouri City, Texas notes Illinois State came within a deuce
of upsetting factory school Kansas State. Scot of Portland, Ore. notes that the I-AA Portland State
Vikings upset I-A New Mexico. And Gbenga Ajilore of Toledo, Ohio notes that although Bowling
Green has a better football tradition than everyone's favorite cupcake of the moment, the University
of Buffalo, the reason these teams met last weekend is that they are in the same conference, the
MAC East.
Many Irish faithful objected to my item suggesting Notre Dame running a fake punt when leading
Penn State 27-3 was poor sportsmanship. Heidi Freni of San Jose, Calif. noted that during the
opening weekend of college football, Texas and USC played cupcakes, while Notre Dame faced a
strong team in Georgia Tech. This meant Charlie Weis needed a big margin of victory in his second
outing to impress pollsters. Josh Zickefoose of Findlay, Ohio explains that Weis did not call the
fake punt; it was called on the field: "Some coaches install 'automatics,' audibles that are automatic
in response to a defensive formation. When Notre Dame lined up to punt, Penn State overloaded the
outsides of the Irish formation, leaving the middle open. When a team lines up like this, a player on
the punt team, probably the up-back, calls the automatic. The long snapper makes the adjustment,
snapping to the up-back, who goes straight up the middle through the opening. Charlie Weis cannot
be faulted for Penn State leaving a gaping hole in their D-line!"
Over the winter I got a lot of mail defending academics Cade Massey and Richard Thaler, whose
National Bureau of Economic Research paper contends the NFL draft system actually penalizes
losing teams by giving them high picks. High draft picks don't perform notably better than low
ones, Massey and Thaler contend, but cost so much more to sign that high draft picks backfire in
salary cap terms. My objection to this thesis is -- then how come no one in the NFL trades high draft
picks even-up for low ones? Economics assumes most people and organizations are "rational
actors." In this case, that means NFL general managers would trade high picks for low picks if they
perceived this to be in their interests. It cannot be that low draft picks are actually worth more than
high picks, yet not a single one of 32 NFL teams has realized this. Massey and Thaler don't address
public relations, and any business executive will tell you public relations is a tangible good with
monetary value. High draft picks make the fans of losing teams excited about the future and willing
to buy tickets for the upcoming season; this public relations consideration is missing from the
Massey-Thaler paper. Some readers compared the Massey-Thaler thesis to breakthrough statistical
analyses like those described in the fun book "Moneyball." But it's not the same. Initially, only
Oakland had the moneyball concept; but then everyone began to use it. (In business terms,
moneyball was initially intellectual property, then was commoditized.) Massey-Thaler's thinking is
the reverse -- everyone already knows the core ideas, and no one uses them!
Anyway here is Josh Zacharias of New York: "What Thaler/Massey have done is illuminate a
possible reason why general managers of the NFL initially appear to be rational actors, but are not.
Granted, you might be right about the value of the media/fan outrage counteracting some of this, but
if a GM believes Thaler/Massey's implication to be correct, it is up to that GM to change fan
perspective so that trading down in a round would not draw outrage. Or to educate fans that trading
your high pick for several later picks might be the best way to build a winning team. I would argue
that Bill Belichick is so well regarded in New England right now that if he had a top 10 pick and
traded it straight up for a lower pick in the first round using Thaler/Massey as his explanation, he
would probably not be lambasted. Certainly if he traded a top 10 pick for several lower picks, fans
might approve. While economics does assume most people are rational, it also finds many instances
of inefficient real-world behavior -- and this paper is a fine example of that."
Kevin Lehde of Raleigh, N.C., a high school football official, notes the new National Federation of
High Schools rulebook bans the "fumblerooski," in which a team deliberately places the ball on the
ground, hoping the defense will lose track of where the ball is. The reason? Because this trick play
often tricks the officials, leading to an inadvertent whistle -- though coaches planning to call a trick
play may describe the play to officials before the game. Lehde notes, "This means we now have a
rule that was instituted as a direct result of the perceived incompetence of the officials calling the
game! 'Our officials can't enforce the rules correctly, so let's alter the rules to reduce officiating
mistakes,' says the rules committee. Who do they think we are, U.S.-Mexico border guards?"
Finally, yesterday TMQ asked why the Minnesota Vikings' Web site was selling a youth version of
the Koren Robinson jersey -- in addition to no longer being with the Vikings, Robinson is hardly
what you'd call a role model. Minna Hong of St. Paul, Minn. notes that as of Tuesday evening, the
Robinson youth jersey link took you to a "product unavailable" message.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Updated: September 19, 6:58 PM ET
The five-month NFL forecast
By Gregg Easterbrook
Recently I forecast each NFL team's final record, bearing in mind this column's motto: All
Predictions Wrong or Your Money Back. See, TMQ is free. So if one of my predictions was
actually correct you would receive -- oh, never mind.
Now, for my off-price generic forecasts. First, I predict that every NFL team will end the 2006
season with the same record as it did in 2005. Obviously this won't be right, but will it be closer
than the countless pseudo-scientific forecasts floating around? I bet if you analyzed the last, say, 20
years, endlessly predicting every team would finish with the same record as the previous season
would do you better than actually thinking about your prediction.
Next, let me issue a generic final score prediction: Home Team 20, Visiting Team 17. This score
happened four times in 2005, representing the most common generic outcome. I predict Home
Team 20, Visiting Team 17 will happen more than any other outcome in 2006. This forecasting
formula has the virtue that you don't need incredible insider information -- or even need to know
who's playing.
Next let me offer my off-price ultra-generic private-label prediction: Home Team Wins. The home
team won 59 percent of the time in 2005. Many paid professional football pundits, gentlemen who
yak about the NFL for a living, barely bested 59 percent in their 2005 picks: Jay Novacek of
MSNBC came in at 63 percent, for instance. Simply pick the home team in every contest and you
are likely to be right about six times out of 10. I'll offer Home Team Wins even though, so far this
season, the home team is just 17-15. The Law of Large Numbers says this effect will wash out and
the home team will assert itself as the season progresses.
Now to my Super Bowl pick. In each of its previous six years of existence, TMQ has offered the
generic forecast, "The team goin' to Disney World will come from among the group that did not
make the cut for 'Monday Night Football.'" Two of the first three years I made this generic
prediction, I was right -- the Ravens in 2000 and Patriots in 2001, Super Bowl victors, did not
appear on "Monday Night Football." (The Rams won in 1999 after not appearing on Monday night,
but there was no TMQ that season.) In 2003, my prediction came oh so close -- Carolina, not a
Monday night baby, lost the Super Bowl on the final snap. Two years ago, my prediction came oh
so close -- Pittsburgh and Atlanta, half of the conference championship round, were not Monday
night babies. Last year was a washout, with all championship-round teams being Monday night
entrants. Anyway, my generic formula is 2-for-6 in forecasting Lombardi Trophy winners.
Remember, invariably I am picking losing teams the league braintrust believes have absolutely zero
chance.
This year the hill has never been harder to climb. With more "Monday Night Football" diversity, the
list of non-Monday teams has dwindled to Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, San
Francisco and Tennessee. That's a sorry, no-account bunch. Perhaps I should abandon my generic
Super Bowl prediction. Yet, the football gods sayeth thus to mortals: Dance with the one what
brung ya. A lackluster guy takes you to the dance, but he picks you up in a washed car and brings
you a nosegay. At the dance there's some flashy guy who makes a move on you. But if he's so great,
why doesn't he already have a date? Dance with the one what brung ya! This is football wisdom at
its most primal. Thus I will not stray from my generic prediction: Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit,
Houston, Kansas City, San Francisco or Tennessee will win the Super Bowl. If the league braintrust
thinks they are all awful, one of them must be good. I'll stand with my generic Super Bowl forecast,
even though the teams in question are, at this writing, 2-12.
In other football news, fortune favors the bold! Trailing Buffalo 13-0 in their home opener, the
Dolphins faced a fourth-and-1 on their own 40 at the end of the third quarter. As the punt unit
trotted onto the field, TMQ thought, "This has got to be a fake. No self-respecting high school team
would punt in this situation." I was sure the up-back would creep toward the line as if counting
defenders, then put his hands under center, take the snap and plunge straight ahead. Skies darkened
and lightning flashed above my house as the football gods showed their displeasure when the Miami
punter swung his leg. As punishment for this ultra-fraidy-cat call, the football gods caused the punt
to be blocked; Miami went on to lose 16-6. Down by two touchdowns at home, one yard to go on
your own 40 -- you can't seriously be punting! Which leads to the question of whether football
teams should ever punt -- a question that will be the subject of an upcoming column.
In more news, it must be election time, since Washington, D.C., looks awful. Flash back to last
season. The Redskins won six straight to finish the regular season, making the playoffs and
averaging 27 points a game during that run; their season ended with a loss in the divisionals at
Seattle, and there's no shame in losing on the road to the eventual Super Bowl entrant. Since things
were good at the end of 2005, stay the course, right? But every offseason, Chainsaw Dan Snyder
must make dramatic changes, if only to get his name in the papers. So Chainsaw Dan declared
dramatic changes -- new offensive coordinator, new offensive system, new receiver corps, departure
for Robert Royal, the league's best blocking tight end (the Redskins' runners really miss Royal),
other changes. Two games into 2006, Washington has two Ls and one offensive touchdown. As
Tuesday Morning Quarterback noted in its NFC preview, by the time this season is over, Redskins
fans might wish Snyder had simply done nothing in the offseason, leaving well enough alone.
And in other news, why isn't Kenneth Starr investigating Reggie Bush? Who paid for that roomservice cheeseburger? Come on, don't tell me you've already forgotten who Kenneth Starr is.
Stat of the Week No. 1: In their home openers, the Broncos, Bucs, Dolphins, Lions, Packers and
Raiders scored a combined 21 points.
Stat of the Week No. 2: Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago and San Diego have won their initial games
by a combined 216-29.
Stat of the Week No. 3: The Raiders and Bucs have been outscored 96-9.
Stat of the Week No. 4: Through the first six quarters of the new season, Chicago outscored its
opponents 50-0.
Stat of the Week No. 5: Oakland and Tampa have yet to record a touchdown, while Denver and
Detroit have scored just one touchdown.
Stat of the Week No. 6: Baltimore and Atlanta have not given up a touchdown.
Stat: of the Week No. 7: Warrick Dunn of Atlanta has more rushing yards than 26 entire NFL
teams.
Stat of the Week No. 8: Michael Vick of Atlanta has more rushing yards than 11 entire NFL teams.
Stat of the Week No. 9: At 1:17 p.m. Eastern on Sept. 17, Green Bay scored for the first time in the
2006 season. At 2:21 p.m. Eastern on Sept. 17, Oakland scored for the first time in the season. At
2:31 p.m. Eastern on Sept. 17, Tampa scored for the first time in the season.
Stat of the Week No. 10: Stretching back to last season, 2005 playoff teams Carolina, Tampa and
Washington are on a combined 0-9 streak.
Stat of the Week No. 11: Stretching back to 2004, the Colts are on a 23-0 streak in regular season
games that matter to the standings or playoff seeding. (Reader stat submitted by Kevin Daly of
Indianapolis.)
Stat of the Week No. 12: In prime time television games against Pittsburgh, Jacksonville is 5-1.
Cheerleader of the Week: James Denas of Cincinnati nominates Liz of the Ben-Gals, who holds a
degree in computer engineering and works in the IT department of an Ohio utility company. Liz's
mother and sister were also Cincinnati Bengals cheerleaders, Denas reports. According to her team
bio, Liz's advice to aspiring cheerleaders is to smile. Existential angst is not a career plus in the
cheering profession!
Not Another Punt! I Can't Look! The punt-happy Jaguars, who took themselves out of last
season's key showdown against Indianapolis by punting in Colts territory, faced a fourth-and-2 on
the Pittsburgh 39, game scoreless, and launched a mincing fraidy-cat punt (after trying to draw the
Steelers offsides, a tactic that has not worked in the NFL since 1963). Next possession, game still
scoreless, Jacksonville faced a fourth-and-1 at midfield and launched a mincing fraidy-cat punt.
Two possessions later, Jax faced a fourth-and-4 on the Pittsburgh 48 and boomed a punt. Finally in
the fourth quarter, Jacksonville led 3-0 and faced a fourth-and-6 on the Pittsburgh 37 -- you just
cannot be punting from the opposition's 37! Boom goes the punt into the end zone for a ridiculous
net of only 17 yards in field position.
Four preposterous punts in the same game -- yet the Jaguars prevailed. Holy mackerel, did
Jacksonville play defense! The Jags held Pittsburgh to an average of just 3.2 yards per play, well
below the NFL average of about 5 yards. You'll watch a lot of football (note: a good idea) before
you see harder hitting on defense or better pursuit. Sports radio yaks a lot about "statement" games,
which rarely actually happen. Last season, Jacksonville had two chances to play a statement game,
against Indianapolis in December and against New England in the playoffs, and honked both. But
this time Jacksonville seemed totally determined to make its statement, and did. Plus, because
Pittsburgh was one play away from the lead until the final moments, this was a rare example of a
low-scoring game that was exciting from start to finish. And it ended before midnight Eastern!
What more could a football addict ask?
Sweet Team of the Week: Atlanta out-rushed City of Tampa by 266 yards, one week after outrushing Carolina by 187 yards. Ye gods. Remember, Carolina and Tampa have good defenses. It
sure seems to be working to let Vick be himself -- forget about trying to make Vick a pocket passer,
let him drive defenses to distraction by running and complete the occasional pass as an afterthought.
On Sunday, Atlanta used a modified version of the college option play: Vick was reading the
defensive end to decide whether to hand off up the gut or keep it and run wide. TMQ can't
remember how long it's been since an NFL team featured a college option look. If this level of
rushing superiority continues -- offensive line play has been tops for the Falcons too -- Atlanta
might be the team that no one wants to play in 2006. Worrisome note No. 1: Atlanta's stand-in
place-kicker Michael Koenen is 2-for-8 on field-goal attempts. Worrisome note No. 2: On Sunday,
both Vick and cornerback DeAngelo Hall held the ball up and waved it around as they ran in the
clear. No. Oh, no.
Sweet Play of the Week: Recovering the fumble on Carolina's botched trick play (see below),
Minnesota faced a fourth-and-5 on the Panthers' 16 with eight minutes remaining, trailing 13-6.
Since a trick play just failed, there isn't going to be another trick play, right? That's what the Cats
were thinking. Fake field goal, and the kicker, Ryan Longwell, throws the touchdown to backup
fullback Richard Owens, who lined up as a tight end. Tuesday Morning Quarterback likes fake
field-goal attempts and wishes the pros would use them more often. Meanwhile, Carolina violated
the Iron Law of Kick Defense, which is to expect a fake whenever it's fourth-and-5 or less -- since
the offense needs only a few yards to retain possession. To make matters worse, Carolina had
blocked the previous Minnesota field-goal attempt. When you just rejected an opponent's kick, you
should be doubly on guard against a fake kick in a short-yardage situation.
Sweet Block of the Week: Laveranues Coles of the Jets could not have made his sweet 46-yard
catch-and-run touchdown against New England without a perfect downfield block by Chris Baker.
Often in broken-field-running situations, blockers end up whiffing because they stand around trying
to figure out where the runner is going, or charge too far downfield as if they themselves had the
ball. In the open field, every blocker should simply eliminate the man closest to him, and let the
runner make the decisions about where the play will go. Baker smartly eliminated the closest man,
who was behind him -- which turned out to be the key to the touchdown, because Coles cut back.
Sweet 'N Sour Play of the Week: Thin air makes it hard to sprint, and also makes you drowsy;
everyone in the stands and on the field was having trouble remaining alert with the score Chiefs 6,
Broncos 3 late in the fourth quarter at 5,280 feet in Denver. With six minutes left, Denver had a
first-and-goal on the Kansas City 1. Loss of yardage, incompletion, incompletion, field goal forces
overtime. Just a wink of the eye ago, Denver was beating New England in the playoffs and boasting
about the Super Bowl; since then the Broncos have lost two of three and scored just two
touchdowns in nine quarters of home-field play. On third-and-goal on the 4, the Denver coaches
called a jump-ball fade pattern to Stephen Alexander, a tight end; Kansas City had Alexander
double-covered. That was sweet for Kansas City. But a fade to a tight end? That was sour for
Denver.
Sweet Defensive Play of the Week: Trailing Dallas 17-10 late in the third quarter, Washington
faced a third-and-9 on the Cowboys' 21. Dallas blitzed six, and Washington kept seven back to
block; yet with seven blocking six, the Cowboys' rushers almost immediately put pressure on Mark
Brunell. Three receivers out in the pattern against five in coverage meant the safeties were free to
double, and Dallas played the down perfectly, doubling both receivers Brunell looked toward. The
Nanticokes' quarterback heave-hoed deep to H-back Chris Cooley; interception, Dallas scores on
the ensuing possession and the game turns from tense to a walkover. One can wonder why, trailing
by seven points, with plenty of time and the ball on the opponent's 21, Brunnell launched a daffy
heave-ho into double coverage rather than throw the ball away and allow a field-goal attempt on the
next down. As this column often points out, sometimes the smartest play a quarterback can make is
to throw the ball out of bounds. But then everything is out of whack for the Redskins' offense.
Sour Play of the Week No. 1: With Baltimore leading 16-3, Oakland faced a third-and-10 on its
own 4. Novice quarterback Andrew Walter sprinted backward into the end zone, safety, and any
remaining drama expired. A week ago in a similar situation, novice quarterback J.P. Losman
sprinted backward into the end zone, safety. Novice quarterbacks: Don't sprint backward into the
end zone! At the beginning of the Oakland play, Raiders' center Jake Grove was knocked down.
Check the tape. For the entire play, as Walter drove desperately to avoid being sacked for a safety,
Grove just sat on his keister watching, doing nothing, not making the slightest attempt to get up and
help his quarterback. Wasn't Art Shell going to restore pride to Raiders football? If Shell tolerates
this kind of lack of effort, Oakland will get even worse.
In NBC's Tuesday Morning Quarterback Series, I Am Played by Ashton Kutcher While the
Broncos' Cheerleaders Play My Interns: NBC's upcoming series about high school football,
"Friday Night Lights," will air on Tuesday nights. Doesn't this mean that when NBC makes a series
based on Tuesday Morning Quarterback, the show will run on Friday?
Sour Play of the Week No. 2: Minnesota trailed 13-6 and lined up to punt to the Panthers with 10
minutes remaining. The Carolina coaches called the throwback play, in which the return man fields
the ball and heaves a cross-field lateral to the opposite side. Chris Gamble of Carolina fielded the
punt and got spun around; as he came out of the spin he heave-hoed wildly to the opposite side of
the field -- fumble, Minnesota recovers and scores on the next possession to tie the game. Who's to
blame here? On all trick plays that involve anyone other than the quarterback throwing the ball, the
coaching standard is that the player is told: Throw it only if everything is perfect, the receiver is
totally alone and you are not under pressure. Any situation other than perfect, just run with the ball
and we don't care if you take a loss. Gamble seemed so intent on heaving the ball into the air that I
got the impression he had not received that key bit of trick-play coaching, that you only throw if
everything about the play is totally perfect.
Sour Game Situation: Chad Johnson of the Bengals got popped hard and staggered off the field
woozy with two minutes remaining against Cleveland. Many in the sports-yak world have
wondered what he was doing on the field with Cincinnati leading 34-10 and two minutes to play.
But wait, Carson Palmer was also on the field, and Rudi Johnson, and the Cincinnati starting
offensive line. What were any of these guys doing on the field with two minutes left in a rout? For
that matter, why was Cincinnati passing? Two minutes remaining, a 34-10 lead and the first team is
still on the field, heaving passes, trying to run up the score. The football gods will exact vengeance
for this.
Beefcake of the Week: Jerry Porter of the Raiders might be refusing to play, and soon might be
joined by 52 other gentlemen. But though he's refusing to put on pads, he is happy to remove his
shirt. Here, for female and nontraditional male fans, is a recent beefcake photo of Porter.
Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk No. 1: Trailing Indianapolis 17-0, Houston faced a fourth-and-2 on
the Colts' 25. In came the field goal unit. TMQ's law is Kick Early, Go For It Late. Standard
exception: Unless way behind. Plus the Texans were the worst team in the league last season -what has Houston got to lose??? As the field goal boomed, TMQ wrote the words "game over" in
his notebook.
Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk No. 2 Trailing Atlanta 14-0 and not having scored a touchdown in
2006, City of Tampa faced a second-and-goal on the Falcons' 1 with one second remaining in the
first half. In came the field goal unit. Yes, I preach Kick Early, Go For It Late. Exception: Unless
you haven't scored a touchdown yet this season! In 2005, Jon "Once I Was A Teenaged Coach"
Gruden ignited a Bucs' rally for a playoff run by going for it in a similar high-pressure situation
against Washington. This time he timidly sent on the kicking team, and the Bucs never threatened
again.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! Philadelphia rolled up eight sacks against the Giants by frequent
blitzing, and several times blatant holds by G-Men offensive linemen weren't called; had officials
not decided on Sunday to waive the offensive holding rule regarding the Giants, Philadelphia would
have led by a greater margin than 24-7 at the start of the fourth quarter. Nonetheless, by the fourth
quarter Jersey/A had adjusted and the Philadelphia blitz began to backfire. In overtime, Philadelphia
had Jersey/A facing third-and-11 on the Eagles' 31; an incompletion have would meant a 48-yard
field-goal attempt for Jay Feely, who is not a distance kicker. Surely Eagles' coaches have read the
analysis in Pro Football Prospectus 2006, which shows in great detail that while six-man blitzing is
effective, seven-man and eight-man blitzes backfire. There's the snap, and as seven Eagles crossed
the line I said aloud to Spenser, my youngest, "That's it, Giants win." Thirty-one yard touchdown to
Plaxico Burress.
Get That Segway Off My Sidewalk! Last week, Segway recalled 23,000 of its annoying selfpropelled scooters after revealing the machines' software "can unexpectedly reverse the direction of
the wheels which can cause a rider to fall." The Consumer Product Safety Commission advised
Segway owners to stop using the machines. So the Segway spontaneously shifts into reverse -- and
TMQ would like to see the whole product category shift into reverse. The Segway is the SUV of the
sidewalk. The manufacturer claims Segways have environmental benefits, and gullible journalists
echo this assertion. But the heavy, motorized Segway is usually used in lieu of bicycles. How,
exactly, does it benefit the planet to replace pedaling atop a few pounds of metal with riding a
device containing a large amount of resources and powered by centrally generated electricity?
Segway even sells a trail model -- now that's really green, encourage people to stop hiking and ride
through in the wilderness instead. Segways do have some reasonable roles: for getting around
factories and resorts, for police patrols. But the promotion of the Segway as a tool of urban
commuting is ridiculous, as it places on crowded sidewalks a 105-pound metallic battering ram
going 12 miles an hour. Being hit by 105 pounds of metal moving 12 mph is equivalent to being
popped by an NFL linebacker. Some localities have outlawed Segways from sidewalks. All should,
as these machines are dangerous to pedestrians and, in my observation, within cities are operated
mainly by rich twits (a Segway costs about $5,000) who expect everyone else to jump out of their
way.
On the heels of the recall comes word that Segway is offering a new model with no steering wheel.
That's right, no steering wheel; the thing is supposed to "intuit" where its rider wants to go. "The
LeanSteer frame and handlebar tilt left and right in response to your body's natural inclination to
lean in the direction you want to travel," Segway claims. Your body's "natural inclination to lean in
the direction you want to travel"? I walk a lot, and my body does not lean in the direction I want to
go. Segway's manufacturer can't even keep the product from going into reverse by mistake, and now
the company wants to put models without steering wheels on crowded urban sidewalks? No thanks.
Note That It Was Not a Money-Back Guarantee Roy Williams of the Lions would be the perfect
spokesman for the Segway! Let's hope he never guarantees that a new Ford car will sell.
Kenneth Starr, Scotland Yard, CIA, Mi6, United Nations, Komitet GosudarstvennoBezopasnosti, Impossible Mission Force and International Court of Justice at the Hague
Launch Investigations into Who Paid for Reggie Bush's Mother's Manicure: Last week Yahoo!
Sports ran a report asserting Reggie Bush and his family "appear" to have taken about $100,000
worth of housing, gifts and travel expenses while Bush was playing at USC. If true this would
violate NCAA rules, and might lead to the revocation of Bush's Heisman Trophy. Two points
suggest themselves:
• Of course NCAA players should follow the rules -- but the rules are two-faced. Football-factory
programs seek money at every turn; there are few limits on how boosters can give cash and favors
to schools and coaches. If schools were subjected to anything like the strictures on players, many
NCAA coaches and athletic directors would be banned and many seasons of top 25 universities
would retroactively be forfeited. Suppose the worst thing Reggie Bush does in his life is arrange a
less-than-kosher vacation for his mother. In that case, I like Reggie Bush.
• When prospective agents dangle favors to sign football players, it is the shoe contracts and other
endorsements, not the NFL deals, being lusted after. NFLPA rules generally limit agents to a 3
percent commission, one of the lowest such fractions in the agency profession: The standard literary
agent's commission for authors is 15 percent, for instance. That means the agent of an NFL player
receiving a $10 million bonus takes a $300,000 commission, and only a few players per year get a
check in the $10 million range. The more common case, a three-year veteran earning the league
third-year minimum of $500,000, would produce a $15,000 commission to the agent. For shoe
contracts and product endorsements, by contrast, there are no rules, just whatever the player,
corporation and agent mutually agree upon. Because there are no limits on what adidas or Pepsi pay
Bush's representatives, it was Bush's marketing deals that made agents salivate. There was no
frantic scramble among agents to represent D'Brickashaw Ferguson, though Ferguson went in
roughly the same place in the draft and his NFL bonuses are in the same class as Bush's. But
Ferguson is an offensive tackle unlikely ever to be a national marketing figure, leaving his financial
value to agents far lower.
The Story of the Tampa-Atlanta Game: Trailing 14-3, the Buccaneers had first-and-10 on their
31 with 9:34 remaining in the game. Incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, punt. So far Chris
Simms has no touchdown passes and six interceptions. Who is the Bucs' backup quarterback? Why,
Bruce Gradkowski, of course.
Future Historians Blame 21st Century Bolt for Decision to Evacuate Earth: Astronauts last
week accidentally let go of two bolts during spacewalks to unfurl a new solar array on the
International Space Station. Each weighing about two ounces, the bolts floated away. Don't you just
sense that centuries from now, a starcruiser jumping to quadraspace will hit one of the bolts and
vaporize the upper atmosphere of Earth? At extreme speeds, contact with even tiny amounts of
matter would cause calamitous releases of energy -- one of the challenges that will face future
starship designers.
Trust Us, We're Experts: Sports Illustrated predicted Carolina and Miami will meet in the Super
Bowl. So far those teams are a combined 0-4.
We're All Professionals Here: Sack, lost fumble, run for no gain, sack: the first four Houston
offensive snaps against Indianapolis.
We're All Professionals Here No. 2: Miami staged a 14-play, 80-yard drive that resulted in no
points. Through the preseason and two regular-season games, Daunte Culpepper has one touchdown
pass in 112 attempts.
A Tale of Three Quarterbacks: Vince Young might not be ready, but can anyone tell me what
Kerry Collins, in off the street, is doing starting for the Flaming Thumbtacks while the pretty decent
Billy Volek is exiled to the inactive list? Collins threw six completions and two interceptions. The
first Tennessee possession, with Collins at the helm: incompletion, incompletion, incompletion,
punt. Not that long ago the Titans were one of the league's most feared teams, building up to four
playoff trips in five seasons and a Super Bowl appearance; then Tennessee suffered a salary cap
crash caused by trying to keep the Super Bowl cast together as long as possible. Now it's no longer
funny. Since the start of the 2004 season, Tennessee is 9-25. The Titans are regularly blown out,
and seem destined for an awful season even if Young plays and improves.
A Tale of Two Other Quarterbacks: As for Drew Brees and Philip Rivers, both looked great on
Sunday -- they combined to throw 51-for-76 for 586 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
This Week's "Stargate" Complaint: Many readers, including Nisim Estrada of Avondale, Ariz.,
wrote to note that Sci-Fi Channel just announced it plans to cancel "Stargate SG-1," the longestrunning science-fiction series ever in American television, while keeping the plodding spinoff
"Stargate Atlantis" in production at least one more season. The news poses a challenge to "SG-1"
writers, since scripts for the current season already should be complete and are said to end with a
cliffhanger that sets up a final season that now will not happen. (This is the reverse of the challenge
the writers faced two years ago, when they set up a series-finale episode only to be renewed at the
last moment.) Yes, many recent "Stargate SG-1" episodes have been weak, and it's clear producers
are desperate for ideas. Yet TMQ does not understand why "SG-1" should be canceled, considering
it's not exactly as if Sci-Fi Channel is sagging under the weight of programming anyone wants to
watch. For 10 years, "Stargate SG-1" has been mainly entertaining, and its recent 200th episode,
devoted to the show making fun of itself (characters transformed into puppets, among other things)
was really clever.
Sense of humor has been the best quality of "SG-1"; if you listen carefully almost every episode
contains a self-mocking reference. In this, "Stargate SG-1" follows the lead of the original Kirkand-Spock "Star Trek," which had more jokes than its excessively serious successors. The decline
of humor in the "Star Trek" serials was, I've always thought, a reason for their ratings deterioration.
This makes it especially irritating that "SG-1" might end while the plodding "Atlantis" continues.
Since a promising first season, "Stargate Atlantis" has offered clunker episode after clunker episode
-- the past two have been egregious. The initially intriguing "Stargate Atlantis" premise of 100
people volunteering for a one-way trip to another galaxy had tension and interest. Now that,
inexplicably, the portal between Earth and the distant galaxy can be used at any time, the interest is
gone, while "Atlantis" has become a repetitive outer-space soap opera. ("Look, the Wraith are
attacking again!") Why save the monotonous "Atlantis" at the expense of wise-cracking "SG-1"?
If these shows are winding down, I'd better get in my Stargate complaints in while I still can. Here
is generic Stargate dialogue that could be inserted into any episode, at any point:
ANY CHARACTER: We've got to tell the Asgard what the Gou'ald said to the Tokra about the Ori.
ANY OTHER CHARACTER: But the Jaffa don't want the Tau'ri to know what the Athosians found
out about the Genii.
COLONEL CARTER: The gate-room plasma generator has gone into neutron overload! It's causing
a baryonic antidecompensation feedback loop that will release 100,000 terrajoules of dark energy
and fold the entire Earth into a single wave packet! (She pushes a bunch of buttons really fast.) OK,
everything's fine now.
Here's another Stargate complaint I need to get on the record while there's time. In the world of
"SG-1" and "Atlantis," it is the present day, yet the world already has built four capital starships -the Prometheus, Daedalus, Korolev and Odyssey -- using designs given to the Air Force by friendly
aliens. These enormous faster-than-light vessels are capable of reaching other galaxies, whereas
Captain Kirk's Enterprise could travel only within our own Milky Way. Gigantic starcruisers flown
by the U.S. Air Force did not show up in the Stargate serials until recent seasons. Obviously the
scriptwriters need material, but TMQ liked the original Stargate premise better. The original
premise was that archeologists in Egypt discover an entry point for an ancient network of gates that
allow instantaneous travel across the cosmos; a handful of Earth's best step through the gate, having
no idea what's on the other side and able to take along only that which they can carry. That premise
forced plots to focus on contact with strange distant societies and to emphasize the small, halting
nature of the human presence. Now that Earth has a fleet of gigantic starships, both Stargate shows
depict humanity as a central player in grand events spanning several galaxies. The shows now
present United States military units swanning about the universe like cosmic Rambos, easily
defeating super-advanced aliens who have possessed light-speed technology for thousands of years.
And now armed with starships, both shows have switched from plot-driven scripts to computeranimated space battles. ("Shields at 40 percent!")
Be these things as they may, Tuesday Morning Quarterback wonders -- even if friendly aliens gave
us starcruiser plans, could we manufacture the ships? Merely having the plans would not be the
same as having the construction base. If someone from the future had materialized in the 18th
century workshop of the Scottish prodigy James Watt and handed him a set of plans for a Boeing
747, the inventor of the steam engine hardly would have been able to manufacture a jetliner. Then
there's cost: imagine the cost overruns if Halliburton got the contract for starship assembly. In the
"Stargate" shows, Earth's starcruisers are depicted as roughly the size of a Nimitz-class supercarrier.
Currently the United States is able to build Nimitz-class aircraft carriers at the rate of about one
every five years, at about $8 billion per broken champagne bottle. And aircraft carriers do not have
hyperdrive or transporter beams! (Though, they do have movie theaters.)
If it takes five years for the actual United States to build one somewhat advanced aircraft carrier,
how could the United States of the "Stargate" reality have built four enormous super-advanced
starcruisers in just a couple seasons? To top if off, in "Stargate" the fact that Earth has acquired
starships is ultra-secret. So where did the money come from? Hundreds of billions of dollars would
be involved, and not even Congress could lose track of that much money. Meanwhile thousands of
workers and huge industrial facilities would be entailed. Take a look-see at these photos of
construction of the Ronald Reagan, the most recently christened U.S. aircraft carrier. There could
be four construction projects of this magnitude going on simultaneously and no one would notice?
Berman-Jackson Lives! One consequence of the new set of NFL master contracts that moved
"Monday Night Football" to ESPN and the Sunday night game to NBC was the end of the old
ESPN "Primetime" highlights show. For 19 years this show ran at 7:30 Eastern on Sunday night,
with Chris Berman and Tom Jackson delivering rapid-fire highlights and analyses of games. But the
contracts now give an exclusive to NBC on Sunday during prime time. When the end of
"Primetime" came last January, a smart guy writing for NFL.com eulogized the program by calling
it "hands-down the best show of its kind in the business," also saying the Berman-Jackson format
had "a huge positive impact on the expanding popularity of professional football," allowing any fan
to become an instant expert on the day's action. But all good things must end, and "Primetime"
ended.
So after Week 1, I click on the kitchen television at 6:15 Monday morning and there are Berman
and Jackson showing NFL highlights and talking too fast to be understood, just like always. Huh?
What? It turns out the spirit of "Primetime" lives on in a new production called "The Blitz." This
show comes on during "SportsCenter" on Sunday nights, starting at roughly 11 Eastern -- by
contract, the NBC game must end first -- and is repeated overnight and through Monday morning.
The new show isn't exactly "Primetime" reborn: because it's part of "SportsCenter," topics other
than football are discussed. But if, like me, you have a 19-year addiction to the Berman-Jackson
football worldview, they haven't vanished! Tune in "SportCenter" around 11 Eastern -- just in time
for that evening glass of port in California -- or set your recorder while you slumber. The start time
is quirky. This Sunday baseball ran late, meaning Berman and Jackson did not begin in earnest until
a little after midnight Eastern. Also meaning they are such football nuts they are willing to be in the
studio working after midnight! It's good, indeed, that this pair is back doing what they do better than
anyone else.
Best Purist Drives: Buffalo ran on eight consecutive downs during one drive, six consecutive
downs during another drive; both possessions resulted in field goals.
Houston Texans Sack-O-Meter: David Carr has now been sacked 217 times in 61 career starts.
Cowboys to Install Electronic Stability Control in Terrell Owens: While Segways continue to
ricochet down sidewalks out of control, there was great news last week regarding auto safety. The
Department of Transportation announced a proposal that would make electronic stability control,
which significantly reduces the odds of spin-out and roll-over, will be required on all cars, SUVs
and pickup trucks beginning with the 2009 model year. Considering the high-profile public razzle
over the federal airbag requirement, the news about electronic stability control received remarkably
little notice -- though airbags save 1,000 to 2,000 lives per year and ESC is expected to save as
many as 10,000 lives annually. Why wasn't the most significant auto safety advance in 20 years
front-page news? Possibly because it is a federal safety regulation, thus conflicting with the
preferred media storyline of a sinister George W. Bush rolling back federal health and safety
regulations.
Though the Bush White House deserves applause for the new rule, which will add a couple hundred
dollars to the price of a new vehicle, it continues to drive me crazy that the DOT will not mandate
two safety measures that are essentially free -- daytime running lights and heated side mirrors.
Canada mandates both, at a cost of perhaps $5 per new vehicle. Studies show that daytime running
lights reduce accident frequency and severity, while heated side mirrors improve the driver's ability
to see other cars. Heated side mirrors have traditionally been viewed as a luxury option. They are a
safety device, and everything that rolls down the road should have them.
Wacky Food of the Week: Reader Todd Harmon of St. Louis reports the Gateway Grizzlies minor
league baseball team sold a bacon cheeseburger served between slices of a Krispy Kreme donut.
Don't the Grizzlies want their customers to live long enough to attend next season's games? "Our
doughnuts have been used in such things as wedding cakes, bread pudding, fondue, and now as a
hamburger bun," a Krispy Kreme spokeswoman said.
Sominex Presents the NFL Game of the Week: Denver 9, Kansas City 6, in overtime.
Last Year It Was Green Bay Over New Orleans by 52-3, This Year ... : As the New Orleans
Saints defeated the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field -- note to copy desk, please check
statement for factual accuracy -- one bright spot for Green Bay was a touchdown catch by Greg
Jennings, a rookie wide receiver. Jennings blew past New Orleans corner Mike McKenzie, who was
making the high school mistake of "looking into the backfield," trying to guess the play rather than
cover his man. After the play Spenser, my 11-year-old, asked, "When is it OK for the cornerback to
look into the backfield?" Easy answer: Never! Cornerbacks look into the backfield out of sloth; they
want to see that it's a run and they don't have to do anything on this down. Simple rule for
cornerbacks not wishing to be beaten for touchdowns: Never look into the backfield.
Bills Try Innovative New Tactic -- Put Everyone on IR: Last week Buffalo general manager
Marv Levy placed veteran leader Troy Vincent, who has a minor injury, into an injured reserve
category which specifies that he cannot return to the Bills in 2006, but can become a free agent once
healed. The result is that Buffalo will pay Vincent his $2.6 million salary for the season -- as a
vested veteran, his 2006 contract terms became guaranteed when he was on the opening-day roster - yet may join another team this fall. Vincent might even end up playing against the Bills, with
Buffalo paying him to do so! It might be that the Bills think Vincent's 15-year career is finished, and
have essentially given him a $2.6 million severance in respect for his accomplishments. (Vincent is
president of the NFLPA and among the league's most-admired people.) The alternative explanation
is that Levy is lining up excuses -- "We were clobbered by injuries, no wonder we went 4-12."
Setting expectations low is a time-honored exercise in the NFL. Early on, every coach complains
about what a killer schedule his team faces, though it cannot be that everyone's schedule is harder
than everyone else's. Complaining is part of the expectations game: if the team does poorly then the
killer schedule can be blamed, whereas if the team does well, the coach must be a genius for
overcoming the killer schedule! If by December the Bills are in the doghouse, listen to see if Levy
says, "Well, if we hadn't lost Troy after the first game …"
Best Use of TMQ: Last week Tuesday Morning Quarterback chided Jeremy Shockey for failing to
lunge out of bounds on the Giants' last-gasp drive against Indianapolis. Sunday, Giants trailing by
three with 15 seconds remaining in regulation, Shockey caught a sideline pass in Philadelphia
territory and hurled himself out of bounds, stopping the clock and setting up Jersey/A's tying field
goal. Jeremy, it pays to read TMQ!
This Fulfills My Obligation to Say Something About the San Francisco-St. Louis Game: Firstoverall draft pick Alex Smith has now thrown twice as many touchdown passes in 2006 (two) as he
did in 2005 (one).
Negative Ads Backfire!: TMQ lives in Montgomery County, Maryland, and last week in the
county primary, a Howard University professor named Isaiah Leggett won the Democratic
nomination for county executive. In keeping with the rule that most local elections are decided by
the primary, this makes it close to certain Leggett will be the county's next executive. As someone
who had a green LEGGETT sign on his lawn for weeks, I think two things about this vote are worth
noting. (Not that you could stop me.) First, Montgomery County is mainly white, yet an AfricanAmerican is poised to run its government -- and race was a total non-issue in the campaign. Let's
hope this represents a harbinger of how American politics eventually will be. Second, negative
political ads backfired! Leggett's opponent was the favorite, and his fundraising went much better
than Leggett's: The opponent raised $2.2 million, a huge amount for a county primary. Flush with
cash, he ran television attack advertising against Leggett. The nastiness of the ads seemed to swing
the race to Leggett, who is well-known to be a lovely person; in fact, the strongest objection to his
candidacy was that he's too mannerly and academic for high office. Polls consistently show that
voters are disgusted by attack ads, yet they vote for candidates who run them. Maybe if a new
standard were to develop -- of understanding that the kind of politician who runs attack ads is the
kind of politician who runs attack ads -- the civility level of campaigns would rise.
Obscure College Score of the Week: Bucknell 20, Cornell 5. The Big Red faithful lament -- if
only we'd gotten eight more safeties! Located in Lewisburg, Pa., Bucknell is too renown to qualify
as an obscure college. But the school has a little-known quality with regards to modern sports: It
both plays Division I and graduates its athletes. Bucknell sent its men's basketball team to the
NCAA tournament last March, where the Bison were the sole tourney college that had graduated all
scholarship athletes in the most recent NCAA ranking. Bucknell won the clever athletics-andacademics bracket recently assembled by Inside Higher Education. Bucknell's Sean Conover, a
rookie defensive end on the Tennessee Titans' practice squad, was busy last spring because before
reporting to the Titans he put on a funny-looking gown and graduated. Bucknell often leads
Division I schools in athletes' graduation rates, and is fourth all time in total Academic AllAmerican honors dispensed by ESPN The Magazine. Attention other universities -- it is not
impossible to have major sports programs that graduate their athletes, you just have to care about
education. Cornell note: though this school (the most beautiful campus in academia and TMQ's
favorite Ivy) costs $45,767 a year, its athletics department's Web site nonetheless has pop-up ads.
Bonus Obscure College Score: Ursinus 6, LaSalle 2. The Explorers' faithful lament -- if only we'd
gotten three more safeties! Located in Philadelphia, LaSalle University has a faculty member who is
an expert on Robin Hood.
Bonus Combined Obscure Scores: Saint Francis of Indiana and Saint John's of Minnesota beat
Pikeville and Augsburg by a combined 123-0. Running up the score is not saintly behavior!
Running Up the Score Watch: TCU held the boastful Texas Tech to a field goal in a 12-3 victory.
Two years ago, Texas Tech relentlessly ran up the score on the Horned Frogs, notching 70 points;
TCU had been smarting for vengeance, and by the hammer of Grabthar, they were avenged!
Meanwhile Mount Union College -- year-in, year-out home of the worst sportsmanship in Division
III -- relentlessly ran up the score on Otterbein, winning 71-14.
I'd Be Willing to Run Pfizer for Only $129,000 Per Day: Much news and sports commentary
focuses on the ever-larger paychecks of professional athletes. But even Peyton Manning is a day
laborer compared to the modern Fortune 500 CEO. In May, Exxon Mobil shareholders passed the
first resolution in company history to be enacted over opposition of the board of directors; at issue
was shareholder fury regarding the $168 million retiring CEO Lee Raymond awarded himself in his
final year. "There's some unhappiness about the way Raymond's compensation was handled," new
Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson dryly told a news conference. During the summer Hank
McKinnell was ousted as CEO of Pfizer. Over his last five years at the helm, he got $162 million,
even as Pfizer earnings faltered. Carol Hymowitz of the Wall Street Journal reported that the head
of Pfizer's "compensation committee" defended McKinnell's windfall on grounds of market forces
in executive pay -- which in this context appears to mean, "CEOs at other companies are picking
shareholders' pockets, too." There just wasn't anybody who would have taken the Pfizer job for less
than $162 million? McKinnell's pay for his tenure atop Pfizer equates to $130,000 per work day.
Not all Fortune 500 CEOs are glorified pickpockets. For instance, James Skinner, the CEO of
McDonald's, paid himself $3.4 million in 2005, as McDonald's income was rising. (All pay figures
in this item fold together salary, bonus, stock options and stock grants.) A year's pay of $3.4 million
is a lot, but a CEO who makes good strategic decisions for a large firm easily could be worth that
amount to shareholders. Contrast to Home Depot CEO Robert Nardelli, who is under pressure to
resign owing to what the Louisville Courier-Journal earlier this month called "a firestorm over his
pay and the Atlanta company's lagging stock price." During the past five years Nardelli has earned
from the company $245 million -- $196,000 per work day -- though Home Depot's stock price has
stagnated. Whether it's fair to judge a CEO by stock price is an open question. Economic theory
says stock prices represent the market's guess about a corporation's future value: that is, what future
buyers will be willing to pay for the shares. CEOs have no control over what investors guess
regarding their company's future, while pressuring them to prop up stock using short-term gimmicks
leads to accounting scandals. Corporate executives are more fairly judged by sales and profits than
by stock prices, and in the case of Home Depot, those numbers are strong; that the stock price is
stagnate reflects the market's guess about the company's future, namely that it is unlikely to expand
much more. But sympathizing with the pressure Nardelli is under is no justification for him being
wildly overpaid, at shareholder and worker expense. And please don't tell me the prevailing prices
for executives justified Nardelli's huge number, because this requires you to argue that there was not
one single qualified manager willing to run Home Depot for less than $245 million. "You're only
offering $244 million? Forget it!"
Bad enough is the matter of executives insisting what they receive be called "compensation."
Workers get wages, white-collar employees get salaries and executives get "compensation," as if
they were lofty philantrophists. Keep in mind Orwell's maxim that we cannot think clearly about
things unless we call them what they are. By insisting their pay be referred to using a silly
euphemism, executives make it harder to think clearly about their excesses. The media go along
with this exercise in weasel-wording. Fannie Mae CEO Franklin Raines paid himself $64 million
from 2001 to 2003, about $85,000 per work day, during a period Fannie Mae was engaged in
"fraudulent accounting," according to a recent report of the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise
Oversight. Raines, the report said, manipulated Fannie Mae earnings so the numbers would trigger
his maximum bonus milestones. Yet even when reporting on the federal document accusing Raines
of fraud, news organization called the $64 million Raines' "compensation," as if for a noble deed.
Next, consider that executive income usually is rubber-stamped by boards of directors whose
members may be engaged in self-dealings with the firm, or who have a self-interest in rising CEO
pay. As Julie Creswell noted in the New York Times, "Five of the six active Home Depot board
members are current or former chief executives of public corporations … CEOs benefit from one
another's pay increases, because compensation packages are often based on surveys detailing what
their peers are making."
Suppose I was placed on a committee that would vote on Peter King's salary. Suppose King would
be paid with someone else's money; that there would be no penalty to me no matter how much I
voted to lavish on him; and that my next ESPN contract offer would be based on a survey of what
football columnists, including King, are earning. I'd vote King a huge increase -- maybe to $196,000
a day! This is the situation boards of directors are in when they award wheelbarrows full of
shareholders' cash to CEOs. The board members know the more they inflate CEO pay, the more
they themselves will be able to pilfer from their own shareholders. In June, a New York state judge
ruled a shareholders' lawsuit against Viacom could proceed. The suit alleges the board of directors
breeched their fiduciary duty to shareholders by paying Viacom's top three executives $160 million
in 2004, or about $213,000 per work day per executive. In 2004, Viacom lost a gasp-inducing $18
billion. From the directors' standpoint, inflating the checks of the top managers had little downside.
In most circumstances, company-paid liability policies effectively render directors immune from
any legal consequences of their decisions, while overpaying executives adds to the arguments board
members use to demand additional millions from their own corporations.
Recently the Business Roundtable released a study purporting to show that CEO pay rose 9.6
percent annually from 1995-2005, while stockholder returns rose 9.9 percent in the same period. So
things aren't so bad, eh? The Business Roundtable said the study "sets the record straight." The
Business Roundtable is, by its own description, "an association of chief executive officers of
leading U.S. companies." As Gretchen Morgenson, dean of Wall Street journalists, laid it out in the
New York Times, the study systematically understated the income of CEOs in two ways. First, the
numbers exclude dividends received by CEOs on restricted stock holdings, and this is often a big
chunk of executive income. Second, Morgenson wrote, "The study counts only the value of the
options and restricted stock received by executives on the dates the awards were made."
That renders the study about as truthful as an Enron balance sheet. Suppose I award you an option
for a share of Tuesday Morning Quarterback Enterprises, on a day the stock is selling for $10.
Naturally the value of my company skyrockets -- based on hat and T-shirt sales, perhaps. The stock
price hits $50, you exercise the option, sell the share at $50 and realize a $40 gain. According to the
Business Roundtable you made $10. Include the value of gains on stock options and restricted
grants, Morgenson found, and CEO pay increased far faster than shareholder returns in the last
decade. Now guess who the chairman of the Business Roundtable was when the "sets the record
straight" study was being prepared: Hank McKinnell of Pfizer. How does it serve the interests of
CEOs for their trade association to be blatantly dishonest toward the public about CEO pay? Unless
the Business Roundtable is saying that CEOs as a group wish to deceive the public.
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at
[email protected] Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I might
quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Note: Giving your hometown improves your
odds of being quoted.
Next Week: The Stargate commandos use the wormhole to travel to a mirror universe where "Star
Trek" has not been canceled and the other three promised "Star Wars" movies are actually being
made.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Updated: September 26, 8:03 PM ET
It doesn't pay to punt
By Gregg Easterbrook
Once again this weekend the NFL landscape was littered with Preposterous Punts. Trailing 24-3,
San Francisco punted on fourth-and-1 on the Philadelphia 40. Even the great Bill Belichick ordered
a punt from the Broncos' 35. As this column repeats ad infinitum (Latin for "by using AutoText"),
NFL coaches punt in opposition territory, or on short yardage, in order to avoid blame -- if a team
goes for it and fails the coach is blamed, whereas if a coach does the safe thing and kicks and then
loses, the players are blamed. But skip the psycho-dynamics and ask: Should a football team ever
punt?
A year ago at the Hall of Fame reception in Canton, Ohio I found myself sitting between Bill Walsh
and Don Shula. I posed this question: In a day when the Bears line up five-wide and Texas Tech
passes 60 times a game, are there any fundamental innovations that have not been tried? Walsh
supposed someone might try using trick formations for an entire game. Shula twinkled his eyes and
said: "Someday there will be a coach who doesn't punt."
Think about all those punts on fourth-and-1, fourth-and-2, fourth-and-3. The average NFL offensive
play gains about five yards. Yet game in, game out, coaches boom the punt away on short yardage,
handing the most precious article in football -- possession of the ball -- to the other side. Nearly
three-quarters of fourth-and-1 attempts succeed, while around one-third of possessions result in
scores. Think about those fractions. Go for it four times on fourth-and-1 -- odds are you will keep
the ball three times, and three kept possessions each with a one-third chance of a score results in
your team scoring once more than it otherwise would have. Punt the ball on all four fourth-and-1s,
and you've given the opponents three additional possessions. (It would have gotten one possession
anyway when you missed one of your fourth-and-1s.) Those three extra possessions, divided by the
one-third chance to score, give the opponent an extra score.
Bottom line? If you face fourth-and-1 four times and punt all four times, your opponent will score
once more than it otherwise would have. If you go for it all four times, you will score once more
than you otherwise would have. (These are simplified probabilities that do not take into account that
the one-score-in-three figure assumes most teams voluntarily end drives by punting on short
yardage; subtract those punts, and a possession becomes more valuable because a score is more
likely to result.) Few teams face fourth-and-1 four times in a game, but the numbers for fourth-and2 and fourth-and-3 work out about the same, and most teams do face fourth-and-short several times
per game. Probabilities suggest a team that rarely punts will increase its scoring while decreasing its
opponents' point totals.
Think I'm crazy? Let's turn to this 2005 paper by David Romer, a professor of economics at the
University of California at Berkeley. Romer's work got attention from the sports media because he
contends teams facing fourth-and-goal should almost always try for the touchdown. I'm not so sure,
and will address that in a later column. (Short version of my counterargument: Field goals are
nothing to sneeze at.) But there is gold, absolute gold, in the overlooked later pages of Romer's
study. His numbers say that anytime the situation is fourth-and-4 or less, teams should not punt.
Romer thinks teams should try for the first down on any fourth-and-4 or less even when in their
own territory. After all, the average play gains almost five yards. On average you will retain
possession, and the pluses of that exceeded the minuses of the inevitable failed fourth-down try.
Romer put the opening quarters of all NFL games from 1998 to 2004 into a database, then analyzed
when coaches ordered punts, when they went for it, and how these decisions had an impact on field
position on subsequent possessions. Here are Romer's three key conclusions. First, inside the
opponent's 45, go for a first down on any fourth-and-7 or less, unless a field goal would decide the
game. Second, inside the opponent's 33, go for a first down on fourth-and-10 or less, unless a field
goal decides. In Romer's sample years there were 1,068 fourth downs in which the above formulas
said go for the first down, yet NFL coaches kicked all but 109 times -- meaning they went for it
only about 10 percent as often as they should have. Finally, Romer's numbers say that an NFL team
should try for the first down on any fourth-and-4 or less, regardless of where the ball is on the field.
Of course some fourth-down tries would go down in flames and even create easy scores for the
other side. But over the course of a season of rarely punting, Romer maintains, the team that
eschewed the punt would score more than it otherwise would, while its opponents would score less.
Suppose an NFL or major-college coach came into a season determined to go for it any time it was
fourth-and-4 or less. I don't think a coach should be doctrinaire about this. I'd punt if it was fourthand-4 inside my 20, and I'd be inclined to punt in the second half if protecting a lead. But otherwise,
the coach commits to going for it instead of punting, even if the first few attempts backfire. Surely a
strategy of rarely punting would sometimes boomerang, but on balance it could lead to more
scoring for your team while depriving the other team of the ball. The strategy could cause
exhaustion and panic on the parts of defenses that thought they had done their jobs by forcing fourth
down, only to discover your offense had no intention of passively jogging off the field. Teams that
rarely punted might pile up big advantages in points and time of possession. If Don Shula's "coach
who doesn't punt" appeared on the NFL scene, that coach, Tuesday Morning Quarterback suspects,
would revolutionize football. Player talent being equal, that coach might blow the doors off the
National Football League.
Which leaves us with the question of whether the coach conjectured by Shula could ever exist. Such
a coach would need to be completely unconcerned with the media and owner backlash that would
follow a loss caused by a no-punt policy. Such a coach would need to be fearless, and financially
independent. Will there ever be such a coach? Tuesday Morning Quarterback wonders. But next
time it's fourth-and-3 and you hear the announcers say "now they have to punt," just remember: No,
they don't have to punt.
In other football news, all hail the United States Saints! That's what TMQ called the team last
season during its wanderings, and surely they were the United States Saints last night upon their
triumphal return to New Orleans. The emotion of the event was powerful, but the Saints played so
well it forced one to wonder: Maybe this is actually a top team. How fitting if the football gods
repaid the Saints' horrible 2005 with a wonderful 2006. Between Drew Brees and Reggie Bush
looking so, so good while Daunte Culpepper and Mario Williams look so, so bad, there must be
serious buyer's remorse today in Miami and Houston. The Saints' early blocked-punt touchdown
was not only a sweet play but conformed with TMQ's immutable law of punt defense: Send Eight to
Make a Punt Go Backward. As this column has pointed out before, NFL coaches rarely send more
than five rushers after the punter. It's blame-shifting: if the coach calls an all-out rush and the kicker
is roughed then a coaching decision is blamed, whereas if there's a light rush, a return and the
offense fails to move the ball, then the players are blamed. On the first Atlanta punt, New Orleans
overloaded the line with eight men in tight, and all eight came: Thunk! For the rest of the contest,
New Orleans rushed only five. NFL special teams coaches, take heed.
In other news, they were booing in Foxborough as the Patriots left the field at halftime. Sure, New
England has won three of the last five Super Bowls. But what have you done for us lately!
Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger has lost two consecutive games and threw three awful interceptions
on Sunday. Now he's only 28-6 as an NFL starter. He's really tailing off! How soon till Steelers fans
start booing Roethlisberger?
Stat of the Week No. 1: Baltimore and San Diego have outscored their opponents by a combined
110 points.
Stat of the Week No. 2: At 1:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, almost an hour into their third game of the
season, the Buccaneers scored their first touchdown of the 2006 season.
Stat of the Week No. 3: Because the Raiders had a bye, it will be October before Oakland scores
its first touchdown of the 2006 season.
Stat of the Week No. 4: Seattle is on a 23-4 streak at home.
Stat of the Week No. 5: At 11:22 p.m. ET on Sunday, the Broncos allowed their first touchdown of
the 2006 season. Considering an overtime, the Denver defense played 12 consecutive quarters
without allowing a touchdown.
Stats of the Week No. 6: At 8:53 p.m. ET on Monday, the Falcons allowed their first touchdown of
the 2006 season.
Stats of the Week No. 7: At the end of the first quarter in Seattle, Eli Manning had two
interceptions and minus-12 yards passing.
Stats of the Week No. 8 : The Giants have not won in Seattle in 25 years.
Stats of the Week No. 9 : Stretching back to Jan. 1, when the Buccaneers won the NFC South,
Tampa has lost four straight.
Stats of the Week No. 10 : The Saints are 3-0 for the first time since 1842.
Cheerleader of the Week: Vincent Hendricks of Houston nominates Summer of the Texans' pep
squad. According to her team bio, Summer "works as an engineer at NASA's Johnson Space
Center." A rocket scientist cheerleader! She also has a VFR pilot's license and is working on her
instrument rating. If her team photo is an indication, Summer is not only a rocket scientist
cheerleader, she's a sultry rocket scientist cheerleader. This really must be the third millennium!
Sweet Series of Plays of the Week: On "series" plays, one action sets up another. Game tied at 7,
Indianapolis was on its own 31. Marvin Harrison lined up wide right, with tight end Dallas Clark
also on the right as a slot receiver, and ran a middle crossing pattern as Clark ran an out; Harrison
caught a pass for 38 yards. Two plays later the Colts lined up the same way. This time Harrison
came in motion back toward the formation. At the snap, Harrison headed for the middle cross again,
but from the inside of Clark, while Clark ran for the sideline and tailback Dominic Rhodes ran a
flare right. Two Jax defenders went with Harrison. Two came up to cover Rhodes. That left no one
on Clark; Peyton Manning saw this and motioned Clark up the field, where he caught a 30-yard
touchdown pass.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 2: Trailing Pittsburgh 17-14 early in the fourth quarter, Cincinnati
faced fourth-and-1 on its own 30. Following professor David Romer's advice, the Bengals went for
it and converted. Cincinnati did not score on the possession, but Marvin Lewis' decision to go for it
on his own 30 communicated to his charges that he was challenging them to win the game, which
they did.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 3: Leading 3-0, Denver had third-and-1 on the New England 32 with
56 seconds remaining in the first half. Normally it's best to rush on short-yardage downs: but if
you're going to pass, throw the home run, not some dinky three-yard out. The Broncos play-faked,
Javon Walker went deep up the right sideline single-covered and caught the touchdown that made it
10-0 at the half. Flying Elvii defensive backs -- there were only 56 seconds remaining, why were
you surprised Denver went to the end zone?
Sweet Play of the Week No. 4: On a 23-yard completion to Muhsin Muhammad, Rex Grossman of
the Bears play-faked left, then play-faked right, then threw. You don't often see two play-fakes on
the same down. But was this pass-wacky unit really the Chicago Bears? At one point in the game,
the Bears' coaches had called 26 passes versus eight rushes.
Sweet 'N' Sour Player of the Week: Grossman was the epitome of Sweet 'N' Sour. His touchdown
pass won the game as the clock ticked toward all-naughts. But on the first snap of the fourth quarter,
the Ming Ding Xiong ("Bears whose outcomes are decided by fate" in Chinese) having a first-and10 on their 12, Grossman sprinted 15 yards backward into his own end zone. About to be tackled,
he threw a nutty heave-ho that was intercepted by Minnesota and returned for a touchdown. Yes: He
threw an interception to avoid a safety!
Sour Play of the Week: A TMQ maxim holds that sometimes all a team needs to do is run the up
the middle for no gain, and everything will be fine. Leading 24-23, City of Tampa faced third-and-5
on its own 25 at the two-minute warning, with Carolina down to two timeouts. The Bucs' coaches
called a deep pass that clanged incomplete, politely stopping the clock for the Panthers -- who won
the game on a long field goal with seven seconds remaining. Had Tampa simply rushed up the
middle for no gain, grinding the clock, Carolina likely would have run out of time.
Sour Play of the Week No. 2: Already down 14-0 in the first quarter, Jersey/A had Seattle with
first-and-goal on the Giants' 4. Darrell Jackson lined up slot-left; a Seattle receiver went in motion
left, beyond Jackson; Shaun Alexander ran a flare left; all the Giants' defenders on that side ignored
Jackson as he ran a simple turn-in for the touchdown that made it 20-0. Throughout the game,
Jersey/A's pass defense seemed flummoxed that Seattle, which last season almost always had either
a fullback or tight end on the field, was showing four wide receivers -- though four-receiver sets are
now commonplace even in high school. And do you think the Blue Men Group, defending NFC
champions yet shafted by the league out of a prime time appearance in the season's first month,
were jacked up to at least be on national television?
Sour Play of the Week No. 3: Trailing 14-0, Houston had Washington facing a second-and-6 on
the Moo Cows' 30 with nine seconds remaining in the first half. The Redskins' coaches called a
draw to improve their field-goal position. The Houston defense allowed Clinton Portis to run 30
yards untouched for the touchdown.
Sour Play of the Week No. 4: The Browns led the Ravens 14-12 with 3:28 remaining and had
second-and-goal on the Baltimore 4. Run twice and the icing touchdown is likely; if stuffed, take a
field goal for a five-point lead at about the two-minute warning. Instead the Browns' coaches call a
pass. Charlie Frye heave-hoes -- Aaaaaiiiiiiiyyyyyyeeeee! I can't look! Sometimes the best play a
quarterback can make is zinging the ball out of bounds. Had Frye simply zung this one out of
bounds, Cleveland likely would have won.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback In the News: Reader Joe Abraham of New York City reports he
attended, at NYU Law School, a colloquium featuring Paul Clement, Solicitor General of the
United States. During his talk, the Solicitor General of the United States referred to hindsight as
"Tuesday morning quarterbacking." Surely Clement spoke in capital letters and said "Tuesday
Morning Quarterbacking."
Tuesday Morning Quarterback In the News No. 2: Last week Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google,
called my book "The Progress Paradox" "a book you must read" because it "tells the truth about
how the United States really is today." That's pretty exciting. Details are here.
Google CEO Has Good Taste in Literature: "The Progress Paradox" first argues that nearly every
aspect of Western life is improving, then speculates about why "life gets better but people feel
worse." A recent study by researchers including Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Prize winner, and Alan
Kruger, one of the leading names in behavioral economics, adds new detail on that question. The
study found that the well-off are no happier than others; that as income rises, so does tension and
anger; that "people exaggerate the contribution of income to happiness."
Kahneman, Krueger and their collaborators also offer a vital insight -- that happiness comes from
choosing time over money, but most Americans choose money over time. "Leisure is better for
happiness than increased income," they argue, supposing that time spent in travel, having new
experiences, relaxing, hiking, reading, or simply looking up at the stars is more important to our
sense of well-being than a new car or impressive house. Unless you are in a bad financial situation,
Kahneman and Krueger recommend you spend less time working, accept somewhat lower income,
and use your freed hours to experience life. Barbara Bush memorably said that no one on his or her
deathbed has ever regretted not staying later at the office, while many regret failing to spend more
time with family and friends.
I'll add another suggestion on why time is more important to happiness than money: Because time is
far more precious. Money that has been used up can be replaced; you can always get at least some
additional money, and in principle can get huge amounts of additional money. Your time on Earth,
on the other hand, is limited and irreplaceable. You might add somewhat to your time on Earth by
taking care of your health -- and that's an excellent idea, but there are no guarantees you won't be hit
by a bus anyway. We all must surrender some of our time for work to acquire income. But those
who obsessively chase maximum material possessions give up something precious and fleeting,
namely time, in order to acquire something that cannot make them happy, namely money.
Favre Moratorium Call Renewed: It's good that the storied Green Bay Packers have a W. But
midway through their game this Sunday, after completing a routine pass for a first down, Brett
Favre jumped into the air and began pumping his fists as if he'd just won the Super Bowl. A year
ago, Tuesday Morning Quarterback proposed a moratorium on press coverage of Favre, who's a
first-ballot Hall of Famer but at this point ridiculously over-emphasized by the sports media. Any
other player who jumped into the air and celebrated wildly after a routine completion would be
mocked. The standards that apply to everyone else should also apply to Favre.
Stop Me Before -- Hey, It Worked! Both J.P. Losman fumbles, the decisive downs of the BuffaloJersey/B collision, came during six-man Jets blitzes. Then again, Rex Grossman's game-winning
late touchdown pass at Minnesota came against the six-blitz.
Next One Will Have Seven Jewel-Encrusted Platinum Blades Forged In by Elves Beneath a
Fog-Shrouded Mountain: First there were two-bladed razors, then three, then four-bladed, then the
new Gillette razor with five blades in front and one in back. Now Schick has upped the ante further
with a razor with four titanium blades. Disposable titanium -- only in America!
We're All Professionals Here: Leading 16-14 at the 2:03 mark of the fourth quarter, St. Louis had
first-and-10 on its own 34, and Arizona down to one timeout. Running up the middle three times
probably ices the game. Instead Les Mouflons try to -- well, your guess is as good as mine about
what they were trying to do, but the result was a fumble recovered by the Cardinals. Now it's two
snaps later, Arizona has first-and-10 on the Rams' 18 with 1:46 remaining and St. Louis is out of
timeouts. The Cards are in position for a short field goal to win the game. Instead the Cardinals try
to -- well, your guess is as good as mine about what they were trying to do, but the result was a
fumble recovered by the Rams. Game over.
Forget Pro Wrestling, Give Me the Babes of Norwegian Curling: Curling has always struck
TMQ as a sedentary activity for senior citizens or Canadians, and there may be only a technical
difference between those categories. Reader J. K. Hoversholm of Bergen, Norway, reports that
Norwegian curling matches have begun to feature scantily clad, tall, blonde curling babes who rival
the recent U.S. Open ballgirls. Here, in Norwegian, is an advert for a curling-babe pinup calendar.
Proceeds go to charity!
Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk: Jacksonville trailed Indianapolis 14-7 at the end of the third quarter,
and faced fourth-and-1 on the Colts' 31. Jack Del Rio sent out the place-kicker for a 48-yard
attempt. But Josh Scobee had already missed from 24, and Scobee is not a distance kicker, going
into the game having hit only 11-of-19 from the 40 to 49. Plus in this circumstance, if Jax goes for
the first down and misses, the Colts get the ball on the 31 or so; a field goal miss gives the ball to
Indianapolis on the 38. The kick failed, and TMQ wrote the words "game over" in his notebook.
Miss Rogue, Your CT Scan Is Back. Would You Have Any Idea What This Internal Organ
Is? I want to know what kind of vitamins Magneto takes! They must be good vitamins because his
powers increase movie-by-movie. In the first "X-Men" flick, Magneto could control ferrous metals
within about 100 feet. Captured at the movie's end, he was imprisoned in a plastic cell reached by a
100-foot plastic bridge; the guards in the watch-room beyond the bridge were using metal, but
Magneto's powers did not reach that far. In the second X flick, Magneto was able to snatch the
crippled, plummeting X Jet out of the air and save it; the plane started decelerating hundreds of feet
above the ground, indicating Magneto has increased his range. In the third movie, this summer's
"The Last Stand," Magneto was able to levitate the entire 4,200-foot main span of the Golden Gate
Bridge. Set aside what the main span of the Golden Gate Bridge must weigh -- it's nearly a mile
long, meaning Magneto can project his power a much greater distance than previously. You can
check the Golden Gate Bridge's live webcam to see if any mutant armies are crossing.
The X-Men movies have been the most entertaining Hollywood superhero stuff in years. In order to
rationalize another sequel, I will even swallow everyone coming back to life, though coming-backto-life is sci-fi's worst cliché. Obviously X III sets up Professor Xavier coming back to life. My
guess is everyone comes back. Immediately after the movie my 11-year-old, Spenser, pointed out
Logan never found Scott's body, just his glasses, while if Jean Grey is more powerful than Professor
X and the Prof. could teleport his consciousness an instant before physical death, why couldn't Jean
teleport hers too? The Last Stand was the abbreviated title for movie posters. The full title was
Don't Worry News Corporation Shareholders, There Is No Way This Actually Is the Last Stand.
Of course, one must suspend disbelief when it comes to superheroes. But what TMQ always
wonders about X-Men, Superman, the Flash and the rest is: Where are the body organs that support
their powers? I'm willing to believe a superhero can fly, but where is the organ that provides
propulsion? Supposedly Earth's yellow star activated in Kal-El powers that he would not have had
under the red sun of Krypton. But still, some internal organ must produce the energy for his heat
vision and the thrust for his flying and so on. In "Superman Returns," Supe can even fly faster than
light, a power he lacked in the comics; apparently some organ too small to even bulge under his
skin propels him to warp speed. Really, there must be some physical point of origin for a
superhero's power. Storm must have a body organ that projects force fields that control weather.
Iceman must have a body organ that can reduce temperature very rapidly, plus shed heat so Bobby
doesn't boil. Where in their physiques are these organs?
Beyond that, the X-Men premise defies scientific thinking about natural selection, which holds that
new organs develop very slowly across hundreds of generations. Assume some body organ can
allow Shadowcat to walk through walls or Colossus to change his skin to steel: it's unimaginable
such an organ could arise de novo in a single mutation. Many generations of relatively minor
mutations would be required before a novel body organ could come into full functionality.
Biologists from Richard Goldschmidt of the early 20th century to Stephen Jay Gould of the late
20th have speculated there is an as-yet-undiscovered natural mechanism that enables accelerated
evolution. Otherwise it's hard to imagine how creatures lived through long chains of generations
with still-evolving incomplete organs, since incomplete organs should be a fitness disadvantage and
thus render their possessors less likely to reproduce. Unless the X-Men are an argument for
intelligent design! The intelligent-design crowd believes natural selection can produce minor
alterations in existing forms but cannot produce new organs or new species; a higher intellect
controls that. The sudden, drastic evolutionary jumps depicted in the X-Men movies and comics
sure feel like intelligent design. In fact one of the most interesting X-Men, Nightcrawler, asserts that
the very rapid evolution he and his friends experience could not occur naturally and must be the
result of God intervening for reasons not yet known.
Left unresolved by X III is whether Mystique, played by the scrumptious Rebecca Romijn, was
nude. In her blue mutant form, Mystique seemed to be wearing a blue thong bikini. But when
Romijn lost her powers, her blue skin turned the Caucasian shade and she collapsed to the ground
naked. Did her bikini lose its powers too? In another scene, Wolverine's shirt was torn by projectiles
that ripped his flesh. His miraculous powers healed the flesh _ and when we saw Logan an instant
later, his shirt looked brand new. Was he wearing a jerkin of self-healing wool made from mutant
sheep?
Shaun Alexander Untouched Touchdown Run of the Week: Last season, Alexander had 15
untouched touchdown runs. On Sunday, Alexander went up the middle for a touchdown and was not
touched until after he scored.
This Fulfills My Obligation to Say Something About the Dolphins-Titans Game: Miami trailing
the Flaming Thumbtacks 7-3 in the third quarter, the Dolphins reached first-and-goal. Miami
coaches sent Jason Taylor in as a tight end. Taylor never got the ball, but his presence seemed to
discombobulate the Tennessee defense; Daunte Culpepper scrambled for a touchdown.
Hidden Plays: Hidden plays are ones that never make highlight reels, but stop or sustain drives.
With Cincinnati and Pittsburgh tied at 7, the Steelers faced third-and-8 on the Bengals' 23. Robert
Geathers sacked Ben Roethlisberger back to the 30, making the field-goal attempt a dicey
proposition in gusting winds. Kick no good, and the missed three points would come back to haunt
Pittsburgh in the second half of its loss.
We're Up by 21? Let's Pass! From the point at which it was Philadelphia 24, San Francisco 3,
through the remainder of the game, Eagles' coaches called 10 passes and eight rushes. The game ran
long, three hours and 22 minutes, in part because the Squared Sevens, way behind, kept throwing
incomplete passes in the fourth quarter and stopping the clock while the Eagles, way ahead, kept
throwing incomplete passes in the fourth quarter and stopping the clock.
This Fulfills My Obligation to Say Something About the Bills-Jets Game: Buffalo compiled 200
yards more offense than Jersey/B but committed three turnovers and missed three fourth-down
conversions, a missed fourth-down being equivalent to a blocked kick; the Jets committed no
turnovers and converted their only fourth-down try. The Bills had drives that reached the opponent's
1, 18, 19, 28 and 35, yet netted just two field goals.
Cheerleader Professionalism Watch: In the cheer context, "professionalism" means skin or at
least skin tight: cheerleaders who are scantily attired increase their team's odds of victory. Robert
Betlinski of New Haven, Conn., was among many readers to note that although kickoff temperature
for the Broncos-at-Patriots date was a cozy 68 degrees F (20.16 C), the New England cheer-babes
came out dressed in COATS. Needless to say, New England was defeated. Phil Kerlee of Los
Gatos, Calif., notes that for the first half of the Giants-at-Seahawks contest, the Sea Gals sported
their pleasingly revealing new "hello, sailor" outfits. Seattle led 35-3 at intermission. For the second
half, Seattle cheerleaders switched to "the kind of jogging sweats your grandmother wears," Kerlee
reports. In that half, the Giants outscored Seattle 27-7.
All This Assumes Satan Is At Least 35 Years of Age and Was Born in the United States: Last
week Jerry Falwell said fundamentalists would work harder to defeat a Hillary Clinton presidential
candidacy than if Lucifer were running for president. On an exclusive basis, TMQ has obtained this
transcript of a recent K Street meeting between Satan and his campaign consultant.
CONSULTANT: Let's go over these focus-group results. First there's the name thing. Voters like
casual -- Bill Clinton, Bob Dole. "Satan" sounds kind of stiff and formal. Do you have a first name?
SATAN: I have many names. Abaddon, Ahriman, Apollyon, Asmodeus, Azazel...
CONSULTANT: Gotta be informal.
SATAN: My friends call me Steve.
CONSULTANT: Steve Satan. That's great, sounds like the guy next door. Now let's be honest, you
have negatives. For example, you want everyone to suffer horribly for all eternity. How am I
supposed to sell that to voters?
SATAN: We've made a lot of changes in hell -- now we're customer-conscious. If you're willing to
sell your soul, we pledge to have the demon there with the contract that day or your first month in
hell is pain-free. Plus we've got a mission statement and a philosophy of Total Quality Torment.
CONSULTANT: Now your position on the issues. Iraq war?
SATAN: Strongly in favor.
CONSULTANT: Universal health care insurance?
SATAN: Strongly opposed.
CONSULTANT: Immigration?
SATAN: Let 'em die in the desert.
CONSULTANT: United Nations?
SATAN: Don't mention that I run it.
CONSULTANT: Education reform?
SATAN: Everyone should learn Latin. I hate it when people come to hell and don't even speak our
language.
CONSULTANT: The television coach will be here in a minute to work with you. We need to
eliminate the hissing.
SATAN: Sorry. I do that when I'm nervous. Guess I shouldn't have quit smoking!
CONSULTANT: Fund-raising is going well. I hope you don't object to taking money from Persian
Gulf oil sheiks.
SATAN: Of course not. But do you have any qualms about working for me?
CONSULTANT: Qualms! I'm a political consultant.
Matt Millen Incompetence Update: Keep your eye on speed receiver David Kircus of Denver,
who had two nice catches against New England. Kircus spent his first three seasons at Detroit but
barely got on the field for the Lions. Detroit was obsessed with its multiple first-round, big-school
receivers and ignored this low-drafted gent from Grand Valley State. Don't be surprised if Kircus
turns out better than wide receivers the Lions have recently blown high first-round choices on.
Single Worst Play of the 2006 Season So Far: Trailing 24-3, the Niners had third-and-goal on the
Eagles' 1. Frank Gore fumbled and Nesharim defensive tackle Mike Patterson returned the rock 98
yards, effectively ending the game. The bad thing about this play was not that instead of making it
24-10, San Francisco trailed 31-3. The bad thing was not that Patterson, who's heavyset, huffed and
puffed and had to jog the final 30 yards. The bad thing was not that sportscasters thought it was
funny that a highly paid professional athlete is too heavy to sprint 100 yards, rather than asking
what message about fitness and healthy diet this sends to the young. The reason this was the Single
Worst Play of the 2006 Season So Far was that the Niners failed to chase Patterson down. Watch
the replay; Alex Smith is the sole red jersey visible. Vernon Davis and Gore were hurt on the play
and couldn't run, but that still leaves a Ticonderoga-class defensive tackle plodding the length of the
field and eight of 11 Niners not catching him. According to the Game Book, this play lasted 21
seconds, allowing plenty of time to catch Patterson. San Francisco 49ers, you have committed the
Single Worst Play of the 2006 Season So Far.
Plus Houston Is Last in Total Defense. The Williams Pick Is Really Looking Good: On
Washington's first touchdown, a sweep left by Ladell Betts, first overall draft pick Mario Williams,
playing right end for Houston, was blocked out of the play and practically off the screen by Mike
Sellers, a reserve tight end. On Washington's second touchdown, a flare pass left to Antwaan
Randle El, Williams was again at right end and again blocked out of the play and practically off the
screen.
Please, Announcers, Learn the Distinction Between an End-Around and a Reverse: Watching
a highlight of receiver Marty Booker of Miami running against Tennessee, novice sportscaster
Jerome Bettis exclaimed, "Reverse!" It was an end-around, not a reverse: Daunte Culpepper faked
up the middle, then handed off to Booker coming around. The ball never changed direction.
Announcers, here's the easy way to tell if it's a reverse: count handoffs. An end-around requires one
handoff. A reverse requires two handoffs, one to make the ball go in Direction A, another to make it
go in Direction B. The very rare double reverse requires three handoffs, so the ball ends up going
back in Direction A.
Last night my TMQ e-mail box got more than 400 messages from people watching "Monday Night
Football," as the United States Saints ran a reverse and the MNF crew called it a double reverse.
Drew Brees faked up the middle, then handed to Reggie Bush running left; Bush handed to Devery
Henderson running right for the touchdown. That's one change of direction (Bush handing to
Henderson), making it a reverse. Count the handoffs: two handoffs mean the play is a reverse. For
the play to have been a double reverse, a third handoff would have been needed, from Henderson to
someone running left, Bush's original direction. Danny Chamberlin of Memphis, Tennessee was
among many readers to point out that Mike Tirico and Tony Kornheiser erroneously described the
play as a "double reverse," while former quarterback Joe Theismann correctly described it as a
"reverse." Mike and Tony, you're not alone. Adele Stannard of Springfield, Ore., noted that even the
official Game Book erroneously describes the play thusly: "Double-reverse handoff Brees, D. to
Bush, R. to Henderson, D." Hey official Game Book, that's two handoffs and thus cannot be a
double reverse! See the entry at 3:04 of the first quarter.
Maybe the Seattle Cheerleaders Outfits Explain All This: The Seahawks certainly made a
statement against the Giants, yet coaching decisions on both sides were puzzling. Seattle leading
35-0 with three seconds remaining in the first half, Jersey/A on the Hawks' 28, Tom Coughlin
ordered a field goal. Sure a 28-yard touchdown play is unlikely, but haven't you seen a lot of
touchdowns that long or longer? By kicking, Coughlin ran up the white flag. The Giants might as
well have left and gotten blueberry-almond martinis with crumpets. (Note: Seattle insider
reference.) With the halftime margin 35-3, to prevail in the second half the Giants would have
needed to match the greatest comeback in pro football history, and that greatest-ever comeback was
by a home team. Jersey/A was the visitor; scoring a touchdown before halftime was, in practical
terms, the Giants' last hope. Coughlin seemed to be motivated by avoiding a goose-egg, so that
when his performance review comes up at the end of the season, one of the strikes against him will
not be, "You got shut out in Seattle." But coaches are not supposed to be maximizing their career
prospects, they should try everything possible to win. When Jeremy Shockey said the Giants were
"outcoached," this is one of the decisions he was referring to, and Shockey is right.
On the other side of the ball, it's Blue Men Group 42, G-Persons 10 with 9:53 in the fourth quarter.
What in heck is Matt Hasselbeck doing on the field? Why in heck are the Seahawks still passing?
Hasselbeck tosses an interception, the Giants score quickly; Hasselbeck trots back out onto the field
and throws another interception the Giants return for a touchdown. Suddenly it's Hawks 42, Giants
24 and now a prudent coach leaves the starters in. Starting on its first snap of the fourth quarter, had
Seattle done nothing but rush up the middle for no gain, Jersey/A's semi-comeback would not have
happened, and Seattle's starters could have taken seats.
No Wonder Hedge Funds Are Secretive -- They Don't Want You to Know Their Actual
Returns: Last week Amaranth Advisors, a hedge fund that had been boasting of spectacular 25
percent returns, admitted it lost $6 billion of investors' money in high-risk trading. Tuesday
Morning Quarterback has done several items in recent years on the amusing fact that hedge funds,
the trendy investment vehicle of the rich -- hedge funds generally require a $1 million minimum
account, and because of that are exempt from many Securities and Exchange Commission
regulations intended to protect average investors -- often produce returns no better than the plainJane mutual funds anyone can join. Recently Jonathan Clements of the Wall Street Journal, who's
become a first-rate columnist on finance, noted that hedge fund managers typically claim to have
realized a 16.5 percent annual return in the past decade, besting the 11.6 percent return of the
Standard & Poor's 500 on which the most common class of mutual funds is based. But Clements
shows the hedge fund claims have been doctored, Enron-style, by doubling-counting successful
investments while not recording losses. Adjust for this, according to calculations by Roger Ibbotson
and Peng Chen of a leading capital analysis firm, and hedge funds returned 9 percent annually in the
last decade. That is, the snazzy hedge funds of the rich finished behind S&P mutual funds. And
hedge funds crash; plain-Jane mutual funds may decline in value if the market declines, but almost
never simply lose their investors' capital. Hey millionaires, just call the 800 numbers of Fidelity, T.
Rowe Price or any reputable public investment firm. You'll get a better deal.
NFL in Iran Update: Wow look at those headliner games Sunday -- Cincinnati at Pittsburgh,
Jacksonville at Indianapolis. CBS had the rights to both, and both turned out to be dazzling contests.
Which game did CBS show in Washington, D.C., where TMQ lurks? Neither. CBS showed our
nation's capital Baltimore at Cleveland, such a woofer that my dog barked when I turned the
television on. (Because CBS and Fox alternate doubleheader weekends, CBS had the contractual
right to air one game this Sunday; in Washington the network exercised its right in the late slot, as
Baltimore at Cleveland started late.) One of TMQ's core complaints about the NFL is that the league
spares no expense to produce fabulous games, and then makes it impossible for much of the country
to watch the fabulous games, owing to that monopoly that makes it impossible for millions to
purchase NFL Sunday Ticket, and to programming choices by local network affiliates. If only I
lived in Iran! No one in Washington, D.C., saw the Steelers-Bengals playoff rematch. But Tehran
saw this contest, as Middle East TV beamed the game to Iran, kicking off at 8 p.m. Tehran time.
Take Him Out! Take Him Out! That's what TMQ and my 11-year-old, Spenser, began to chant
when Mark Brunell was 22-of-22, Washington leading 28-7 in the fourth quarter against the hapless
Texans. Take him out so he finishes with a perfect game! Naturally, Brunell's next pass attempt
clanged incomplete.
Obscure College Score of the Week: Kansas Wesleyan 3, University of Saint Mary 0. There were
18 total first downs and 17 total punts. Located at three campuses in Kansas, the University of Saint
Mary boasts it is "consistently included in the U.S. News and World Report's "Error! Hyperlink
reference not valid." edition." That's like me saying, "My writing is consistently compared to that
of Carlos Fuentes." ("Year in, year out, Easterbrook is nothing like Fuentes.") University of Saint
Mary is "included" in the current U.S. News ranking: You'd just rather not know where.
Obscure College Score of the Week No. 2: Adams State 34, New Mexico Highlands 17. Located
amidst glorious mountain scenery in Alamosa, Colo., the student center at Adams State rents rockclimbing shoes for $30 per semester or $3 per use. Regrettably the cheerleaders are the Spirit
Squad, not the Eves.
"Gimme a Pi! Gimme an Avogadro's Number! Gimme a Scalar Boson!" Last week TMQ
marveled that not only does MIT have a football team, the team has a 6-foot-5, 268-pound tight end.
Now reader David Bone of Dickson, Tenn., reports that MIT even has cheerleaders. Attractive,
athletic women at MIT? This must be an Admissions Office screw-up.
TMQ Immutable Laws in College: Leading 13-7, the woebegone University of Colorado was
within 46 seconds of a monster upset of ninth-ranked Georgia, which faced third-and-5 on the
Colorado 20. It's a seven-man blitz, and you know without having to be told who won the game.
TMQ also asks, in desperation situations, Where, oh where, might the pass go? Maybe up the field!
Leading 15-10, Boston College had North Carolina State down to 21 ticks of the clock, ball on the
B.C. 34. Where, oh where, might the pass go? Yet John Dunlap was able to get behind the Eagles'
defense in the corner of the end zone for the winning touchdown; he was singled deep with nary a
safety in sight. There were 21 seconds left, N.C. State had to get a touchdown, why didn't Boston
College have half its defenders standing in the end zone?
Running Up the Score Watch: Many readers, including Seth Mundorff of Pittsburgh, noted that
Bridgeport Central High beat Bassick High by 56-0, setting up the first test case of the new
Connecticut regulation that sanctions coaches whose teams win by more than 50. Bridgeport coach
Dave Cadelina filed an appeal and was not suspended. Cadelina argued that he could have avoided
trouble by ordering his players to stand aside and let Bassick run the length of the field to score on
the game's final play; and if an absurd act satisfies a rule, then the rule must be absurd. That's pretty
solid logic. The 50-point restriction was designed to stop one bad-egg Connecticut coach who
routinely tried to humiliate opponents with huge victory margins, but only a small number of
coaches are such poor sports. Connecticut should switch to the "running clock" rule used by many
states, and recommended by the National Federation of High Schools. It's used in Maryland, my
state _ whenever a team leads by 35 or more in the second half, the clock does not stop for
incompletions, penalties or ball out of bounds. The result is that winning margins of greater than 40
points are rare in states that use this system. The running clock allows the better team to produce
proof of its superiority, plus to play its second- and third-string, without ridiculous final tallies that
suggest bad sportsmanship. Connecticut, switch to this rule.
New England Gang of 11 to Meet Seattle Bourgeois Reactionaries: The Patriots-Seahawks 2007
preseason game in Beijing, announced over the weekend, will be played in Workers Stadium.
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at
[email protected] Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I may
quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Note: giving your hometown improves your
odds of being quoted.
Next Week: The Archangel Gabriel files for the New Hampshire primary, refuses to tell reporters
whether he really has 600 wings.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
TMQ Nation fires back
By Gregg Easterbrook
Jared Weissbrot of Baltimore writes, "Faithfully read the column, wish I could read from a
printable version. Coworkers always seem to walk in when the cheerleaders are in view." Ben
Brewer of Boston says, "I print your columns out and read them on my commute home. I start
reading the moment I sit down on the train and usually I'm finishing when the train pulls into my
station." Hmmm … sounds like a 45-minute train ride. Dan Lennander of Ames, Iowa adds, "In
previous years you provided a link to a version of TMQ that was just text. Now I need to copy and
paste into a Word document and delete unwanted pictures so I can enjoy TMQ without the crazy
yellow background that gives me a headache." Readers, your wish is my command. Scan to the
bottom of the column and select PRINT. From there, either print the column complete with
cheerleader swimsuit photos that are certain someday to be displayed prominently in the
Smithsonian -- the "Tuesday Morning Quarterback Collection," ah yes, I can see it now -- or select
PRINT WITHOUT IMAGES. The latter button allows printing of a text-only version suitable for
reading during important meetings. Also, if you want Tuesday Morning Quarterback on your screen
at the office without arousing suspicion, go to the PRINT WITHOUT IMAGES option and simply
read that.
Malan Blum of Calgary, Alberta asks of the X-Men, "If Professor Xavier's abilities are produced
by mutated genes and he teleported his consciousness into another person's body, how could he
retain his powers?" Malan, I am sure your question will not be answered in the next sequel. The
next sequel is apparently going to be mainly about Wolverine in any case. Maybe about his
sensitive side.
Chuck Clark of Columbus, Ohio writes of my never-punt concept, "I believe we only have to wait
until a coach from the Madden Generation is hired by a college or professional team before we will
see one who never punts. I don't know anyone who has played the Madden series of video games
who hasn't tried to play without punting. I think it is only a matter of time before someone tries this
on a real field." Steve Kline, Jr. writes, "One thing you didn't mention in your analysis of not
punting is that the team that never punted would have more available plays to run on third down.
We all know how pass-wacky coaches are on third down, even third and short. But, if a coach knew
that he was almost always going for it on fourth down, many more running plays would become an
option on third and five, even third and long. This would make third down harder to defense as
teams could not assume the offense was going to pass."
Raul Ortega of Nelson Township, Mich. adds, "Imagine how much less predictable NFL
playcalling would be if plays were called with the understanding that there are four chances to get
10 yards, rather than three." Kyle Scribner of Nashua, N.H. offers, "The always-going-for-it-onfourth-if-under-5-yards-needed theory appears to make mathematical sense under current
conditions. The key, I think, is in what goes unstated in your article, that is, that 'the average NFL
play gains five yards' occurs within the traditional football atmosphere. Never punting is not the
traditional football atmosphere and average gain of plays conducted within the suggested new nonpunting atmosphere might be less than five yards. I bet that the more widespread going for it on
fourth down were to become, the more that four-yards-or-under rule would shrink, as average gain
per play declined."
Tuesday Morning Quarterback lamented that the fabulous Steelers-Bengals contest, a playoff
rematch and the obvious marquee game of the early Sunday slot, was shown in the capital of Iran
but not the capital of the United States. (Washington, D.C. saw Baltimore at Cleveland. Woof woof!
Here boy!) Michael Manning of Portland, Ore. writes from Seoul that he watched the SteelersBengals game live on South Korean television. Manning adds, "That I was able to see this game
while TMQ could not is a total joke." Not to me!
Rob Eisler of Regina, Saskatchewan was among many frostback readers to note, "The
Saskatchewan Roughriders versus British Columbia Lions game went into overtime. In CFL
overtime teams alternate possessions, as in United States college games, but unlike in the United
States, in the CFL a punt kicked through the end zone scores a single point. The Roughriders had
the first possession, which ended on a missed field goal. That meant on B.C.'s possession, one point
would win the game. The Lions had the wind at their backs and the coach called a punt on first
down to try for the single. Even the curling-loving Canadian football gods would not put up with
such a thing. The punter shanked it, the kick was returned out of the end zone, and the Riders won
in the second overtime." Rob, there's a lesson here. The lesson is that this is the sort of thing that
happens when a football team is named the "Lions."
Bryce Christensen of Salt Lake City wrote, "Isn't it possible to have a reverse with a single
handoff, or a double-reverse with only two exchanges, if the play initially looks like a quarterback
sweep? Especially if the QB has a reputation as a runner and sells the keeper reasonably well?"
Many readers including Alicia Krupen of Keuka, N.Y. noted that when Donovan McNabb was at
Syracuse, he often ran a sprint-out one way with a flip handoff to a receiver going the other way,
which could qualify as a true reverse because the ball changed direction, even though there was
only one handoff.
On why rising income does not cause rising happiness, Ramesses Surban of San Diego reminds us
of the 1998 Notorious B.I.G. song "Mo Money, Mo Problems," which contains this couplet: "It's
like the more money we come across/The more problems we see."
Michael Thiede of Maple Grove, Minn. notes that the "Briscoe High School" team in the Nike
commercial has Michael Vick, Brian Urlacher and LaDainian Tomlinson, yet trails 14-10 with 10
seconds to play. He asks, "How on God's green earth is this team getting beat?" TMQ adds -especially since the team has the adult versions of these players, not their teen selves. The
commercial asks you to believe that a team with several Pro Bowl players in their primes would
need an improbable last-second Hail Mary to defeat high schoolers. It's video nonsense of course,
but nonsense of a high order. And Tuesday Morning Quarterback wonders about those NFL stars,
plus Don Shula -- did they actually meet at a high school to film the commercial, or is the entire
thing computer-generated with faces digitally imposed? If any reader knows, please advise.
Last Feb. 18, gamma radiation from a distant supernova that exploded 470 million years ago
reached Earth. Had the explosion occurred in our galaxy, the radiation would have been many
orders of magnitude stronger. I opined that had the supernova been within the Milky Way, "Life on
Earth would have ended February 18th." Dave Maloney of Candia, N.H. counters, "Had the
explosion happened in our galaxy, it would not have been so far away. So life on Earth would have
ended 470 million years ago."
Travis Rathert of Vancouver, British Columbia notes something that struck your columnist too.
In the new Superman movie, when Supe in the last reel finally figures out something TOTALLY
OBVIOUS, that Lois Lane's little boy is his son, he slips into the sleeping child's room and says,
"The son becomes the father and the father becomes the son." This, Rathert asserts, is
incomprehensible gibberish regardless of your planet of origin. On other Hollywood points that
make no sense, Thomas Lamme of Houston adds, "In 'Batman Begins,' the final story line hinges
on the Caped Crusader's ability to stop a machine that is vaporizing Gotham City's water supply by
disrupting the molecular structure of water. Yet all the people around, who are 60 percent water, are
unaffected by the sinister machine. How did this story line make it through an entire production of
the movie without somebody asking the obvious question?" Superhero note: TMQ recommends the
fun new book "Up, Up and Oy Vey" by Simcha Weinstein, which speculates on the religious beliefs
of comic book characters.
TMQ noted that in the Stargate shows, the Air Force has built four enormous faster-than-light
starships using plans supplied by friendly aliens. I scoffed that this was impossible from a financial
standpoint: "Hundreds of billions of dollars would be involved, and not even Congress could lose
track of that much money." Tom Hitchcock of Costa Mesa, Calif. counters, "It has been shown
that our government can lose hundreds of billions of dollars." He points out that at this 2001 press
conference, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the Pentagon could not account for $2.3
trillion in past spending. One recent Department of Defense internal auditor's report said $1.1
trillion in expenses were "unsupported or improper." They can't even agree on how many trillions
they've lost -- but trust them, they're the experts? Hitchcock asserts that the Pentagon has lost or
hidden more than enough to finance a crash program of starcruiser construction.
On the running-up-the-score front, Danny Lawhon of Saint Joseph, Mo. notes that two weeks
after beating Lincoln 78-0, Central Missouri State University lost 14-10 to Washburn. That same
weekend Pittsburg of Kansas, which had beaten Panhandle State 87-0, lost 48-35 to Missouri
Western. The football gods grind slow, but they grind exceedingly small. Bully teams that run up
the score on weak opponents not only are engaging in poor sportsmanship; they are setting
themselves up for a fall when they meet an equal opponent.
TMQ wondered if two bolts, recently let go by astronauts during spacewalks, may someday pose
deadly hazards to starships, since at extreme speeds collisions with even tiny amounts of matter can
cause huge detonations. Many readers including Chelsea Ravenwood of San Francisco countered
that two bolts are hardly the only problem: There are an estimated 9,000 pieces of space junk
orbiting Earth, much dating to Moon-race days. By the time the first starcruiser makes the first jump
to quadraspace, the junk should be gone, says Erin Weaver of Champaign, Ill. Objects in lowEarth orbit gradually lose speed and fall back into the atmosphere -- the space station occasionally
fires small rockets to prevent this. So presumably by the time quadradrive ships exist, all bolts,
fairings, shrouds and Tang containers will have burned up in the atmosphere on their own. Space
agencies are now working to avoid adding new junk to the debris.
Last week's column lauded Bucknell for doing that which so many universities pretend is out of the
question -- playing Division I sports and graduating athletes. Kevin Blackwell of Catonsville, Md.,
writes, "I am a former basketball player at Bucknell, and have been associated with the university
since 1981. My junior and senior years, we were 43-16 and had nine engineering majors on the
team. In my 25 years involved with Bucknell, we have graduated EVERY basketball player. I am
more proud of that than our victories over the last two seasons in the NCAA men's tournament. We
bring this up to every recruit -- 'Don't be the first one not to graduate' -- and it resonates."
Universities: If you take education seriously and set high expectations, competitors respond. If you
view education as a technicality and set expectations low, which is the case in most Division I
football and basketball programs, don't claim to be shocked by the results.
Finally I wrote, "Because the Raiders had a bye, it will be October before Oakland scores its first
touchdown of the 2006 season." Rachel Lovenheim of Milpitas, Calif. countered, "What makes
you so sure Oakland will score a touchdown in October?"
Monday, October 2, 2006
Updated: October 3, 2:16 PM ET
Marketing HS football's scary
By Gregg Easterbrook
A while back when I was writing for NFL.com -- I learned so much football hanging around NFL
guys that now I practically know what I'm talking about -- I asked a Powerful League Insider what
was next in football promotion. Without hesitation he answered, "High school." High school
football, he explained, was still pure. The pro version of the sport is excellent, but few can
empathize with millionaire players and owners who whine nonstop. The college version of the sport
just gets better and better, but cynicism just gets worse and worse about football-factory schools
where "student"-athletes major in Fitness Center Towel Service Management. By contrast, high
school football is untainted. There's almost no money involved. Boys who aren't super-ultra-gifted
can play, and girls now sometimes play. Plus far more people experience football either as players
or spectators at the high school level than in college or the pros -- it is estimated that about 225
million tickets were sold to high school football games in 2005, versus 17 million tickets for NFL
contests. The marketing of high school football, the Powerful League Insider told me, is the next
frontier.
Verily, he spoke sooth. Tonight is the debut of NBC's high school football series, "Friday Night
Lights," and the initial reviews are glowing. For sheer cinematography, Nike's Briscoe High football
commercial is the most impressive advertisement to run on television in years. MTV has a football
reality show about Hoover High in Alabama. Sports-equipment manufacturers have begun to
sponsor football programs at high-profile high schools; McDonald's recently sponsored a high
school football tournament. Enthusiasm for football is soaring even at academic prep schools -- last
Friday my teenagers' academics-oriented high school played its homecoming game before a record
crowd of 3,000 people. And ESPN is broadcasting a slate of high school football games this fall.
To a point, this is good. High school football is the most human-scale version of the country's most
popular sport, and attention ought to be paid. You can attend a high school game without vast
expense and hours of traffic jams and logistics. Your friends and neighbors are there. You can cheer
for the roughly 1 million boys and 1,000 girls who play high school football each year. I attend far
more high school football games than college or pro games, in part because I'd usually rather attend
a high school game, whether my kids' team is playing or not. There's something about the dusk sky
over a high school football stadium full of kids and their dreams. There's no finer sound than the
drums of the marching band echoing off the hill during a high school game. There's a glorious taste
of youth and promise to burgers that were grilled by the booster club and have been sitting in the
PTA steam tray for hours. And at high school games you don't pay for parking! In terms of offering
an accessible sports experience, high school football beats the pros and college handsdown. Plus
some of the games are really well played.
Yet shining the promotional spotlight on high
school football because it's pure might succeed in
ending the purity. Do we really need corporate
sponsors muscling into high school sports? Having
the local insurance broker or Italian restaurant buy a
banner for the stadium is one thing; having
multinationals descend is another. Corporate
sponsors and ESPN cameras crank up the pressure
on kids, adding excitement but subtracting
innocence. Their youth and innocence will be gone
soon enough. Why speed this up?
Hmm, wonder what the average GPA is for
the Briscoe High starting lineup?
National focus on high school football only makes
worse the underside of the subject, namely the hurt feelings of those who don't make the team.
Playing high school sports is a wonderful experience, bringing satisfaction and instilling in many
kids work habits and team awareness that will serve them well later in life. But except at small rural
high schools, only a minority can make the prestigious sports rosters. For every player on a high
school football team, there are 10 other students who were cut and still haven't gotten over it, or
through no fault of their own never had the size or athletic ability to try out in the first place.
Millions of high school kids resent the jocks with their embroidered varsity jackets and the
cheerleaders with their impressive squad sweaters. Millions receive a subtle and wholly unfair
message of inadequacy as the favored of the sports and cheerleading teams glide by in the halls. The
more the promotional spotlight shines on high school football, the worse the leftout are likely to
feel.
Then there are the skewed priorities brought on by the quest to win. Many high school players are
spending far too much time in the weight room as opposed to the library, and are too tempted to use
steroids and HGH to get big. Even high school players gaining weight naturally are asking for
future medical problems -- the 285-pound offensive lineman, once rare in the NFL, today is
common in high school. Parents are pressured to pay for private trainers and even high school
combines. As high school sports become win-at-all-costs, priorities go out the window.
School system priorities become skewed, too. In his new book "Air Ball," John Gerdy, a professor
at Ohio University, notes one reason so many high schools have shifted to pre-8 a.m. starting bells
is to allow plenty of after-school time, before darkness falls, for the football team to practice.
Studies consistently show high school boys and girls don't learn well in early-morning classes;
learning for the majority, Gerdy contends, is sacrificed to improve practice conditions for sports
teams. Budget priorities are skewed. "Air Ball" says that in New Jersey, high schools spend from 60
to 95 percent of their extracurricular-activity budgets on sports, despite only about a quarter of
students being on junior varsity or varsity teams. Skewed school priorities might afflict in other
ways. Here, Eli Saslow and Josh Barr of the Washington Post detail the case of a Maryland high
school football star who was arrested last spring for armed robbery. His principal wanted to expel
him; instead the school system moved him to a new high school and cleared him to play football,
which he's doing right now. A local judge agreed to postpone his trial until the week after the high
school football seasons ends, and gave him permission to leave the state to visit Ohio State, which is
said to be recruiting him. Of course, everyone is innocent until proven guilty, but the boy in this
case had a prior conviction for credit card theft. In the Post article, the boy complained on the
record about how the arrest spoiled his summer vacation and said of the armed-robbery charge, "If
this drags on … it might mess up getting to [college] and getting started with football." What kind
of message do high school systems send when an armed robbery charge means nothing if you're a
football star?
Now let's contemplate the Briscoe High commercial. It's
magnificently done, though TMQ wonders whether it was all filmed,
or were the faces of the football celebrities -- Matt Leinart, Troy
Polamalu, Don Shula, LaDainian Tomlinson, Michael Vick and
Brian Urlacher -- digitally inserted? Reader Stephen Peelor of
Culver City, Calif., says the backdrops were filmed at Roosevelt
High in Los Angeles, an usually large prep school with an
enrollment of 5,000. (The fictional Briscoe High's colors are red and
white; the real Roosevelt's are red, gold and blue.) The school name
is clever and thoughtful. Marlin Briscoe was the first AfricanAmerican quarterback in the modern NFL, though he ended up
spending most of his career at wide receiver, playing for Shula.
That's the real Marlin Briscoe standing next to Shula in the pregame
speech scene: he's the one with salt-and-pepper hair. The
commercial -- watch it here -- is a tremendously made mini-drama,
if implausible in football terms (see below).
At this rate there will soon
be an actual high school
named after Marlin Briscoe.
But what message does Nike's commercial send? The first thing we
see is Jimmy Johnson as a high school teacher with Vick, Tomlinson
and Urlacher in his class. None of them are paying attention. Johnson as teacher asks Urlacher as
student what happened when Napoleon invaded Russia. Urlacher has no idea, and everyone
snickers. It's OK to be stupid as long as you're a football star! The implicit anti-education message
sent by the Briscoe High commercial has drawn a flood of mail to the Tuesday Morning
Quarterback mailbox, including one from Wesley Brown of San Mateo, California, who wrote,
"This commercial presents education as a joke and football as all that matters. Nike should not be
putting corporate muscle behind mocking education." Does this commercial tell us Nike as a
specific company is indifferent to education, or that corporate America is about to ruin high school
football by commercializing it? My fear is the latter. The Briscoe High commercial concludes,
FOOTBALL IS EVERYTHING. It most assuredly is not! Football is at very best a minor aspect of
high school, even for the players. Please, corporate marketers, don't labor to confuse high school
educational priorities even more.
In other football news, a mere month of the NFL season has been played, yet already there are no
remaining possible pairings of undefeated teams. Baltimore, Chicago and Indianapolis are
undefeated, but not scheduled against each other. An undefeated Bears club could meet an
undefeated Colts or Ravens squad in the Super Bowl, but since no team has ever gone 16-0 in the
regular season, it seems unlikely two will perform that feat in the same season. Hope you enjoyed
the Seahawks at Bears game Sunday night -- it was the last game of the 2006 season to match
undefeated teams.
Stat of the Week No. 1: Baltimore and Chicago have outscored their opponents 202-62.
Stat of the Week No. 2: Oakland and Tennessee have been outscored 74-200.
Stat of the Week No. 3: From the fourth quarter of Week 3 to the fourth quarter of Week 4, NFC
defending champion Seattle was outscored 6-61.
Stat of the Week No. 4: Buffalo has allowed six of six fourth-down conversion attempts by
opponents.
Stat of the Week No. 5: Jacksonville had a scoring drive of minus-1 yard.
Stat of the Week No. 6: The Indianapolis Colts play their first six games in just two stadiums, the
RCA Dome and at the Meadowlands. Reader stat submitted by Ben Christen of Ashtabula, Ohio.
Stat of the Week No. 7: During a stretch of touchdown drives connected by a successful onside
kick, the Jets held the ball for 21 consecutive downs.
Stat of the Week No. 8: In two road games, San Francisco has given up 75 points.
Stat of the Week No. 9: In four games, Chicago has given up 29 points.
Stat of the Week No. 10: The Jets staged an 18-play, 79-yard drive that spanned 8 minutes, 11
seconds, but resulted in no points.
Cheerleader of the Week: Alan Kaufmann of McLean,
Va., nominates Cameron of the Charger Girls, whose
favorite quotation is from Leon Trotsky. You don't
bump into Trotsky-quoting cheer-babes every day. The
citation is, "In spite of everything, life is beautiful." If
only Trotsky had lived to see Cameron's swimsuit
calendar photo! According to her team bio, Cameron's
hobbies are running and "trophy trucks." What is a
trophy truck? Does that mean that after you've made it
big, you ditch the first truck that was with you during
the hard times and get a flashy, younger truck with a
great chassis?
We apologize for last week's
cheesecake-free TMQ by presenting
Favre Does Not Rage Against the Dying of His
the Trotsky-quoting
Light: "Imagine how Brett Favre would have reacted if Cameron,
cheerleader from the Chargers.
coaches sent in the punter on fourth-and-5 from the
opponent's 35! If Green Bay coaches did [that] to Favre, there would be a detonation so powerful it
would light up screens at the National Earthquake Information Center." So I wrote two years ago in
scorning a different veteran quarterback who trotted meekly off the field rather than insist on going
for it as, I assumed, Brett Favre always would. Yet exactly that happened last night on "Monday
Night Football." Trailing 10-9 in the third quarter, Green Bay faced fourth-and-4 on the
Philadelphia 35 -- precisely the situation in which I said Favre would never leave the field. Mike
McCarthy sent in the place-kicker, and Favre meekly trotted off. Forget the bad tactics by the
Packers' coach. When sent in last night, Dave Rayner, the Green Bay place-kicker, was 1-for-3 in
his career from beyond 50 yards, and a miss would hand Philadelphia possession at the 44. I
scarcely need mention that after Rayner missed, it took the Eagles just two snaps to streak the
length of the field for a 17-9 lead. I scarcely need mention that as Favre trotted off the field, TMQ
wrote the words "game over" in his notebook -- from the fourth-and-4 on the Philadelphia 35 on,
Green Bay collapsed, the Eagles winning 31-9. What was really striking about this play was how
meekly Favre trotted off. Favre in his prime -- a close game on Monday night, fourth-and-4 on the
opponents' 35, no way on Earth does Favre meekly yield to the kicking team. Last night he did just
that.
Cheer-babes professionalism note: Several times in this young season, cheerleaders of various clubs
have been scantily attired, yet their teams didn't win, calling into question the normal constant that
equates cheerleader undress with victory. But on a hot sunny afternoon in September, any amateur
can disrobe. It is when the weather begins to turn cool that cheerleader professionalism comes into
play and appeases the football gods. Monday night in Philadelphia, the kickoff temperature was 59
degrees and falling, yet the Eagles' cheer-babes came out in their summer outfits, which are barely
more than bikinis. Outstanding professionalism, and needless to say, the home team was rewarded
with victory.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 1: Trailing Jersey/B 21-17, Indianapolis faced a third-and-goal on the
Jets' 2. The Colts lined up with double tight ends; backup tight end Bryan Fletcher ran an "in" to the
center of the end zone. Jersey/B defenders doubled up on Marvin Harrison and Dallas Clark,
ignoring Fletcher, who had two receptions coming into the game. Peyton Manning sprinted in
reverse all the way to the 15 before heave-hoeing off his back foot to Fletcher for the touchdown.
Reaching the goal line and then throwing to the guy who never gets the ball is always sweet.
Cautionary note: Both Manning brothers love to heave-hoe off the back foot while fading backward,
but often this action means trouble. Counting only meaningful games -- that is, disregarding lateseason contests when they had already locked up their best playoff seeding -- the Colts have won an
incredible 25 consecutive regular-season games. The Colts also have lost seven of their past 10
postseason games.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 2: Seattle led 3-0 and Chicago faced a third-and-8 on the Blue Men
Group's 9. Seattle came out in a nickel -- the Seahawks' defense spent much of the game in nickel or
dime looks, and the dime has not been played much against the Chicago Bears in recent memory.
The Bears lined up trips left. The inside man went right, the middle man ran a buttonhook and
Muhsin Muhammad ran a Z-in (zed-in to Canadians) and was uncovered for the touchdown. The
Chicago offensive line played well throughout this contest, granting Rex Grossman ample time to
scan the field. All quarterbacks suddenly become more talented when they have time.
Sour Play of the Week No. 1: Carolina led 21-10 with two minutes remaining, the United States
Saints were backed up on their own 14, yet the Cats' defenders nevertheless let Marques Colston get
behind them for an 86-yard touchdown reception that allowed New Orleans to pull within 21-18.
The game is almost over, where oh where might the pass go? Maybe up the field!
Sour Play of the Week No. 2: DeAngelo Hall got his third interception of the young season for
Atlanta -- and for the second time, he held the ball high and waved it around as he ran. The football
gods cannot let this go unpunished. Atlanta rushing update: Three different Falcons rushers
outgained Cardinals star tailback Edgerrin James. Atlanta leads the league in rushing, averaging a
phenomenal 234 yards per game. Can this be sustained? New Orleans shut down the Falcons'
running game by putting eight men on the line and daring Michael-Mike Vick to throw. An eightman front also nullifies the modified sprint-option Atlanta has been using, because in that scheme
the defensive end does not need to decide between the fullback and the quarterback, the defensive
end always takes the fullback. Inexplicably, Arizona mostly played a passing defense against the
accuracy-challenged Vick, allowing the Falcons to run the ball. Expect Atlanta to see more eightman fronts as the season progresses.
Sour Play of the Week No. 3: Leading Baltimore 10-7, San Diego faced a third-and-1 at midfield
late in the first half. The Bolts came out in a power set with LaDainian Tomlinson as a deep-set
back. At the snap, Philip Rivers fired the ball overhand, as if he was passing, to Tomlinson behind
him. This pass-like lateral traveled so far backward that Tomlinson took the ball seven yards deep in
the backfield, and ended up losing three; San Diego punted. When you need one yard for a first
down, why are you firing the ball seven yards backward?
Sweet 'N' Sour Play: With Chicago leading 13-3 late in the first half, Ricky Manning made a sweet
tipped-to-myself interception that set up a touchdown and turned the contest into a walkover. But it
was sour that Matt Hasselbeck heaved a crazy pass into triple coverage. Seattle was only trailing by
10 points, and is a high-scoring team. The down was third-and-15, and often quarterbacks force the
ball into coverage on long-yardage downs. Hasselbeck should simply have thrown the ball out of
bounds. Note: From the last stanza of the Seattle-Jersey/A game to halftime at Chicago, Hasselbeck
threw four interceptions in three quarters. And what was Hasselbeck doing still on the field once
Chicago led 34-6?
In Tonight's News, Nationalists Overrun China. But First, This Breaking Terrell Owens
Story: Last week Terrell Owens made the front pages of many newspapers and this Web site,
among many others -- for an incident in which nothing happened. Below are upcoming T.O.
headline stories.
OWENS DENIES ALIEN ABDUCTION
GOVERNOR OF TEXAS LEADS OWENS VIGIL
OWENS BRIEFED ON NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE
ESTIMATE
OWENS FIRES GARDENER, CALLS LAWN "KIND
OF SPLOTCHY"
OWENS WON'T MEET WITH HAMAS UNLESS IT
RECOGNIZES ISRAEL
PUBLICIST: "NO COMMENT" ON RUMOR T.O.
DISCOVERS CANCER CURE
Space aliens interviewed by Page 2
denied involvement in the Terrell Owens
matter.
OWENS DOWNLOADS CASHMERE DANCE TRACK
REPORT: OWENS HAS TURKEY SUB, APPLE, BIG COOKIE FOR LUNCH
WHITE HOUSE MUM ON OWENS LUNCH REPORT
OWENS DRIVES TO COWBOYS' TRAINING FACILITY, PARKS, GOES IN
OWENS SAYS "NO TRUTH" TO VISION OF VIRGIN MARY
Wacky Food of the Week: The Corner Bakery restaurant chain now offers "hand-roasted" coffee.
Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk No. 1: Leading New England 6-0 at home early in the second quarter,
Cincinnati faced fourth-and-1 on its 38 and punted. Yes, most coaches would say, "But that's what
we always do." As last week's column explained in detail, going for it in this sort of situation is very
attractive. Cincinnati went on to lose, and you got the feeling that had Marvin Lewis gone for it
here, the outcome might have been different.
Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk No. 2: Trailing 10-0, San Francisco
punted on fourth-and-4 at the Kansas City 42. Trailing 24-0, San
Francisco attempted a field goal on fourth-and-4 from at the Kansas
City 33 with 11 seconds remaining in the first half. Sure, a
touchdown is unlikely at that point. But what does a 24-3 halftime
deficit accomplish, except assuring the coach that he won't have a
shutout on his record? Outraged, the football gods pushed the try
aside, and it was 24-0 at the intermission. Trailing 27-0 in the
second half, San Francisco punted on fourth-and-3. Trailing 34-0,
San Francisco punted on fourth-and-1. Still trailing 34-0 with just
5:55 remaining, San Francisco punted on another fourth-and-1 and
the football gods, outraged again, allowed Dante Hall to return the
punt for a touchdown. Nolan the Younger: you're down by 34
points, why are you punting on fourth-and-1?????????? And a
question for Herm Edwards, why were the Chiefs' starters still on the
field with Kansas City ahead 34-0 in the fourth quarter?
The Kansas City Chiefs'
cheerleaders appease the
gods of field goal kicking.
The Homework Conspiracy: Valerie Strauss of the Washington
Post reported that new studies by Duke University's Program on
Education conclude, "Elementary school students receive no benefit from homework." The new
book "The Homework Myth" by Alfie Kohn comes to the same conclusion, adding that in middle
school more than 90 minutes of homework per night, and in high school more than two hours per
night, backfire by reducing grades and test scores. The reasons are plain as the nose on your face -too much homework leaves kids tired in the morning and makes them sick of education, while
denying the time they need to goof off and be kids. Yet despite research showing large amounts of
homework actively injurious to education, homework requirements have been rising steadily in
public schools. Tuesday Morning Quarterback thinks he knows why: Teachers are using homework
to exact vengeance on parents.
Since the National Commission on Education declared,
in 1983, that "educational foundations of our society are
presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity
that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people,"
parents have been complaining nonstop about schools.
Set aside that the declaration of the National
Commission on Education contains a grammatical error
-- "nation" is not a proper noun and in this usage should
not be capitalized. The 1983 report put school
performance into the headlines. The media now
stereotype public schoolteachers as muttonheads who
oppose high standards and are more concerned with
Remember, helicopter parents, you
union politics and political correctness than teaching the were the ones who complained about
basics and classics. (In my experience, teachers spend standards.
most of their time on basic subjects and classic texts.)
The annoyingly large subset of "helicopter parents" now constantly second-guesses teachers.
Meanwhile salaries of doctors, lawyers and other professionals keep accelerating toward the
asteroid belt, while teachers are expected to work for love rather than money. The teachers'
revenge? Assign loads of homework. Assigning loads of work is a great CYA tactic against
complaints about standards. More important, teachers know too much homework renders home life
unhappy during the evening when exhausted moms and dads are trying to relax. In those glistening
suburban houses with the flat-panel TVs and granite countertops, kids are crying about homework
and parents are stressed about homework -- take that, helicopter parents! Plus, teachers know that
many moms and dads not only help kids with their homework, but end up doing the homework.
Assigning extra homework makes affluent parents miserable, exacting the public teachers'
vengeance.
Field Goals Matter: Case Study No. 1: Game tied at 14, Jersey/B faced fourth-and-goal on the
Indianapolis 2 at the 4:40 mark of the third. The Jets had staged a monster drive, and a touchdown
here might have swung the game. But Kick Early, Go For It Late! It's not yet the fourth quarter, and
field goals are nothing to sneeze at. (Outside field goal range, TMQ often favors going for it; inside
field goal range, taking three.) Eric "I Was a Teenaged Coach" Mangini gambles for six, and the
interception call might have been questionable, but all that call did was move the ball out to the 20 - the Jets still would have gotten no points. Indianapolis took possession and drove to fourth-andgoal on the 2. The Colts kicked for three and went on to win the game. The two teams faced
identical choices on back-to-back possessions -- and the team that followed TMQ's immutable law
was the one that prevailed.
Pride note: When the Giants play in the big round facility in New Jersey, it is officially Giants
Stadium. When the Jets play, it is Meadowlands Stadium. That's indignity enough for the junior
Jersey franchise. But Sunday, as the Jets performed there, NFL.com's play-by-play insisted on
calling the facility Giants Stadium.
Field Goals Matter: Case Study No. 2: San Diego lost 16-13 on a Baltimore touchdown with 34
seconds remaining. Earlier the Bolts honked two field goal attempts, one that was a failed kick and
one when the holder bobbled the snap. Think field goals are wimpy plays? Had San Diego
connected on the two kicks, it would have walked off the field whistlin'.
Triumph of Line Play No. 1: Spectators and announcers usually follow the ball, but Tuesday
Morning Quarterback followed the line play in the tense fourth quarter of the Baltimore-San Diego
contest. Ravens taking over on their 40 with 3 minutes remaining, trailing 13-9, Baltimore blockers
provided perfect protection for Steve McNair as he moved the team downfield for the go-ahead
score with 34 seconds left. On what would prove the winning pass, McNair stood back unhurried
while scanning the field, no Bolt pass rusher near him. Then when San Diego had the ball for a Hail
Mary on the final snap, Baltimore's line recorded the first sack against the Chargers in 2006. Nicely
done, big purple people.
Triumph of Line Play No. 2: The New England-Cincinnati game
was a lot closer than the final score suggested, the Patriots leading
21-13 at the start of the fourth quarter and the Bengals then falling
apart with consecutive lost fumbles in their own territory. The
sports-yak world talked about Laurence Maroney's 125-yard day,
but what impressed TMQ was the blocking. Check Maroney's 25yard touchdown run: perfect blocks by Stephen Neal, Logan
Mankins and yet another New England who-dat who instantly
performs well, Wesley Britt. It's pretty fun to run 25 yards for a
touchdown when everyone in front of you already has been knocked
to the ground. Running up the score note: Two weeks ago I asked
why the Bengals, leading Cleveland 34-10 in the fourth quarter, still
had Carson Palmer on the field and still throwing passes. Reader
John Bosha of Camp Hill, Pa. suggests Sunday's defeat was plainly
"the vengeance of the football gods."
This photo must have been
Best Block: The best single block of the day came from Buffalo's
snapped before Carson
Jason Peters, a third-year undrafted gent from Arkansas, who is
Palmer fumbled away the
becoming one of the league's elite offensive linemen. A common
game for Cincy.
fault of offensive linemen is making the first or primary block, then
standing around watching the play rather than finding someone else to block. On what would
become Peerless Price's 8-yard touchdown reception off a bubble screen, Price was all the way back
at the 15 and seemingly doomed to take a big loss when Peters, rather than standing around
watching, drilled a Minnesota defender with a perfect secondary block.
When Toyota Becomes the Official Car of the Detroit Lions, Feel Free to Panic: How bad are
things for General Motors? Toyota is now the "Official/Exclusive Car and Truck of the Buffalo
Bills." The Buffalo area was once a G.M. manufacturing hub.
Cylon Pin-Up Calendars Feature Babe Robots Removing Their Fenders: Last week Tuesday
Morning Quarterback asked, where are the body organs that generate the superpowers of
superheroes? Sure, I'll believe the woman in the green body suit can blast neutron waves from her
eyes. Just show me the body organ that produces the neutrons. With "Battlestar Galactica" returning
to the Sci-Fi Channel this Friday, it's time to ask the same question about the sinister Cylons.
First, an update on evil aliens in science fiction. Increasingly, they look exactly like people -perhaps for budget reasons. The Cylons of the original 1970s "Battlestar Galactica" were pleasing
ridiculous clanking robots: You thought, these buckets of bolts took over the galaxy? In the
"reimagined" "Galactica" currently airing, the Cylons have evolved from metallic to take the form
of the humans who made the original mistake of creating them. This facilitates filming, as no
complex prosthetic makeup or suits are required. For several seasons, the wisecracking commandos
on "Stargate SG-1" fought evil aliens called Replicators who, conveniently, made themselves look
exactly like people. For several seasons on "Star Trek Deep Space Nine," the Federation fought evil
aliens called the Dominion who, conveniently, made themselves look exactly like people. On the
"Star Trek Voyager" series, Species was introduced as the most dangerous super-advanced aliens in
the cosmos. In their true form, Species 8472 looked like giant praying mantes. Then these aliens
started popping up as regular foes, and conveniently, decided to take human form. "Hey Ralph, you
can put away the giant praying mantis suits."
Back to the Cylons. Because they have evolved from living
machines to human form, supposedly it is impossible to tell them
from real people. Supposedly not even a medical examination can
distinguish a Cylon from a Homo sapiens, and several episode plots
have turned on trying to determine who is trustworthy and who is a
Cylon infiltrator. But if the Cylons are physically identical to people,
how can Cylons have advanced powers? Cylons are depicted as
super-strong -- that means their musculature would have to be
different. In one episode, a Cylon agent inserts a computer cable into
a dataport in her arm; why doesn't the dataport show up in medical
examinations? Cylons are described as impossible to kill because if
their bodies die, they transmit their souls to the nearest Cylon
starcruiser, to be transplanted into newly manufactured bodies. One
presumes some body organ or device would be required to transmit
a soul across interstellar distance, yet Cylons are said to be
physiologically identical to people. Upside of current "Battlestar
Galactica" premise: if only all machines looked like actress Tricia
Helfer, who plays the chief cyborg.
We'd be happy to be
enslaved by thousands of
cybernetic copies of actress
Tricia Helfer.
Trust Us, We're Experts: Sports Illustrated predicted Carolina and
Miami would meet in the Super Bowl. The teams are a combined 3-5.
Classical Composer Stud! Last week choral composer Eric
Whitacre's album "Cloudburst" sold out on Amazon the day after
NPR did a feature on his music. In an all-time Tuesday Morning
Quarterback first, I have included this item solely to create an
excuse for the ESPN.com Art Department to run, for female and
nontraditional male readers, a photograph of Whitacre, who is an
ultra-hunk.
Preposterous Punt Watch: Trailing 7-3 in the second quarter,
Minnesota punted on fourth-and-2 from the Buffalo 49. Trailing 176 in the fourth quarter, Minnesota punted on fourth-and-2 from the
Buffalo 49. The Vikings lost by five points.
What The? Huh? What? Miami scoring with 1:43 remaining to
pull within 17-15 of Houston, the Marine Mammals lined up for the
deuce attempt. Tailback Ronnie Brown took the pitch right, then
executed a dancer's "turn out," spinning over his outside shoulder,
Eric Whitacre, in case you're
interested ...
and ran back left. From there he threw the halfback pass,
incomplete, and the Moo Cows went on to win. Every week there is
one play TMQ watches over and over again in rapt fascination, and this week, this was it.
Everything about the play was wrong. First, the right-handed Brown was running left, and threw
left-handed. Second, the play was designed to go to tight end Randy McMichael, who lined up as a
slot man right and then crossed left behind the formation in front of Brown. Running your pattern
behind your own offensive line might work in the middle of the field, but at the goal line, where
everything is crowded, McMichael immediately crashed into a defender and was taken out of the
play. Third, two Dolphins receivers in the end zone were right next to each other, one of them
obviously having run the wrong route. Fourth, Chris Chambers fell down in the end zone as the pass
approached, knocked over by his own man. Plays don't get much shaggier than this.
Miami Dolphins Sack-O-Meter: Daunte Culpepper has been sacked 21 times. Tackles L.J. Shelton
and Vernon Carey, both former first-round picks, have been awful. Desmond Bieler of the
Washington Post further notes that in the 11 games the quarterback has played in for the Vikings
and Dolphins since losing Randy Moss as his battery mate, Culpepper has thrown eight touchdown
passes and 15 interceptions.
Aaaaaiiiiiiiyyyyyyeeeee! Indianapolis scoring to take a 31-28 lead over the Jets with 50 seconds
remaining, the Colts kicked off. Jersey/B rookie return man Leon Washington fielded the kick on
his goal line. He could have stepped back into the end zone for a touchback; instead, confused,
Washington ran out and got tackled at the 2, pinning the Jets against their own goal line. Ye gods.
Reader Luis Argerich of Buenos Aires, Argentina notes that here is the official Game Book
description of Jersey/B's final down, an attempt to run the Stanford Band play. Eight Jets gentlemen
carried the ball:
(:08) (Shotgun) 10-C.Pennington pass short middle to 29-L.Washington to NYJ 40 for 8 yards [93D.Freeney]. Lateral to 16-B.Smith to NYJ 37 for minus-3 yards. Lateral to 87-L.Coles to IND 44
for 19 yards. Lateral to 10-C.Pennington to IND 37 for 7 yards. Lateral to 81-J.McCareins to IND
35 for 2 yards. FUMBLES, recovered by NYJ-16-B.Smith at IND 33. 16-B.Smith to IND 37 for
minus -4 yards. FUMBLES, recovered by NYJ-87-L.Coles at IND 40. 87-L.Coles to IND 27 for 13
yards. Lateral to 74-N.Mangold to IND 27 for no gain. FUMBLES, RECOVERED by IND-42J.David at IND 34. 42-J.David to IND 39 for 5 yards (29-L.Washington).
We're All Professionals Here: Minnesota launched a 9-yard punt. Buffalo lost yardage on its
possession, then replied with a 22-yard punt.
Poyekhali ad Astra! : Anousheh Ansari, history's first female space
tourist, last week landed safely in Kazakhstan after a stay aboard the
International Space Station. Surprisingly little attention was paid to
her flight, considering Ansari, an American, is not only the first
woman to pay for space tourism but is an Iranian-born self-made
millionaire. Also, Ansari became the first person ever to blog from
space. Ansari flew to orbit from Baikonur Cosmodrome, which
during the Moon race days was the secret stronghold of Soviet space
activity. TMQ likes that at the moment the engines on her rocket
ignited, Ansari hollered poyekhali! -- "let's go!" or even "charge!" in
Russian. Poyekhali! is what Yuri Gagarin hollered in 1961 at the
moment the engines ignited on the flight that made him the first
member of genus Homo to reach space. Nice sense of history there.
Too Bad Steve Largent Isn't in Congress Anymore, Shuler
Would Have Someone to Throw To: Former third-overall draft
Ansari arrived at the
pick Health Shuler is running for Congress in North Carolina.
International Space Station
only to discover that it lacks
Strangely, his campaign bio does not mention his NFL career
statistic of 15 touchdown passes and 33 interceptions. Of the issues Wi-Fi.
in Shuler's platform, one is Second Amendment rights: "As a
lifelong hunter and sportsman … I will always support the rights of law-abiding citizens to own
firearms, to hunt and to protect their life and property." Let's hope Shuler aims his guns more
carefully than he aimed his passes!
On the Plus Side, Now Alexander Has Plenty of Time to Play Video Games: Shaun Alexander
was on the cover of the latest Madden game, and now stands on the sidelines modeling NFL
apparel. Coincidence? A reader haikuizes,
The power of prayer
can't overcome the curse of
Madden oh-seven.
-- Fred Chalmers, North Reading, Mass.
At 4:38 Eastern on Oct. 1, Oakland Scored Its First Touchdown of the 2006 Season: Oakland
compiled 59 yards of offense in the second half at home, while losing a 21-3 lead to Cleveland. If
you can't hold a 21-3 lead at home against a winless team you are, officially, pathetic. Randy Moss
racked up one reception for 5 yards. Results of the Raiders' second half possessions: punt, punt,
downs, punt.
"Here's the Book, Young Lady. By the Way, You Look Nice In
That Trenchcoat and False Mustache.": Last week the New York
Times embarrassed the Washington Post by being first to obtain a
copy of Bob Woodward's book "State of Denial." The Times
obtained the book by the incredibly scientifically advanced means of
buying it in a store -- "at full retail price," the paper primly added.
The super-sleuth purchase was carried out, surely under cover of
darkness, by Julie Bosman, a Times reporter who was once a New
Republic intern and who contributed some research to my book "The
Progress Paradox." No doubt future journalism students will study
Bosman's stealthy technique! But, hey, New York Times -- how
come Julie didn't get to the write the story? The book she obtained
was handed over to a senior male reporter for analysis. Next time
put Julie's work on the front page, OK, Multicolored Lady?
By the Hammer of Grabthar, He Was Avenged! Atlanta leading
Arizona 6-3, Mora the Younger sent much-ridiculed understudy
place-kicker Mike Koenen out to attempt a 51-yard field goal. To
that point, Koenen was 3-of-10 in field goal attempts on his career.
Surely the Cactus Wrens were expecting a fake! Straight and true,
three points.
How did the New York
Times get his book first? We
can only tell you on a deep
background basis.
Picks of the Week No. 1: Trailing Detroit 34-33, St. Louis faced third-and-4 on the Lions' 5 at the
two-minute warning. Les Mouflons lined up with Tory Holt slot right and Isaac Bruce wide right.
Bruce came in motion back inside Holt. At the snap, Holt pretty much shoved the Detroit defender
out of the way -- in basketball he would have been whistled for moving screen -- as Bruce ran an
under-out for the touchdown. Zebras, where were you on this play?
Picks of the Week No. 2: Trailing New Orleans 10-7, Carolina lined up for second-and-goal from
the Saints' 4. Keyshawn Johnson and Drew Carter were wide left. At the snap, Johnson pretty much
shoved the New Orleans defender out of the way -- in basketball he would have been whistled for
moving screen -- as Carter ran an out for the touchdown. Zebras, where were you on this play?
Note: New Orleans scored to take the 10-7 lead on a third-and-goal on which the Saints ran up to
the line and quick-snapped while Cats defenders were not set, several not even facing the line of
scrimmage.
This Fulfills My Obligation to Say Something About the Dallas-Tennessee Game: OK, it's
traditional for a rookie quarterback's first start to be cover-your-eyes awful. But it is not traditional
for the Tennessee Titans to be blown off the field, and they were by the Cowboys, 45-14. For many
seasons the Flaming Thumbtacks have been a classy, power team. Now Tennessee has lost 13 of its
past 15, with three of the past five blowout defeats. Does Jeff Fisher still coach in Nashville?
Leftover Briscoe High Points: In one scene of the commercial, the crowd cheers wildly for a late
hit out of bounds. We're supposed to cheer for unsportsmanlike conduct? As many readers,
including Asif Khalid of Los Angeles, pointed out, Briscoe wins with seconds remaining on a long
pass thrown by a halfback. "No defense, not even in high school, would bite on the run-fake from
midfield on the game's final play," Khalid wrote. The winning pass is caught by "Ryon Williams" -go here and click "team" -- whom I'm guessing is a young actor. He's the only unknown in the
commercial, which in addition to Marlin Briscoe and NFL players has cameos by Jill Arrington,
Jillian Barberie, Lee Corso, Urban Meyer, Deion Sanders and Steve Young. Barberie plays the high
school co-ed who checks out Williams in the hallway. The scene is vaguely odd because the babyfaced Williams is supposed to be 17, and Barberie was born in 1966. Yes, it's nice that a woman can
still be a bombshell at age 40 and, yes, acting is different from playing yourself. But would any big
corporation air a commercial in which a 40-year-old man ogles the behind of a 17-year-old female
athlete? Finally the music track playing is "Spirit in the Sky," which is a song about dying! "Prepare
yourself, you know it's a must/Gotta have a friend in Jesus/So you know that when you die/He's
gonna recommend you to the spirit in the sky."
DEAR [INSERT NAME], YOU ARE THE ONLY ONE I CAN TRUST: Before Do-Not-Call
lists deflated telemarketing, what vexed TMQ was the realization that companies would not be coldcalling at all hours offering phony real estate deals or fake vacations won in counterfeit contests
unless people were falling for those hustles. That lots of somebodies were falling for telemarketing
hustles was a sobering thought. Then came the Nigerian e-mail scam, those messages saying
someone has found a large forgotten deposit in an African bank and will share the money with you
in return for "fees." This is so transparently, obviously a con I thought there would not be one single
human being on the face of the Earth who would fall for it. Most Nigerian scam e-mails are
addressed to "Dear Sir" or "Dear Owner" because the con artists are sending bulk to spam lists and
don't even know the names of the people they are addressing. Presumably if you had your clutches
on a multimillion-dollar forgotten deposit and needed a partner, you would want perhaps to know
the name of your partner.
Lately the "trunk of gold" version of the e-mail has been circulating. Supposedly a trunk of gold
stolen during an African coup d'état is being held by a security firm on the African west coast. The
e-mailer offers to share with you the location of the trunk -- despite not knowing your name!
Another current Internet hustle is an e-mail saying you've won a million pounds in the Irish Lottery
and asking you to send the lotto office personal financial information for processing of your pot.
LOTTERIES DO NOT OPERATE THIS WAY! In a third current Internet hustle, the mark is asked
to deposit checks for "an international charity" into his or her personal bank account, keep a 10
percent commission, then wire the rest to an account in Nigeria or Ukraine. INTERNATIONAL
CHARITIES DO NOT OPERATE THIS WAY! A fake check for, say, $10,000 arrives at the
mark's house; the mark deposits the check and wires $9,000 from his or her own account to Nigeria,
expecting a $1,000 profit for doing next to nothing. The check bounces and the mark is out $9,000.
Nigerian e-mail scams and various imitators should be proliferating only if people with money fall
for them. How could anyone stupid enough to fall for such obvious con jobs also have money to
lose? For a cautionary tale, read this New Yorker piece about a seemingly intelligent man who fell
hook, line and sinker, wiring about $80,000 of his money to African banks, and also tried to launder
stolen checks sent to him from Nigeria, ending up in prison for bank fraud. The story is especially
chilling because it's a "long con:" the Nigerian thieves sent the mark hundreds of e-mails over
months. Short cons are one thing. I slam on the brakes in front of your car and there's a fender
bender; I offer not to report it to your insurance agency if you give me $300; you never realize my
car's bumper was already damaged before this started. The short con is over in a few minutes, the
hustler vanishing the moment money changes hands. Long cons are especially weird because they
involve psychological relationships between the con artist and mark. According to the New Yorker
story, the victim in this case became psychologically dependent on receiving e-mails from Nigeria
telling him riches were coming, and would plead for more e-mails even as he wired away what
money he did possess.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 1 Leading 27-17 in the fourth quarter, Washington safetyblitzed Jacksonville; touchdown Jaguars. OK, sometimes it doesn't work. Now Washington leads
30-27 with 39 seconds remaining, Jax facing fourth-and-8 at midfield. Surely the Skins won't blitz
again. My 11-year-old, Spenser, a Jacksonville fan, was watching with me; when the ball was
snapped and the Redskins safety blitzed, I turned to him and said, "Don't worry, first down." So it
was.
Note about Washington's eventual overtime win: It's good for
quarterbacks to have short memories. On Mark Brunell's first pass of
the game, he threw a horrible duck directly into the hands of
Rashean Mathis of Jacksonville. Brunell recovered to toss three
touchdown passes, including the winner. Meanwhile there are few
plays more exciting in then NFL format than a length-of-the-field
overtime touchdown at home. When Brunell threw to Santana Moss
on the overtime's third snap, Jax safety Deon Grant committed the
safety's cardinal sin, letting someone get behind him. The result was
a wonderful 68-yard touchdown sprint in front of delirious home
fans. Moss even got to run the final 30 yards past a line of
glamorous, nearly naked Redskins cheerleaders. Football heaven!
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 2: In the first 56 minutes of the
Buffalo-Minnesota game, the Bills' defense held the Vikings to two
field goals, eight first downs and 226 yards of offense. In the final
four minutes, the Bills allowed a touchdown, six first downs and 104
yards of offense, Buffalo barely winning when a Minnesota player
dropped what would have been a touchdown pass in the closing
seconds. What changed between the first 56 minutes and the last
four minutes? The Bills began blitzing like crazy.
Your overtime touchdown is
very nice and all that, but
Santana, you seem to be
blocking our view of the
cheerleaders.
Obscure College Score of the Week No. 1: Morningside 37, Nebraska Wesleyan 0. Located in
Sioux City, Iowa, Morningside issues a notebook computer to each incoming student. So mom and
dad, the year is $24,950 but the laptop is free! Tuesday Morning Quarterback often observes that
every college and university in the United States claims to have finished high in the influential U.S.
News rankings, and everybody can't be highly rated. Morningside takes this marketing strategy to
new heights by prominently placing the U.S. News "America's Best Colleges" logo on its home
page. But if you click the logo it simply takes you to the Morningside admissions department, no
further mention of U.S. News made.
Obscure College Score of the Week No. 2: Pittsburg of Kansas 59, Emporia State 57 (four
overtimes). There were eight touchdowns in overtime as Pittsburg of Kansas -- "Home of the
Nation's Only Gorillas," referring to the sports team not the fraternities -- beat Emporia. Since TMQ
often takes shots at Pittsburg of Kansas running up the score, let me compliment the school for
making it easy to find the athletic program's graduation rates. Most colleges elaborately bury this
information. Pittsburg of Kansas prominently displays its rate because the school's athletes have a
better graduation share (71 percent) than non-athletes in the student body (47 percent).
Actual Good News from the NCAA: The latest graduation
statistics reported by the NCAA are a breath of fresh air -- Division I
football graduated 65 percent of scholarship players overall, and
men's Division I basketball graduated 59 percent. There's still quite a
way to go, but these numbers make the trend positive. The new
figures give credit for athletes who transfer out, then graduate
somewhere else; previously, such a student was classified as not
having graduated. For scholarship athletes, the NCAA reported, the
highest graduate was 89 percent for skiers. Some 70 percent of those
with bowling scholarships graduated, the NCAA said. Bowling
scholarships? The University of Nebraska, often-cited as a school
where football players don't attend class, made a huge positive step,
graduating 88 percent of football athletes. Perennial big-sports
graduation leader Bucknell was at the top again, graduating 100
percent of its Division I men's basketball players and 95 percent of
We figured you deserved a
its Division I-AA football players. The University of Maryland,
reward for making it all the
which embarrassed collegiate sports a few years ago by winning the way to the end of the
men's basketball title with a team from which no one graduated,
column. So here, another
once again brought up the rear with only 18 percent graduation for shot of the Chiefs' cheerits men's basketball scholarship-holders. "I feel very positive about babes doing those leg-kicks!
what I have done here academically": Maryland men's basketball
coach Gary Williams after the NCAA reported his program's graduation rate is a dismal 18 percent.
Hmm, maybe the core problem at the University of Maryland is that the coaches need to start
attending classes. You can check the graduation rate of any Division I college here.
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at
[email protected] Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I may
quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Note: Giving your hometown improves your
odds of being quoted.
Next Week: Julie Bosman obtains the Steelers' game plan by walking into the Pittsburgh locker
room and offering to pay full retail price.
Monday, October 9, 2006
Updated: October 10, 2:45 PM ET
The rise and fall of Brett Favre
By Gregg Easterbrook
There are 44 seconds remaining at Lambeau Field. The Packers, trailing 23-20, are on the St. Louis
11-yard line, close to a dramatic last-second win. The crowd roars at military afterburner decibels.
Brett Favre takes the snap, he drops back, and -- fumbles, St. Louis ball, game over.
At the risk of quoting myself -- Oscar Wilde said, "I often quote myself, it adds spice to the
conversation" -- let me reiterate what I wrote about Favre a year ago: "We'd like to think stellar
athletes go out in glory, and occasionally this happens. Yet in many cases legendary athletes depart
on a bummer note. In Dan Marino's final game, the Dolphins lost 62-7. In Larry Bird's final game,
the Celtics were knocked out of the playoffs as Bird played poorly. On Jim Kelly's final snap, he
fumbled in opposing territory late in the Bills' only playoff defeat in Ralph Wilson Stadium history.
In Jerry Rice's final game, he had no receptions as his team lost in the playoffs. In Michael Jordan's
final game, his team lost by 20 points.
"For more than a decade, Favre has been a joy to watch and a darling of the football gods. But now
his powers are declining, and when great athletes begin to lose abilities they once had, many find
this hard to face. For the great athlete, everything in life has been an upward arc -- through youth,
college, the pros and finally national renown, things just keep getting better. Then suddenly things
stop getting better and performance begins to decline. In Kelly's final season, he threw a bad
interception at the goal line in a close loss and came off the field repeating aloud over and over, 'I
don't understand it.' The phrase 'I don't understand it' must run through the heads of many stellar
athletes as their abilities deteriorate and the curtain call approaches. This thought must be running
through Favre's head now."
We idealize the story of the gifted young athlete rising to acclaim,
because it's a story in which everything gets better and better:
humble roots, initial success, finally fame and wealth. We don't like
to think that such stories end with the athlete in decline, because this
means the promise of youth has worn out and reminds us that we all
ultimately face mortality.
Soon novice Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy will face a
dilemma he surely dreads: whether to bench his famed quarterback.
Favre has 403 career touchdown passes, and needs 18 more to take
the all-time touchdown pass record away from Marino. Since the
Packers are unlikely to have a winning season, surely most of the
state of Wisconsin wants to see Favre play every snap of his farewell
year and bring home the all-time record. But a case can be made for
handing the ball to Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay's quarterback of the
future, and letting Rodgers get some experience so that 2007 might
be a winning season for the Packers. Marino's final season was a
playoff year, so he set the touchdown pass record honorably in
We were quarterbacks once,
and young.
sports terms, in the course of propelling his team to a postseason berth. If Favre stays on the field
merely to break a record, Packers fans will be glad, but the record could have some of the feeling of
a stunt. Should the Packers be 2-6 a month from now, the dignified thing would be for Favre to
remove his helmet and hold the clipboard for Rodgers.
In other quarterback news, the MAC rules! Reader Jeff Yoders of Chicago notes that with Toledo
alum Bruce Gradkowski starting for the Bucs on Sunday, that makes five Mid-American
Conference quarterbacks starting in the NFL. The others are Ben Roethlisberger from Miami of
Ohio, Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich from Marshall, and Charlie Frye from Akron.
(Marshall left the MAC a year ago, but was a member when Pennington and Leftwich played there.)
For years the MAC was derided as a second-tier organization, yet what football-factory conference
has done as well recently sending quarterbacks to the big leagues? And of course, the MAC's
Roethlisberger wears the latest Super Bowl ring.
Here's the only thing that worries me about the MAC: It seems to have disappeared from midweek
games on ESPN. Tuesday and Wednesday night MAC games are, in some ways, my favorite
football broadcasts of the year. They're in the middle of the week, when there are no other football
distractions. They feature teams with rockets on their helmets playing teams with names like Ohio
University of Miami at Ohio of Ohio. And, since they're college games, I don't have to take notes!
But the MAC is strangely absent from the airwaves on Tuesdays and Wednesdays this season.
And in more quarterback news, since the moment Roethlisberger took the field to start in February's
Super Bowl, he has thrown nine interceptions and no touchdown passes, while compiling a 38.3
passer rating. If every pass a quarterback throws clangs to the ground incomplete, he gets a 39.6
rating. Sure, Roethlisberger just won the Super Bowl and is 28-7 as an NFL starter. But the Steelers
have lost three straight. How long till the Condiment Coliseum crowd starts chanting for Charlie
Batch?
Stat of the Week No. 1: Chicago has outscored its opponents 156-36.
Stat of the Week No. 2: Stretching back to last season, since the day they won the NFC South, the
Buccaneers have lost five straight.
Stat of the Week No. 3: In their two most recent meetings in New Jersey, the Giants have
outscored the Redskins 55-3.
Stat of the Week No. 4: Seattle has a winning record despite being outscored.
Stat of the Week No. 5: Jeff Wilkins of St. Louis is on a pace to kick 58 field goals; the record for
a season is 40.
Stat of the Week No. 6: Minnesota's defense outscored its offense Sunday.
Stat of the Week No. 7: (College edition.) There were eight missed field goal attempts as North
Texas defeated Florida International in seven overtimes. Four of the seven overtimes were
scoreless.
Stat of the Week No. 8: Since losing Randy Moss as a target, Daunte Culpepper has averaged 0.7
touchdown passes per game. In the three previous years, he averaged 1.8 touchdown passes per
game.
Stat of the Week No. 9: Chicago has allowed 10 points or less in nine consecutive regular-season
home games. In the one home playoff game during that span, Chicago allowed 29 points.
Stat of the Week No. 10: The Chicago Bears are the highest-scoring team in the NFL.
Cheerleader of the Week: Reader Rafael F. of Miami nominates Diana of the Dolphins
cheerleaders, a premed student at Florida International University. You don't bump into premed
cheer-babes every day. According to her team bio, Diana's hobbies include "going to the beach,
interior decorating and offering relationship advice." You can imagine her relationship column.
"Dear Diana, my boyfriend is a nice guy, but all he wants to do on weekends is watch football. Plus
when he stares at the babes on the Miami Dolphins cheerleader calendar, he gets this faraway look.
What should I do?"
Sweet Play of the Week No. 1: Blocking was great as Reggie Bush ran a fourth-quarter punt back
65 yards to allow the United States Saints to defeat Tampa. Earlier, Deuce McAllister ran for 57
yards after Bush lined up as a wide receiver and ran a fake end-around, drawing the Bucs' defense.
Note to ESPN fact-checking department -- please verify that it's really true the Saints are 4-1.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 2: Game scoreless, St. Louis lined up heavy right on the Green Bay 6.
Quarterback Marc Bulger and tailback Steven Jackson went right; the Rams' offensive line "slide"
blocked right; suddenly Bulger stopped and zipped the ball to Torry Holt running a post from the
left side, open because both safeties bit on the misdirection.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 3: Detroit trailing Minnesota 3-0 late in the first half, the Lions faced
a third-and-7 on the Vikings' 8. Jon Kitna trotted up to the line and seemed to be looking around at
the position of Minnesota's defensive backs; then he quick-snapped the ball and ran straight ahead
on the naked quarterback sneak. Touchdown, because most Minnesota defenders hadn't even
finished lining up. Note: Lions fans are complaining today about the illegal block penalty that
nullified a long kick return touchdown that would have given Detroit a commanding lead. But the
illegal block was the reason the play became a touchdown.
Best Purist Drive: On Tennessee's opening possession, the Titans rushed seven consecutive times
to move 88 yards for a touchdown.
Sour Play of the Week No. 1: Game scoreless, Pittsburgh faced a fourth-and-6 on the San Diego
42. The Steelers lined up in punt formation, then punter Chris Gardocki split out as a wide receiver
and the ball was direct-snapped to cornerback Bryant McFadden, who lost 2 yards. The fake failed
because the Bolts were playing the fake. How could Pittsburgh expect to fool San Diego with a fake
punt here? Well-coached special teams always assume a fake when a team lines up to punt on short
yardage in opposition territory.
Sour Play of the Week No. 2: Trailing Minnesota 19-17 with 1:47 remaining, the Lions faced a
fourth-and-10 at midfield. Kitna rolled left, tried to buy time and then, about to be tackled, heaved
the ball up; interception returned for a touchdown, game over. On the play, Detroit's offensive
linemen made their initial blocks, then just stood around watching Kitna scramble, making no
attempt to help their quarterback with the game on the line and still wholly winnable. Blocking was
also terrible on the sack that led to a Kitna fumble into the end zone, giving Minnesota an earlier
touchdown. No Lion so much as touched Vikings defensive tackle Pat Williams, who knocked the
ball loose.
Sour Play of the Week No. 3: With Jacksonville leading 21-0, the Jets stopped a third-and-goal
from their 7, seeming to force a figgie attempt that would keep their dim hopes alive. But linebacker
Jonathan Vilma was called for roughing the passer -- first down. Jax touchdown three snaps later,
and TMQ wrote the words "game over" in his notebook. Often pass rushers who have failed to get
the sack want to take out their frustrations by putting a lick on the quarterback. But Vilma used the
body-slam move, which is specifically prohibited and impossible for officials to miss. What a dumb
play.
Sweet Player of the Week: From the Buffalo 8-yard
line, Bernard Berrian ran a perfect slant pattern,
touchdown. Later he ran a perfect out-and-up for a 62yard gain. Berrian is averaging 21.7 yards per reception.
A red-hot wide receiver for the Chicago Bears?
Sour Player of the Week: Cleveland trailing Carolina
14-3, the Browns had the ball at midfield with 13
seconds remaining in the first half. Extremely highly
overpaid, underproductive, highly drafted tight end
Kellen Winslow made no attempt to block, and simply
turned around and watched as Cats defenders sacked
Charlie Frye and caused a fumble. Later, in the fourth
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell orders
quarter, Carolina led 20-12, but the Browns had
investigation of Chicago Bears'
touchdowns.
advanced to the Panthers' 29. Frye underthrew
Winslow, and the extremely highly overpaid,
underproductive, highly drafted tight end simply watched the interception, making no attempt to
break up the pass. Note: Carolina is 3-2 despite converting just 19 percent of its third downs, the
worst such rate in the league.
A Tale of Two Fades: "Dad, why don't you like the jump-ball fade at the goal line?" So asked
Spenser, the Official Youngest Child of TMQ, as we watched the games on Sunday. The jump-ball
fade at the goal line is one of the trendiest plays in football. But if this play is such a great idea, why
don't teams do it anywhere else on the field? Why strictly at the goal line? Even when the matchup
is a tall receiver against a short corner, the jump-ball fade seems as likely to fail as succeed -- and at
the goal line, teams should be using high-percentage plays. Anyway, the Ravens and Broncos
conducted a clinic on this Monday night in the rain in Denver. Game tied at 3, Baltimore faced a
third-and-9 on the Denver 10, and threw a jump-ball fade to the 6-foot-6 Clarence Moore; the 6-foot
Champ Bailey outjumped Moore for the interception. With Denver leading 6-3 with two minutes
remaining, the Broncos faced a second-and-goal on the 4, the call was a jump-ball fade to the 6-foot
Rod Smith covered by the 6-1 Chris McAlister; Smith outjumped McAlister for the game-icing
touchdown. So in two demonstrations of this play, the tall receiver failed and the average-height
receiver succeeded. What does that prove? I have no idea.
This morning Denver ranks 12th in defense by the NFL's "total defense" metric, but second by the
more important metric of points allowed. Everyone knows the Broncos have surrendered only one
touchdown in four games. They've been stingy with field goals too, allowing a spectacularly low 8.5
points per game. Note that Denver's defenders have not been flashy -- the Broncos' defense is close
to the bottom of the league in both takeaways and sacks. And note that Denver is blitzing a lot less
than last season, which seems to help. Denver is getting its great defensive performance the oldfashioned way, by tackling really well and covering really well. Old-fashioned defense has more
staying power than blitz-happy defense, so this would seem to be a good sign for the Broncos' 2006
prospects.
Nicole Kidman Called a Press Conference To Declare She Did Not Seek Publicity: "She says
she was unfairly branded as a publicity seeker." So wrote Damon Darlin of the New York Times,
describing former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. Where does Fiorina complain of being
unfairly branded as a publicity seeker? In her book about herself, whose cover is her own picture.
Darlin reports that the new book, "Tough Choices," consists mainly of Fiorina praising herself.
Write a book of self-praise with your picture on the cover -- yes, there's a way to prove you are not
a publicity seeker. (We "sign" a book of self-praise is better phrasing, since it's unlikely Fiorina did
the writing.) In the current ethos, saying you don't seek publicity has become a form of selfpromotion; celebrities and the wealthy go on "Larry King Live" to assert that they don't want
attention. My all-time favorite was a 1999 Newsweek cover about Nicole Kidman, in which she
complained bitterly that she didn't have enough privacy. Not only had she agreed to be on the cover
of Newsweek to declare her desire for privacy, but what was she doing the week the story ran?
Performing nude in a play in London.
Fiorina's book is one of many examples of the author-on-the-cover trend in publishing. Former
Citigroup CEO Sanford Weill also has a new as-told-to book, and also features his own visage on
the cover. Usually authors-on-the-cover are celebrities whose faces are recognizable; since neither
Fiorina nor Weill have known faces, my bet is they campaigned for author-on-the-cover out of
vanity, since it implies celeb status. Here are TMQ's Iron Laws of Author-on-the-Cover: First,
books whose "authors" are on the cover are almost never actually written by the person presented as
author. Second, the larger the author-on-the-cover photo, the worse the book.
CEO self-pity note: Fiorina also complains of being insufficiently appreciated by the Hewlett
Packard board. For her five years as CEO, she was paid about $36 million; when she was forced
out, she got a $21 million severance payment, plus $50,000 to spend on "career counseling." But
they didn't appreciate me! Maybe the Hewlett Packard board wasn't kneeling when it handed her the
money.
Matt Leinart Omen? Alex Smith, first overall choice of the 2005 draft, did not throw a touchdown
pass until his seventh start. Matt Leinart, who would have been the first choice in 2005 if he'd come
out, threw for a touchdown on his second pass attempt as a pro. In that Chiefs-Cardinals game,
check the late fourth-quarter 78-yard screen pass to Larry Johnson that enabled Kansas City to pull
out the win, and note that it's a weakside screen. Coaches usually call screens to the strong side, but
TMQ always has preferred weakside screens. There are two fewer people (one less defender and
one less blocker) on the weak side for the runner to avoid. And though this game was announced as
a sellout in the desert, there were many empty seats as Neil Rackers honked a field goal to try to tie
the game on the final play. Hey Arizona fans, stick around for the ending!
Why Tactics Matter: After Week 2, TMQ noted that trailing Seattle 21-3 in the fourth quarter,
Dennis Green kept calling runs as if trying to kill the clock. Sunday, the Cardinals entered the fourth
quarter leading the Chiefs 20-10 -- and in the final quarter called 19 passes and four runs, repeatedly
stopping the clock and allowing Kansas City time for its comeback.
Hidden Plays: Hidden plays are ones that never make highlight reels, but stop or sustain drives.
Tennessee leading the Colts 13-7, the Flaming Thumbtacks faced second-and-6 on their 13 with
11:27 remaining. Vince Young threw for a first down, but tight end Bo Scaife was called for
holding. Pushed backward, the Titans ended up punting two plays later, Indianapolis returning the
kick to the Tennessee 43 and setting up the touchdown drive that swung the game to the Colts.
When Researchers Projected Magnetic Fields Into Dick Cheney's Brain, He Became Friendly:
Economists call it the Ultimate Game, and have long contended it proves Homo sapiens
insufficiently logical. Here's the situation. Two strangers are brought together by a third person who
holds $1,000. He tells them the money is theirs to divide on these terms: Stranger A must propose
how to split the $1,000, and Stranger B must either accept or reject A's offer. That concludes the
game, no second round. Classical economists maintain Stranger A should say, "I propose that I get
$999 and you get $1," and Stranger B should immediately respond, "I accept." Pure economic
theory says A should maximize his gain by shafting B out of every possible farthing, while B
should calculate that since his sole choice is between $1 and nothing, $1 is better. Yet researchers
have played this game with volunteers in many nations, and it never works the way theory says. The
bare-minimum offer is always rejected. Generally, A must offer at least 30 percent or B says no and
both players get nothing. Classical economists have long harrumphed that B's response when the
game is played with real money shows human beings are too emotional and insufficiently focused
on maximizing outcomes.
This pot was stirred last week when researchers led by Dario Knoch of the University of Zurich
reported that using magnets to disrupt the right prefrontal cortex of volunteers playing Stranger B
caused them to become much more willing to accept low offers. Now, if someone was using
magnetic waves to scramble parts of your brain, your bargaining skills might decline, too. ("Herr
Professor Doktor, ve haff discovered zat when ve knock der volunteers unconscious mit ein
sledgehammer, zey refuse to aufgeparticipatehaffen* in the experiment.") But I think tests like the
University of Zurich study only point to the Ultimate Game being so flawed that it mainly shows us
faults of classical economics.
First, the game assumes money is superior to all other forms of possessions, including
psychological well-being. But the world doesn't work that way. If I am Stranger B and accept the $1
offer, I have a dollar bill but also feel like a total dupe: And how can being made to feel like a dupe
be worth a mere dollar? Any small-percentage offer accepted by B would make B feel unhappy and
taken advantage of, while rejecting the small-percentage offer gives B the pleasure of feeling
retribution was achieved against A. Once the offer gets up to around 30 percent, then the value of
the money might equal whatever unpleasant thoughts B will experience when seeing A cackling and
counting a larger pile of loot. Reactions like rejecting very low offers do not, as classical
economists maintain, show that B fails to understand economics. They show that B understands
money is not everything!
Next, people in the B role might derive long-term benefits from refusing low offers, and these
benefits might exceed the value of the money forgone. In his important new book "The Origin of
Wealth," Eric Beinhocker speculates that the kind of circumstances in which B refuses a too-low
offer are "the cornerstone for social cooperation that is essential for wealth creation." In order for
the free market to serve the overall welfare of society, Beinhocker maintains, all must mutually
agree not to participate in arrangements that exploit those with weak bargaining positions. Society
must be structured such that A would feel ashamed of offering only $1 to B, and would offer a fair
sum in order to feel good about the transaction. If parties in strong positions offer fair sums, the
result is mutually beneficial trading for everyone, including the strong. (Are you listening, WalMart?) "The Origin of Wealth" is a major new book that ought to be commanding significant
attention. Beinhocker, a management consultant for McKinsey & Company, argues persuasively
that market economics is not a war of all against all. Market economies do best, Beinhocker says,
and the welfare of society rises most, when people voluntarily take each other's interests into
account.
Finally, TMQ contends economists misunderstand their own Ultimate Game because the focus of
discussion is always on what Stranger B will accept. The key to this puzzle is not B but Stranger A - who is a total, utter idiot for offering only $1 because this insures A gets nothing! Offers in which
A seeks to claim the lion's share are irrational on A's part, because such offers will fail. I would
argue there is only one wise offer for A to make: that they each get $500. A 50/50 split is sure to be
accepted, thus insuring Stranger A of pocketing $500. A fair-minded person playing the A role
would offer a 50/50 split because it is fair; economically this is also the logical move, because it
guarantees a successful transaction. By focusing on whether B will accept an inequitable offer,
economists skip over how dumb it is for A to make such an offer. By contrast, fairness leads to
benefits for both parties, which is the big point of "The Origin of Wealth."
(*Note: Tuesday Morning Quarterback has long contended that any verb can be converted into
pseudo-German using the formula aufgeXXXXXhaffen. Thus to jog becomes to aufgejoggenhaffen,
etc.)
We're All Professionals Here: Andrew Walter of Oakland committed turnovers on consecutive
downs, throwing an interception that led to a San Francisco score and losing a fumble on the
Raiders' first snap after the kickoff. Marques Tuiasosopo then came on for Walter and threw two
interceptions in nine pass attempts.
We're All Professionals Here No. 2: On the opening possession of the Bills/Bears collision,
Buffalo drove to second-and-1 on the Chicago 42. The Bills threw incomplete, then rushed for no
gain, then committed a penalty on a botched fourth-down try, then fumbled the snap on a botched
fake-punt attempt; Chicago ball on the Buffalo 40. Later, on a second-quarter possession, the Bills
lost yardage on three consecutive downs. Tactics note: Seven of J.P. Losman's first 11 passes were
thrown toward Lee Evans. When his 12th pass also went toward Evans, three Chicago Bears were
covering the gentleman. Interception.
But Then, Hollywood Is Hanging By Its Fingertips: Divorced by computer-animated special
effects from such tedium as laws of physics, modern moviemaking now offers far too many scenes
of heroes hanging by their fingertips from the tops of skyscrapers and other impossibly tall objects.
"You can't be a Hollywood star anymore unless you've hung by your fingertips off the top of
something in a totally unrealistic way," I wrote in 2004, yet "the scenes are monotonous because
they are so obviously fake." My guess is that not one single actual person has ever hung by his
fingertips from the top of a skyscraper, but Tom Cruise, Hugh Jackman, Sylvester Stallone and
many other box-office names recently have done so. Or to be precise, have been made to appear to
have done so. In the chick flick "Kate and Leopold," two characters had a relationship talk while
hanging by their fingertips off the edge of the Brooklyn Bridge. Even King Kong hung by his pawtips from a cliff, while holding Naomi Watts, in the recent Peter Jackson remake.
The most preposterous hanging-by-the-fingertips scene yet comes in "Stormbreaker," which opens
in most cities Friday. Teen Brit secret agent Alex Rider (played by Alex Pettyfer) hangs by one
hand from the top of a London skyscraper while holding Sabina Pleasure (Sarah Bolger), who's
dangling in the air, with his other hand. Rider is shown supporting the body weights of two people
solely by gripping a rope with one hand; this would be physically impossible even for someone with
the strength of a champion weightlifter. Scenes like this aren't "spectacular," they're stupid, because
they are OBVIOUSLY phony. Here, I break down how many special-effect scenes of recent action
movies are physically impossible. My contention is that Hollywood special effects were much more
fun when they had to be done by stunt people. Now that they're simulated by computers and
obviously fake, who cares? Note: TMQ believes the first football-themed James Bond movie should
be called "Tiebreaker."
Also crossing over from fun to boring is computer animation. There have now been about 15
consecutive computer-animated movies in which celebrities do voice-overs for sassy, wisecracking
animals loose in the city or suburbs. The first eight or nine of these all-but-identical movies might
have been amusing; the most recent bunch belly-flopped at the box office. Gee, wonder why?
Terrell Owens Humiliation Analysis: Drew Bledsoe threw toward Owens 13 times. The results:
two interceptions, three dropped passes, three receptions for 45 yards, no touchdowns. On both
interceptions, the ball was underthrown and Owens, rather than fight to break up the pass, passively
watched it get picked off. After the second interception Owens passively watched, he screamed at
teammates and assistant coaches on the sideline. The guys on the sideline were not the ones who
could have broken up the pass. Actual Owens statement at the postgame press conference: "Maybe I
need to work harder."
Dallas-Philadelphia Endgame Analysis: One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand
three, one thousand four, one thousand five, one thousand six, one thousand seven, one thousand
eight, one thousand nine. Drew Bledsoe held the ball for nine seconds before being sacked with
1:57 remaining, and Dallas trailing 31-24. Ummm -- don't blame that sack on the offensive line.
Now it's fourth-and-18 for the Cowboys on their 37 with 47 seconds remaining, and rather than
hurry to the line, Dallas calls its final timeout. Terry Glenn runs a square-in-up, and Philadelphia
explicably falls for it, playing the short pass. There are 47 seconds left in the game, where oh where
might the pass go? Maybe up the field! Glenn is behind everyone and running for the tying
touchdown; Eagles' safety Michael Lewis commits deliberate pass interference. Now it's first-andgoal Dallas on the Philadelphia 6 with 35 seconds remaining. Why not surprise Philadelphia with a
run? Instead incompletion then an interception returned for a 102-yard touchdown. Using the last
time out may have helped Dallas come up with the play that converted the fourth-and-18, but meant
that at the goal line, the Cowboys were locked in to passing. Philadelphia was dropping seven men
into coverage, and made Dallas pay.
'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed At All: Trailing 21-17 early
in the second half, the Philadelphia Nesharim faced third-and-inches and threw & incompletion,
punt. Run the ball for an inch already! Philadelphia is TMQ's bete noire: pass-wacky and blitzhappy, yet constantly winning. Basically, the Eagles ruin all my theories, though their cheerleaders
do compensate for a lot. Throwing little dinky-dunk passes when the length of the football is needed
is going to come back to haunt this team, you mark my words.
Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt Will Grow Up Wishing She Was ESPN "SportsCenter" Jolie-Pitt :
The Associated Press reported that in the last 12 months, at least four babies have been named
ESPN, including ESPN Real, born last week in Biloxi, Miss. Parents Leann and Rusty Real will
pronounce the boy's name "Espen." Weirdly, ESPN Real sounds like a name destined for fame.
Luckily for the Giants, They Don't Get Along: In its final month of the 2005 season, Washington
averaged 30 points per game. So during the offseason, Chainsaw Dan Snyder decreed that the Skins'
offense needed a makeover. He hired a new offensive coordinator who installed a new system, plus
invested huge amounts of money and multiple draft choices to acquire glamour players Antwaan
Randle El, Brandon Lloyd and T.J. Duckett. Sunday, the Redskins scored three points as Randle El,
Lloyd and Duckett combined to gain exactly 10 yards. Is it just impossible for Snyder to leave well
enough alone? Had Washington's owner simply done nothing during the offseason, flying to some
private island he owns or perhaps to some small country he owns, lying on the beach drinking
blueberry-almond martinis, it's likely the Washington offense would be performing better. Trading
third-round draft picks for Lloyd and Duckett was especially puzzling. The Niners had lost interest
in Lloyd -- he's talented but self-centered -- and Duckett always has talked a lot better than he plays.
Since arriving in Washington, Duckett has complained nonstop; there's a reason the Falcons did not
want him in their locker room anymore. To free up money for these no-accounts, Snyder released
Walt Harris and Robert Royal, two accomplished veterans playing well for their new teams.
Sunday, the Redskins couldn't even block. Michael Strahan got his first sack of the season as very
highly overpaid right tackle Jon Jansen blocked no one at all, leaving reserve tight end Christian
Fauria to deal with Strahan.
As for the Giants, they spent their bye week bickering in public -- always a good sign! Tuesday
Morning Quarterback's longstanding belief is that because the Giants represent the boroughs of New
York City, which is the world capital of arguing, the G-Man franchise always performs well when
its players and coaches are quarreling. When the Giants are peaceful? Fuggedaboudit.
NCAA Postpones Discussion of Literacy Rule to Spend More Time Objecting to Feathers:
Often the NCAA looks the other way as big schools make only token attempts to educate D-I
football and men's basketball scholarship athletes. But put a feather in your cap and you're asking
for trouble! Recently the NCAA ruled that the feathers on the William & Mary athletic logo must be
removed because they are offensive. We're not talking about disparaging caricatures of American
Indians, which are indeed offensive; the William & Mary logo contains only images of feathers.
Has the NCAA actually found one single person anywhere on Earth who claims to be offended by a
drawing of feathers? Maybe birds were offended! Then again, the NCAA has a reason to want to
get even with William & Mary: This academics-oriented college plays in Division I and graduates
its athletes, thus creating uncomfortable comparisons for the NCAA's money-factory schools. In the
most recent NCAA stats, William & Mary graduated 98 percent of its Division I-AA football
players and 92 percent of its Division I men's basketball players. Hey sports studs, want to attend a
major university without going to class? Chances are you will get away with it. But should you
draw a feather, the wrath of Khan will descend upon you.
The Football Gods Chortled: "Eric Parker is a sure-handed receiver, he never drops the ball" -- Al
Michaels on Sunday night, referring to the San Diego receiver. Parker dropped the next pass thrown
to him.
TMQ in the News: I can now lay claim to the distinction of being the first ESPN columnist quoted
in the scholarly journal Arms Control Today.
Miami Quarterback-O-Meter: Miami quarterbacks Daunte Culpepper and Joey Harrington, both
high No. 1 draft choices, have combined to throw two touchdown passes in five games. Harrington's
first interception against New England was ghastly; he telegraphed the pass so badly he practically
slapped a shipping label on it. The second interception was not Harrington's fault; it bounced
cleanly off Wesley Welker's hands. Don't overlook that the Miami defense played an outstanding
game on the road; the Dolphins sure are down at 1-4, but maybe not out.
Wacky Beer of the Week: Award categories at the recent Great American Beer Festival in Denver
included "coffee-flavored beer" and "fruit and vegetable beer." Mesquite-flavored beer was also
entered.
Adventures in Officiating: Three snaps after Harrington's second interception, pass interference
against Will Allen put the ball at the Marine Mammals' 1, setting up the Patriots' icing touchdown.
Yes, Allen collided with the receiver, but Allen had turned around and was trying to intercept the
ball. The defender can collide with the receiver if in the act of playing the ball. On Maurice JonesDrew's 4-yard touchdown run that put Jax ahead of Jersey/B 21-0, replay review focused on
whether the ball broke the plane, which it did. But Jones-Drew's knee was down! Often in goal-line
situations, everyone including the zebras focuses on the position of the ball. Once the knee is down,
the position of the ball is not supposed to matter.
Reverse Discrimination in the NFL? A study published in the Journal of Law, Economics and
Organization contends NFL teams discriminate against African-Americans on draft day. The study,
by Michael Conlin of Michigan State University and Patrick Emerson of the University of Colorado
at Denver, looking at many years of the NFL draft, compared how high black and white players
were selected to how many games each eventually started. Obviously there are white NFL draft
choices who are fabulous and black draft choices who are terrible. But on the whole, Conlin and
Emerson found, white players were favored in the draft, tending to be selected higher than seemed
justified by their professional performance, as judged by eventual starts.
"The results provide strong evidence that hiring discrimination is prevalent among NFL teams," the
authors found, "hiring" in this sense meaning drafting. Pro football front offices, the study
speculates, tend to overestimate the potential of white collegians and underestimate the potential of
African-American prospects. Once rosters are set, Conlin and Emerson found, discrimination
disappears -- coaches play the best performers regardless of race, and the value of contract offers to
established veterans has no racial component. Race-blind drafting, in turn, seemed related to
winning: "We find some evidence that teams that [favor whites during drafting] win fewer games in
subsequent seasons."
Tuesday Morning Quarterback had an objection to the methodology of the study, in which draftclass analysis stopped at 1991. This was done so that enough time had passed that all drafted
players had completed their careers, allowing their starts to be totaled. But the result is that Conlin's
and Emerson's numbers come from the period when African-American college quarterbacks were
objects of active bias. Bias against black quarterbacks is now over, and thus the whites-favoring
draft phenomenon for this position should be less today than in the period the researchers studied.
Equally, it seems fair to say that in decades past, NFL front offices sought white high draft choices
on the theory that many white fans were biased against blacks, so white stars were needed to attract
suburbanites to games. Today, spectator prejudice against African-American players no longer
seems an issue in any part of the country. Fans just want their teams to win, and there no longer
seems any pattern of white fans preferring to root for white players. Still, the study offers numerical
substantiation that race remains more of an issue in the NFL than most of us would care to think.
Looking for an academic study of the NFL that's not upsetting? Here, three researchers require 29
pages to show that losing coaches get fired.
Obscure College Score of the Week: New York Maritime 66, Walter Reed 6. There's a famous
military hospital called Walter Reed, but according to the College Board database, no institution of
higher learning by that name. So who exactly was New York Maritime playing against? New York
Maritime's athletic teams are the Privateers. Don't navies want to sink privateers? Course options at
Maritime include Collision Avoidance.
Obscure College Score of the Week No. 2: Wisconsin-La Crosse 28, Wisconsin-Platteville 21.
Four interstate games took place Saturday, as Wisconsin-Eau Claire beat Wisconsin-Falls River,
Wisconsin-Oshkosh beat Wisconsin-Stout and Wisconsin-Whitewater beat Wisconsin-Stevens
Point. According to the school's Web site, there are an incredible 180 events scheduled at
Wisconsin-La Crosse today, including the mysterious "Inside Iraq Promotion."
Obscure College Score of the Week No. 3: Nebraska Wesleyan 19, Doane 0. Reader Barbara
Grunwald of Clovis, Calif., a Nebraska Wesleyan grad, notes her school boasts of being "Ranked
the number one liberal arts college in Nebraska by U.S. News." She adds, "Of course, we won't
discuss how many liberal arts colleges there are in Nebraska."
Running Up the Score Watch: Last Tuesday, TMQ covered the insipid stunt pulled by Matewan
High of West Virginia, which ran up the score to 64-0 over Burch High, a tiny rural school, so a
Matewan tailback could claim a record 658 yards gained in a game. Three days later, the
Washington Post provided detail on just how bad Matewan's bad sportsmanship was. Despite an
insurmountable lead, Matewan coach Yogi Kinder had his team use a hurry-up, no-huddle
throughout the second half in order to run up the score and compile yards. This, against an
overmatched little school that had not scored a point against Matewan in seven years, and could
barely dress enough players for the game. I've heard many stories about high school coaches who
were egotistical jerks, but Yogi Kinder tops them all. It is not just blowing smoke to say that high
school sports exist to teach fair play and competitive ethics. Instead of setting a good example, the
football staff at this high school made the town name "Matewan" nationally synonymous with "bad
sportsmanship." Meanwhile, let's not let Paul McCoy, the kid who ran for the 658 yards, off the
hook just because his coach lacks standards. Paul, you participated in a cheap, shoddy spectacle you
knew was intended to humiliate a weak opponent.
And where was the guy in the white cap while all this was happening? The National Federation of
High Schools 2006 Football Rules Book states, in Section 9, Article 3, "Neither team shall commit
any act which, in the opinion of the referee, tends to make a travesty of the game." The head official
present was derelict in not stopping the turning of the game into a travesty. Rule 9.3 is the most
sweeping in football -- violation can be punished by "any penalty the referee considers equitable,"
from multiple flags per down to forfeiture of the contest. Yet the officials did nothing, allowing the
integrity of the game to be mocked. Holy mackerel, what an all-around embarrassment. Headlines
said ALL-TIME HIGH SCHOOL RUSHING RECORD. They should have read, ALL-TIME LOW
POINT FOR HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS OCCURS IN WEST VIRGINIA TOWN. Football gods
note: Bad sportsmanship is always punished. On Friday night, Matewan was held to seven points
and defeated by Tug Valley, a high school Matewan, the local power, had never lost to before.
Running Up the Score Justified: In Virginia prep action Saturday, West Potomac High School
beat West Springfield 81-74 in four overtimes. The game featured 21 touchdowns, two field goals,
two deuces and 19-for-19 PAT kicking. Imagine how it feels to be on a football team that scored 74
points and lost.
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at
[email protected] Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I may
quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Note: giving your hometown improves your
odds of being quoted.
Next Week: West Potomac High School challenges the Chicago Bears to an exhibition match.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
TMQ Nation fires back
By Gregg Easterbrook
Yesterday, Tuesday Morning Quarterback razzed the NCAA for demanding that William & Mary
remove two feathers from its athletic logo -- a demand that seems like a "Saturday Night Live"
satire of political correctness. A few hours after the column was posted, William & Mary
announced it was giving up and would take off the feathers. Further resistance would require suing
the NCAA, and the college said it cannot justify spending parents' money on the matter -- especially
since the NCAA, backed by the deep pockets of the football factories, seems willing to invest
substantial resources to get its way. As Daphne Cooper of Bluffton, S.C. notes, "William & Mary
thinks money is best used for education, while the NCAA thinks money is best used to increase its
financial control over what was once amateur collegiate sports." The NCAA ruled that Florida State
may keep the Indian-themed feather on its helmet, and the University of Utah may keep its Utes
nickname and two-feathers logo -- yet is adamant the feathers come off William & Mary's helmets.
But then, Florida State and Utah football are money machines. Nathan Verilla of Richmond, Va.
puts it, "The NCAA's efforts to police Native American nicknames and logos is a sham. It has
nothing to do with the actual nicknames or logos and everything to do with which schools bring in
the money. Never mind that the majority of Native Americans don't really care about Native
American imagery in sports and that the groups working to alter sports images should better spend
their time on the real problems facing Native Americans today -- alcoholism, suicide,
unemployment, lack of political power. If the NCAA was serious about removing Native American
imagery from their member schools, it would have forced every college with such imagery to
change their nicknames and logos, instead of caving to the football factories while bullying small
schools like William & Mary."
Even by the standards of the NCAA, an organization
that has made its name synonymous with double
standards, the campaign against William & Mary's
feathers seems a fool's errand. My guess is the NCAA
wanted to claim it was taking dramatic action about
Indian imagery, but was afraid to pick on big-money
schools, so picked on the little guy. Great job of setting
an example, Myles Brand! Also, William & Mary
perennially embarrasses the NCAA by playing in
Division I and graduating almost all scholarship athletes
-- 98 percent of the school's Division I-AA football
players graduated in the latest stats. Florida State by
Do you see much difference?
contrast does an atrocious job, graduating just 52
percent of its football scholarship holders. Florida State treats education for football players as a big
joke, and the NCAA lavishes special favors on that school; whereas graduate your athletes and the
NCAA will punish you! Gene Nichol, president of William and Mary, said yesterday, "It is galling
that a university with such a consistent and compelling record of doing intercollegiate athletics the
right way is threatened with punishment by an organization whose own house, simply put, is not in
order." My suggestion to William & Mary faithful: Start wearing feathers to games.
Norman Carmichael of Columbus, Ohio writes, "How could you not comment on Joe Gibbs
punting on fourth-and-6 from the Jersey/A 37, trailing 6-3? Or ordering a field goal attempt from
the Jersey/A 23 on fourth-and-1, when trailing 16-3?" Worse, the field goal attempt was by John
Hall, a kicker who's been struggling and who yesterday was placed on IR. Even had the figgie
succeeded, the Skins would have trailed by two scores. Outraged, the football gods pushed the kick
wide.
Describing last Saturday's many Wisconsin-on-Wisconsin games in the state's public university
system, I called them "interstate" pairings. Many cheese-wise readers including Jenny Ritchey of
Madison, Wisc. noted "intrastate" is correct. Jon Allison of Chicago writes, "The column and the
reader feedback are perfect for the rush-hour ride home on the El from downtown Chicago. I've
been trying to think of a decent nickname for Rex Grossman, now that he's helped turn the Bears
into an offensive force. Here it is: Score-a-saurus Rex." Roman Picheta of Warsaw, Poland notes
the Polish American Football Association recently had its inaugural game, as the Warsaw Eagles
faced the Wielkopolska Fireballs in Lodz.
I wrote that excessive attention to high school football might start that wonderful sport down the
path to ruin. Jessica Lopez of Albuquerque, N.M. reminds, "Shoe companies have already shown
they don't care about education as they tempt high schoolers to skip college by offering huge shoe
deals up front. Why would anybody want to learn about sociology or biology when they can make
millions of dollars for wearing a shoe?" I cited the new show "Friday Night Lights", a well-made if
puzzling show -- more on that soon -- as an example of the rising profile of high school football.
Matt Keeling of Falmouth, Mass. countered, "In the early 1980s one of my all-time favorite
shows, 'The White Shadow,' premiered on TV. It was about an ex-NBA player coaching a bunch of
misfit, multi-ethnic high school students and was a huge hit. Yet it didn't lead to the ever expanding
media coverage of high school basketball players. The players didn't get involved with agents, drug
dealers, shoe companies and underage groupies. NBA teams didn't begin to recruit younger and
younger players based on potential instead of performance, and in the process degrade the integrity
and level of play in what was once the most exciting pro sports league. No sir, none of those things
happened." TMQ also said that one of the great aspects of high school football is that parking is
free. Sal Capaccio of Englewood, Fla., a high school football coach, counters that in most of
Florida, high schools charge $3 for parking during games.
TMQ asked why the referee didn't use the "travesty" rule to stop the West Virginia high school that
went no-huddle throughout the second half in order to run up the score to 64-0. Vince Blanchard of
Hawkesbury, Ontario writes, "As a basketball official I have often encountered coaches who insist
on trying to run up the score on weaker opposition by using a full-court press when well ahead late
in the game. When this happens any good official will put a stop to it by calling the slightest contact
a foul. This gives the losing team opportunities for free throws, producing the opposite of the
desired result and a quick stop to the tactics. Sometimes an aside to the coach to 'take your press off'
is all that is needed." Meanwhile Marcus Cooper of Denver notes you can use the guestbook of
Matewan High School, the school that pulled the no-huddle stunt, to register your view of its notion
of sportsmanship. Take a look-see at the prevailing opinion. Matewan High: Has it occurred to you
that the dignified thing would be to issue an apology?
I called Yuri Gagarin "the first member of the genus Homo" to reach space. Dan Drew of
Trumbull, Conn. points out that a few months before Gagarin's 1961 flight, Ham the chimpanzee
soared into space aboard a U.S. rocket. Ham, he contends, was "the first member of the genus
Homo" to leave our little rock. Taxonomists traditionally place chimps into genus Pan, but recent
research showing human and chimpanzee DNA is 99.4 percent alike eventually will lead to chimps
entering the human genus, Drew thinks. Ham was trained to pull levers in response to flashing
lights and did so throughout his flight, establishing that space travel would not render astronauts
incapable of operating controls. Pulling levers in response to flashing lights -- sounds like your
office, doesn't it?
Peter Kilkelly of Waterville, Maine writes, "As further evidence of your theory about the amount
of clothing worn by a team's cheerleaders helping determine who wins the game, check out the New
England Patriots' page comparing what their cheerleaders wore for the Denver game, a loss, and the
Buffalo game, a victory." Risa Balayem of Detroit, an official at Ford Field, wrote, "Just wanted to
let you know that the MAC games will return to ESPN on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in
November." The Toledo Rockets play three consecutive Tuesday nights on ESPN that month. Let
the Tuesday and Wednesday night games begin!
On science fiction shows saving money by having the aliens take human form -- on "Battlestar
Galactica," of all possible choices, the evil Cylon living robots by the strangest coincidence decided
to make themselves look exactly like people -- Nicole Rejiester points out, "In the original 1960s
'Star Trek,' the Klingons looked like nothing more than slightly wrinkly humans. It wasn't until Star
Trek movies, with higher budgets, that Klingons took on an alien appearance." Paul Poage of
Portland, Oregon adds that in the old television miniseries "V," the aliens also by the strangest and
most amazing coincidence had taken on the appearance of people.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback supposed that the safest off-price generic prediction would be
annually to predict that all teams would finish with the same record as the season before. Eric
DeGroot of Appleton, Wisc. conducted an incredibly scientifically advanced analysis of this
conjecture: "I analyzed the last 20 years of records in the NFL to test your theory. I looked at exact
match in records and a one game difference in record from the previous year. Here are my findings:
Best results for predicting the same records -- 6-24 predicting the 1998 season based on 1997
records. Worst results for predicting the same records -- 0-32 predicting the 2005 season based on
2004 records. Best record for predicting within one game -- 15-15 predicting the 1996 season based
on 1995 records. Worst record for predicting within one game -- 4-28 predicting the 2005 season
based on 2004 records. Seven teams have never had the same record two years in a row in the last
20 years: Jets, Giants, Ravens, Texans, Panthers, Rams and Lions. In the last 20 years the Packers
have had the same record back-to-back five times." OK, so next year I will predict that Green Bay
will have the same record as in 2006, while the Jets, Giants, Ravens, Texans, Panthers, Rams and
Lions will not.
Rafae Khan of Montpelier, Vt. notes, "A lot was made of the Manning Bowl, but that is only one
of five games the Giants play this year that involves brother vs. brother. There are Peyton versus Eli
Manning, Tim Hasselbeck versus Matt Hasselbeck, Sinorice Moss versus Santana Moss (twice) and
Tiki Barber versus Ronde Barber. That has to be some kind of record." Peter Laub of Columbus,
Ohio notes that in Bob Woodward's new "State of Denial" -- you're forgiven if you have not yet
plowed through all 560 pages -- Col. Steve Rotkoff, a military intelligence officer, is quoted as
having written a haiku about Donald Rumsfeld. Here it is from the book, bowdlerized:
Rumsfeld is a d---.
Won't flow the forces we need:
We will be too light.
Be sure to read this piece by Jacob Weisberg of Slate, who analyzes
the changing portrayal of the defense secretary in Woodward's three
books about the George W. Bush presidency. In the first book,
Weisberg shows, Woodward presented Rumsfeld as an awesome
titan striding across the landscape; in the second, as a fabulous
manager; in the third, as an incompetent idiot. Did Rumsfeld really
change from mastermind to dolt in five years? Weisberg thinks he's
been the same all along. What changed, Weisberg supposes, is that
Rumsfeld gave Woodward extensive access to Pentagon corridors of
power for the first book; talked to him somewhat for the second;
froze him out for the third. Woodward has an established pattern of
heaping fawning praise on those who make him feel important,
while slamming those who don't. Rumsfeld ought to know this about
Woodward. So the fact that the defense secretary wouldn't cozy up
for the most recent book is another indicator Rumsfeld is out of
touch.
Rummy looks kinda
crummy.
Karen Locascio of Boston complains of my saying the Jets played
a game at The Meadowlands: "The Meadowlands complex is made up of three separate facilities:
Giants Stadium, Continental Airlines Arena and Meadowlands Racetrack. When the Jets play at the
Meadowlands complex, they are in Giants Stadium. There's technically no such thing as
Meadowlands Stadium." May it please the court, I introduce into evidence the league's official
Game Book from the Jets' home opener, which refers to the stadium as The Meadowlands. The
league calls the place Giants Stadium when Jersey/A plays there and The Meadowlands when
Jersey/B performs. With the Jets and Giants negotiating details of the new facility to be built in the
same place, my understanding is that a sticking point is Jersey/B's insistence it be called Jets
Stadium when they are performing. The alternative would be to sell a corporate name for both
teams and have the facility always called YouTube Field at Google Pointe or something.
Finally, Alan Higgins of Nashville, Tenn. writes, "I am a plebe at the United States Naval
Academy and have found your column very helpful. Every morning the plebes have chow calls. For
these chow calls we must have memorized a number of things, including three articles from national
news, international news and sports. I have just started to read Tuesday Morning Quarterback and
enjoy the fact that it contains so much information I can do an entire week on one column alone.
From a grateful plebe to you, thank you and keep them coming."
Monday, October 16, 2006
Updated: October 18, 3:42 PM ET
It's hard work blowing that lead
By Gregg Easterbrook
When my two football-crazed boys got up early this morning I said, "Guys, Arizona was ahead by
20 and had the ball on the last play of the third quarter." Immediately both said, "And the Cardinals
lost." Not only did Arizona blow a late 20-point lead at home in front of a national television
audience; the Bears committed six turnovers and the Cards still managed to lose. Arizona held
Chicago to nine first downs and was plus-four in turnovers, yet managed to lose. In the closing
seconds, Arizona had last year's Pro Bowl kicker lined up for a 41-yarder to win, and trigger what
would surely have been wild civic celebration, and still lost. What's a stronger expression than
"pitiful"? We must now twist an old line and proclaim: Whom the football gods would destroy, they
first make Arizona Cardinals.
Yet it's not enough to say that mere Cardinal-ness cost Arizona this game. Blowing a late 20-point
lead is not easy: Dennis Green and his coaching staff worked hard to blow it. Consider the situation
at the start of the fourth quarter. Arizona led 23-10 and had a first-and-10 on its 23. At this point,
the clock -- not the Bears -- is the opponent; just keep those numerals on the scoreboard declining
and victory is likely. Yet after the first play of the fourth quarter, Arizona called timeout. On the
possession, Matt Leinart threw incomplete twice, stopping the clock twice more. On its next
possession, still leading 23-10 and now with 10:53 remaining, Arizona went run, incompletion,
incompletion, stopping the clock two more times before punting. TMQ's Immutable Law of Doing
the Obvious holds: Sometimes all a team needs to do is run the ball up the middle for no gain, and
everything will be fine. Had Arizona not called a timeout in a clock-killer situation, and had the
team simply run up the middle for no gain on these four plays Leinart threw incomplete, probably
there never would have been a winning 83-yard Chicago punt return with 2:58 to play. The clock
would have expired and the contest would have ended with Arizona leading.
Stadium note: The new Arizona stadium is tremendously impressive, though it makes it a shame the
Levitra sponsorship contract with the NFL ended in March. When Levitra, a Viagra competitor, put
its billboards in NFL stadia, my line was that while Levitra is intended to increase scoring, it would
reduce scoring because the end zone would get farther and farther away during games. Now a
stadium exists with a movable field surface -- the end zone actually could get farther away during
games. Perfect backdrop for a Levitra ad! That aside, whenever the high-sex-appeal Cardinals
Cheerleaders dance, expect the Arizona field to get a little longer.
In other football news, the MAC rules! This weekend Mid-American Conference starting
quarterbacks in the NFL were 3-0 (Bruce Gradkowski, Chad Pennington and Ben Roethlisberger),
while starting quarterbacks of the max-glam Pacific-10 went 2-5 (Drew Bledsoe and Jake Plummer
winning -- Mark Brunell, Joey Harrington, Damon Huard, Matt Leinart and Carson Palmer losing).
And in other sports news, first the Red Sox win the World Series, then the White Sox win, now the
Detroit Tigers are in the World Series. Is it me or does this seem to anyone else a sign of the
Apocalypse? Recently scholars working near the Dead Sea unearthed an ancient scroll that warns,
"And lo, it shall come to pass that the sox of red will wear the garlands of summer, and then the sox
of white, and after that the lowest of the low will be raised high. And verily, this shall happen in a
time of great underground explosions and earthquakes that shake the land itself." Be on the lookout
for seven-headed dragons and battalions of armored locust, OK?
Stat of the Week No. 1: Chicago became the first team to overcome a 20-point deficit without
scoring a touchdown on offense.
Stat of the Week No. 2: Denver, at 4-1, has scored only 12 more points than Oakland, at 0-5.
Stat of the Week No. 3: At 4:18 p.m. ET on Oct. 15, the Buccaneers, last year's NFC South
champion, won their first game of the season.
Stat of the Week No. 4: Seattle is 4-1 despite being outscored. In seven quarters, spanning from the
end of their game with the Giants to halftime this Sunday, the Seahawks were outscored 85-13.
Stat of the Week No. 5: Donovan McNabb and Marc Bulger have combined to throw 23
touchdown passes and three interceptions.
Stat of the Week No. 6: Buffalo had a scoring drive of minus-12 yards.
Stat of the Week No. 7: Bill Parcells joins Tony Dungy and Mike Shanahan as the only coaches to
beat all 32 NFL teams (possible because they beat their present clubs while coaching elsewhere.)
Stat of the Week No. 8: Despite no field goals this Sunday, Jeff Wilkins of St. Louis is on a pace to
kick 48 field goals; the season record is 40.
Stat of the Week No. 9: Buffalo, Cincinnati and Washington lost to teams that entered the weekend
a combined 0-14.
Stat of the Week No. 10: Since the moment they trotted out to be introduced at Super Bowl
XXXVII, the Oakland Raiders are 13-41.
Cheerleader of the Week: The spectacularly statuesque Laura of the Minnesota Vikings, whom
two years ago TMQ speculated "must be Amazonian in stature, as she towers over other Viking
cheerleaders in their group portrait." Perhaps what's really at work is that others on the squad are
pixie-ish. This year Laura's team bio declares, "I am NOT 6 feet tall. I was last measured at 71
inches, so anyone who wants to argue needs to get out their measuring tape!" Hmmm -- roughly 50
million guys would take Laura up on her offer to check her measurements. Also according to her
team bio, Laura has a bachelor's in communication from the University of Minnesota, takes Bosu
classes and her "future goals" include a career in marketing. "Future" goals are the only kind -- you
can't have retroactive goals!
Sweet Play of the Week: Pittsburgh leading 7-0, the Steelers had a first-and-10 on the Chiefs' 47.
Pittsburgh ran a sweet-looking play in which Ben Roethlisberger faked the hitch pass right, then
faked a handoff up the middle, then threw deep to the unguarded Nate Washington on the skinny
post -- touchdown, and the walkover was on. Not only did Kansas City defensive back Greg Wesley
let Washington go deep, not even attempting to cover him; not only was Wesley making the high
school mistake of "looking into the backfield" trying to guess the play rather than guarding his man;
check the tape of what happened once Wesley turned and realized Washington was behind him.
Wesley merely stood there and watched the touchdown, jogging a little in the general direction after
it was too late. This is the sort of defensive esprit de corps that would later in the game result in
Kansas City taking over the mantle of TMQ's Single Worst Play of the Season So Far (see below).
Sweet Possession of the Week: Baltimore scored to pull within 23-21 of Carolina with 2:19
remaining -- and holding all three timeouts, the Nevermores decided to kick away. Surely
Baltimore's vaunted defense, backed by a crowd roaring at military afterburner decibels, could get
the stop! Instead, three snaps by the Cats' offense, a first down, and the rest were kneel-downs.
Note: This contest matched two teams renowned for power rushing. In the game there were 568
yards passing and 138 yards running.
Sour Play of the Week: You've got to have some pretty sour plays to blow a 20-point lead at home
on "Monday Night Football" with a quarter to play. The sourest for the Cardinals was the one that
started their epic collapse. Leading 23-3, Arizona faced second-and-10 on its 15 on the final snap of
the third quarter. Matt Leinart dropped back, and Chicago left defensive end Mark Anderson came
through the Arizona offensive line untouched by human hands to blindside Leinart, who fumbled,
Bears safety Mike Brown recovering for the touchdown. Watch the replay. Arizona right tackle
Oliver Ross lines up directly across from Anderson. The right tackle blocks the left end in all
offensive schemes known to man. When the quarterback is a lefty as is Leinart, the right tackle is
The Man because he guards the quarterback's blindside. Yet on the play Ross makes no attempt to
hit Anderson. Ross simply straightens up and watches as Anderson blows through untouched. No
quarterback, even for the worst team, expects to be blindsided one second after the snap by a
defensive lineman who's never been touched at all. A talk item on the ESPN pregame show for the
Monday night game was how terrible the Arizona offensive line is. Yup.
Sour Sequence of the Week: Trailing Denver 13-0, Oakland had a second-and-8 deep in Broncos
territory early in the third quarter. The Raiders went sack, sack and then settled for the field goal.
On the next possession, Oakland had a first-and-10 on its 43. The Raiders went penalty,
incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, penalty, punt.
Sweet 'N' Sour Two-Week Sequence: Two weeks ago, San Diego
honked to the Ravens partly because on a key short-yardage down,
the Bolts called a play that had Philip Rivers throw backward to
LaDainian Tomlinson running outside, and the play failed. Surely
San Francisco would not expect San Diego to use a play that just
failed! The Chargers went to the same action on short-yardage
again, this time for a touchdown. Two weeks ago that San Diego
action was one of TMQ's Sour Plays of the Week, and now it's
Sweet.
Big Gamble That Worked No. 1: Leading 14-13 over Cincinnati
with 18 ticks remaining, Tampa had the Bengals facing a secondand-10 on their 47, still holding two timeouts. The Bucs took a crazy
risk by blitzing seven men, and the result was a sack that, for all
intent and purpose, sealed the game. Acoustics note: Trailing 13-7 at
home and winless on the year, Tampa went for everything on fourthand-3 from the Cincinnati 8-yard line with 43 seconds remaining,
and officials on the field ruled incompletion. When the replay booth
reversed the call and ruled the play a touchdown, the pirate-themed
stadium shook so loudly my laptop rattled.
They're down on their knees
and begging the football
gods in San Francisco, and
it's still not enough.
Big Gamble That Worked No. 2: Trailing St. Louis 28-27, the Blue Men Group reached first-and10 on the Rams' 32 with 17 seconds remaining. Their coaches gambled by sending Mack Strong up
the middle, assuming the field goal was already within reach. Then Matt Hasselbeck spiked the ball
to stop the clock, and on the disorganized play Seattle was called for not being properly lined up,
moving the spot back to the St. Louis 36-yard line with four seconds to go. Had the call been a false
start, 10 seconds would have run off the clock and the game would have ended. The replay showed
both illegal formation and false start, but it was illegal formation the zebras called, and that penalty
does not include a 10-second runoff. From the 36, Josh Brown hit a 54-yard field goal to win. Note
about an ending more exciting than Seahawks fans would have cared for: With three minutes
remaining, Seattle led 27-21 and had a third-and-4 on Les Mouflons' 11, St. Louis down to one
timeout. Maurice Morris ran and crossed the first down marker; had he simply dropped to his knees,
the game would have, for all intent and purpose, been over. But Morris tried to churn for an extra
yard and fumbled. A moment later, Marc Bulger threw that highlight-reel 67-yard touchdown to
Torry Holt, and the sweaty-palms finish was set in motion.
Medium-Sized Gamble That Worked: Game tied at 24, the United States Saints reached firstand-goal on the Philadelphia 9-yard at the two-minute warning, holding one timeout. Thrice Drew
Brees knelt on the ball, then John Carney kicked the winning 31-yard field goal with three ticks
remaining. Doing it this way precluded the chance of a fumble or that New Orleans would score a
touchdown quickly, leaving the Eagles time. But field goals are hardly automatic. Had Carney
missed, everyone in the sports-yak universe would today be second-guessing not trying for the
touchdown here. Note to ESPN fact-checking department: Please verify that the Saints are actually
5-1.
At Least Since Congress Was Not in Session, the Citizens Were
Safe: Many TV news channels now flash glaring bright-red bars
across the bottom of the screen, even if the story being reported
concerns sorghum subsidy payments. Bright red is thought to
command attention. News channels also now commonly flash
BREAKING NEWS even when the "breaking news" is a
government press conference at which some robotic figure issues
denials, or a similar non-event. And news channels now commonly
project a picture-in-picture of a live view of something, since live is
more compelling than taped. Last week I was watching Fox News,
and as the Dennis Hastert scandal was being discussed, the screen
showed the Capitol Dome above the legend, LIVE VIEW OF U.S.
CAPITOL. Not only was it just a live view of the walls of a
building, Congress was not in session at the time.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! Early in the Flaming Thumbtacks- The NCAA has demanded
at-Redskins contest, Washington called a big blitz on a Tennessee
the Indian feathers be
third down, and caught Vince Young for the sack. Now Washington removed from "Freedom,"
leads 14-13 in the third quarter, Tennessee faces a third down. and the statute at the top of the
Capitol dome.
again six blitzers cross the line; perfect "hot read" pass for 27 yards
to Drew Bennett. Three snaps later, Tennessee faces a fourth-and-2 on the home team 31 and Jeff
Fisher makes the right Maroon Zone decision -- rather than launch an unlikely long field goal, he
tries for the statistically likely first down. Again Washington's defensive coordinator, the tastefully
named Gregg Williams, sends the big blitz and again Young makes the "hot read," tossing 23 yards
to the man-covered Brandon Jones. Tennessee scores on the possession to take the lead and never
looks back.
Nation's capital note: The Skins honked despite a
pregame flyover by the Thunderbirds, who were in
town for the dedication of the Air Force Memorial. But
then perhaps it is best we do not discuss the Redskins
and the concept of air power in the same paragraph!
Draft note: Houston had the first choice and picked
defensive end Mario Williams over the electric Reggie
Bush and hometown hero Vince Young. Bush has been
fabulous and Young, on Sunday making just his third
start, gives the early impression of a force to be
reckoned with. The Houston defense? Last in the
league.
T.O. Recommended Reading List: Terrell Owens
asked outside the Cowboys' locker room, "Why am I
here?" T.O., I advise that you read:
Hey Mark Brunell, they're open! They're
open!
"Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl
"The Once and Future King" by T.H. White
"My Antonia" by Willa Cather
"Huckleberry Finn" by Samuel Clemens
"The Pursuit of Happiness" by David Myers
"I and Thou" by Martin Buber
"Invisible Man" by Ralph Ellison
"Things Fall Apart" by Chinua Achebe
"Death Comes for the Archbishop" by Cather
"The Human Race" by Robert Antelme
"God in the Dock" by C.S. Lewis
"Omnipotence and Other Theological Mistakes" by Charles Hartshorne
"The Ghost Road" by Patricia Barker
"Our Town" by Thornton Wilder
"The House of Breath" by William Goyen
These books have enriched my understanding of the question, "Why
am I here?" "The House of Breath" is especially recommended, as it
is one of the most humane and emotional novels of the past century,
yet barely known. I will commend two more books, much lower in
quality than the great works listed above, but nonetheless worth
reading: "Beside Still Waters" by Gregg Easterbrook and "The
Purpose-Driven Life" by Rick Warren. Though I disagree with some
of Warren's theology -- I don't believe there is any divine plan for
individual lives, God is watching events unfold just as we are -"The Purpose-Driven Life" has helped many people find a sense of
meaning and the strength to live virtuously. Warren is a lot easier to
follow than Buber, and there is merit in arguments for human
kindness that anyone can grasp. And as for my own contribution to
the literature on this question, I hope you'll read it.
This Fulfills My Obligation to Say Something About the Dallas
at Houston Game: The contest was played before an announced
crowd of 63,186.
Viktor Frankl's book has a
lot to teach T.O.
Early "Game Over": Pittsburgh leading 21-0 early in the second quarter, backup running back
Najeh Davenport went 48 yards up the gut of the Kansas City defense, and TMQ wrote the words
"game over" in his notebook.
Best Purist Comeback: Jersey/A trailed 14-3 in the third quarter at Atlanta, having just watched
Warrick Dunn sprint 90 yards for a touchdown. The Georgia Dome crowd was dancin' in the seats.
Rather than panic -- TMQ's Law of Football Panic is, "Don't panic yet, there will be plenty of time
for that later" -- the Giants staged a nine-play, 84-yard touchdown drive that included numerous
rushing plays. Then the Jersey/A defense held Atlanta to a three-and-out. The Giants staged an 11play, 91-yard drive that included numerous rushing plays. The Jersey/A defense held Atlanta to a
three-and-out. Then the Giants staged a six-play field goal drive, then held the Falcons to a threeand-out, then the Giants staged an eight-play touchdown drive on which six plays were rushes,
making it 27-14. The rest was Atlanta panic.
During this comeback there were no big turnovers or flashy Jersey/A play, just work, work, work on
both sides of the ball. TMQ contends that unless it's the fourth quarter, a team that is behind, even
way behind, should not go pass-wacky. When you're behind what you need is a scoring drive. Call
anything in the playbook, even time-consuming rushing plays. Just get a score, and then see what
the world looks like. Congratulations, Jersey/A, on not panicking.
Semi-Official News Agency Releases Semi-Truth Expressed in Semi-Grammar: Worried about
North Korea having the atomic bomb? You'll feel better after checking the Korean Central News
Agency, mouthpiece of the Pyongyang government. Several recent press releases celebrated the
recent 80th anniversary of the Down-With-Imperialism Union. Oddly, North Korean government
announcements may be read in Korean, English -- or Spanish. Many announcements concern the
presentation of ceremonial gifts, flowers and letters of commendation. For example:
Pyongyang, July 11 (KCNA) -- Cambodian King
Norodom Sihamoni sent a large floral basket to the
DPRK embassy in Phnom Penh on the occasion of the
12th anniversary of demise of President Kim Il Sung.
Written on the ribbon of the floral basket were letters
reading, "Highest tribute to HE Generalissimo Kim Il
Sung, president of the Democratic People's Republic of
Korea. Norodom Sihamoni, King of Cambodia." The
deputy prime minister hoped that Kim Il Sung would
always live in the hearts of the Korean people.
Or consider this North Korean statement, headlined
JAPAN'S SERVILITY TO THE U.S. RIDICULED.
The NCAA once sanctioned Kim Il Sung
for using the tomahawk chop to
Pyongyang, July 3 (KCNA) -- GI criminals are
accorded such "special treatment" in prisons by Japan threaten South Korea.
that they are given chances to have showers everyday, meat is served to them as part of their meals
and cakes, coffee and milk are offered to them between meals, according to information released by
the Japanese government recently. Commenting on this, Rodong Sinmun Monday observes: This is
touching off due resentment among Japanese including families of those who fell victim to the GI
crimes. Such "generous treatment" accorded by Japan to the U.S. criminals there is not regarded as
something surprising or strange but as quite a natural and common practice in that country as it is
steeped in flattery and subservience to the U.S., its master, to the marrow of its bones.
Bear in mind that in North Korea, to take a shower or have a meal that includes meat represent
exotic special privileges reserved for the party elite. Below is the North Korean government's
announcement to the world of its atomic test:
Pyongyang, October 9 (KCNA) -- The field of scientific research in the DPRK successfully
conducted an underground nuclear test under secure conditions on October 9, Juche 95 (2006) at a
stirring time when all the people of the country are making a great leap forward in the building of a
great prosperous powerful socialist nation. The nuclear test was conducted with indigenous wisdom
and technology 100 percent. It marks a historic event as it greatly encouraged and pleased the KPA
and people that have wished to have powerful self-reliant defense capability. It will contribute to
defending the peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in the area around it.
We're All Professionals Here: Buffalo had a second-and-2; the Bills allowed sacks on consecutive
plays and ended up punting on fourth-and-21.
Perhaps Shedding Light on Why These Teams Are a Combined 3-9: Buffalo punted to Detroit
on fourth-and-1, and the Lions punted back on fourth-and-1.
When I Was a Kid, I Actually Did Walk Through
Snow to Deliver Newspapers: This week the venerable
Buffalo News, last major newspaper in the United
States offering afternoon delivery, converts to morningonly. For 126 years, the Buffalo News has arrived on
subscribers' doorsteps at 4 p.m.; now the time will be 6
a.m. The transition of newspaper sales from afternoon
to morning tells more about changing American
sociology than about the news business. As recently as
two generations ago, most Americans had blue-collar
employment that involved shifts beginning at 7 a.m. and
ending at 3 p.m. Workers would depart for the factory
A typical summer day in Buffalo.
in predawn darkness and return, exhausted, in late
afternoon: to put your feet up with the afternoon paper
before dinner was not only a way to stay informed but one of life's small pleasures. Today less than
a fifth of the United States workforce has blue-collar employment, while more than half work in
office settings. That today the typical American is white-collar, rather than being engaged in
backbreaking manual toil, stands among the great achievements of the postwar era, and is
insufficiently remarked upon. But for the newspaper business, this makes morning delivery a must.
White-collar employees don't arrive at work till 8 or later, thus having time to read the paper over
coffee; they need to know the morning's news, to sound informed at the office; they stagger home
late having stared at screens and documents all day, in no mood then to read.
As a boy growing up in Buffalo, I rose before dawn daily to deliver the old Courier Express, the
Buff News' morning competitor, which folded in 1982. Walking my paper route I kept a transistor
radio in my pocket in hopes of hearing the sports scores. The Courier Express "went to bed," or
finalized its content, before midnight, so often the night sports scores were not in the morning
paper. There being no Web or ESPN, teenagers and sports-nuts went through the day wondering
who had won the previous night's games, and did not find out until the News began thunking on
doorsteps in the afternoon. There was a civilized feeling to an afternoon newspaper, as if the butler
would bring it round with your correspondence and a glass of sherry. Now Instant Messaging means
there are no letters for the butler to bring, while the speeding-up of everything mandates we get our
news immediately upon waking. Consider that even in Buffalo, today the majority of newspaper
customers live on the white-collar clock. TMQ salutes the last afternoon daily to succumb.
Mile-High Mystery: Denver is playing fabulous defense, allowing
just 37 points in five games. The Broncos are also playing terrible
offense, scoring just 62 points. Football lore says defense trumps
offense, so presumably this foretells a big season for the orange
horsies. But Denver's lame offense is particularly puzzling given that
the team's great defense keeps getting the ball back in good field
position. On Sunday night, Denver coughed and clanked to score 13
points at home against the league's worst team.
Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have
Rushed At All: Start of the fourth quarter in Atlanta, the Falcons
had lost a seemingly solid lead, but still trailed the Giants only 17-14
with a stanza remaining. Atlanta faced third-and-2 on its 32. The
Falcons have by far the league's best rushing attack, averaging 232
yards per game and a twinkling-bright 6.4 yards per run. Atlanta
also has the league's 27th-rated passer in Michael Vick and 32ndrated overall passing attack. So why not just run the ball? Sack, then Cheerleader professionalism
helped Denver overcome
the punt shanks and a few plays later Atlanta trails 20-14. On the
Oakland -- but probably
next possession, taking over with 11:04 remaining and loads of time wasn't necessary.
to grind down the field for the go-ahead touchdown, Atlanta coaches
went pass-wacky. Result: sack, scramble, punt. From the point at which the No. 1 rushing team in
the NFL took an 11-point second-half lead, Atlanta coaches called 19 passing plays and four rushes.
Ye gods.
Republicans, Democrats Accuse Each Other of Partisanship: Perhaps the most tedious aspect of
politics is wrangling over credit or blame. First, since government usually can only influence
events, not control them, rare is the case where Democrats or Republicans are clearly to blame or
deserve full credit for anything. Second, all that matters to citizens is whether things go well, not
who signed which piece of paper on what day. Here are three examples. It is absurd for Republicans
to keep saying Bill Clinton is to blame for not killing Osama bin Laden in 1998. Republicans were
in control of the White House from January to September 2001, and they didn't do anything decisive
about bin Laden either. It was absurd for Sen. John McCain last week to say that Clinton's 1994
agreement with North Korea is the reason that nation (perhaps) developed an atomic weapon.
Republicans have now held the White House for as long as Clinton administered his North Korea
deal, and Republicans did not stop North Korea either. And last week when new low-polluting
"reformulated" diesel fuel hit the market, it was absurd that Democrats claimed George W. Bush
deserves no credit because the initial rule mandating the advance was signed by Clinton a few days
before he left office.
On the diesel fuel advance, which will cut air pollution,
Bush could have stopped the rule but instead supported
it -- over the howls of the petroleum industry, which
refines diesel. Anti-pollution regulations typically allow
industry five to seven years to design and manufacture
the technology needed to reduce emissions. Owing to
this lag it is common for one president to put into
practice a regulation first proposed by his predecessor;
Bush's father signed the 1991 legislation mandating a
reduction in acid rain, then Clinton actually carried out
that reform. All that matters is whether the public
benefits, and the new low-polluting diesel fuel, for
"And if elected, I promise to blame the
which Clinton and George W. Bush ought to share
other party."
credit, will lead to a big reduction in smog, plus a
reduction in asthma incidence. Note that the country's most important news organization, the New
York Times, buried the arrival of polluting-reducing diesel fuel on page A22, since it is
inconveniently positive news.
Clinton addendum: The recent fictionalized TV docudrama about the buildup to Sept. 11 ominously
suggests Clinton's State Department sabotaged the 1998 missile strike against al-Qaida in
Afghanistan by warning Pakistan that our missiles were about to cross its airspace on their way
somewhere else. Bin Laden fled his Afghan camp while the missiles were in the air, and it's likely
bad people in the Pak government tipped him off. But the revisionism skips why we warned
Islamabad missiles were coming. Weeks before the strike, Pakistan had tested its first atomic bomb;
Pakistan and India were on the verge of history's first atomic war. If unknown missiles approaching
Pakistan had triggered an atomic exchange, this would have been a moral horror. The Clinton
Administration absolutely had to warn Pakistan, risking a tip-off: Any other course would have
been immoral. The real question about the 1998 strike was why missiles were fired across Pakistan
(from a submarine in the Arabian Sea) in the first place. Missiles could have been fired from the
Persian Gulf across Iran into Afghanistan. Cruise missiles are hard to detect; Iran in 1998 was not
on high alert as Pakistan was; and Shia Iran doesn't much like Sunni al-Qaida. Thus flight across
Iran might have avoided the tip-off.
Revisionism addendum: Suppose Clinton had, in 1998, ordered an invasion of Afghanistan to
destroy al-Qaida and Taliban forces there, as the docudrama suggested Clinton should have. Surely
the president would have been bitterly denounced by Republicans, and since Sept. 11 would never
have happened, today the 1998 invasion of Afghanistan would be spoken of as a pointless fiasco of
the highest order. Something to chew on when you think about the Iraq war.
Maybe Flying Should Be Hard: The light plane belonging to Yankee pitcher Cory Lidle that
crashed into a Manhattan apartment building, killing him and his flight instructor, was a Cirrus
SR20. Development of this plane was chronicled in the 2001 book Free Flight by TMQ's pal James
Fallows. The goal of the Cirrus project was to make individual air travel more practical by creating
a relatively low-cost plane that is much easier to fly than previous aircraft, and that has a safety
feature no plane has ever had -- if you get into bad trouble, you pull a lever and a giant parachute
unfurls, floating the machine to the ground. Whatever went wrong aboard Lidle's Cirrus appears to
have happened so fast, there wasn't time to pull the lever; and the aircraft was so low the chute
probably would not have helped. At any rate, this raises a number of questions about the
relationship between safety engineering and vehicle use.
Media accounts since the Lidle crash have noted that on
nine occasions Cirrus pilots have pulled the chute lever,
saving 21 lives. But the device is no panacea, as there
have also been four fatal Cirrus crashes in 2006. Air
crashes are so rare that the occurrence of a fatal Cirrus
crash hardly means people should stop flying the plane:
if someone slammed an SUV into a Manhattan
apartment building, killing four, no one would hesitate
for a moment to hop into an SUV and drive away after
hearing the news. But some aviators quietly question
whether the Cirrus parachute is actually a good idea.
They wonder if it creates an illusion of total safety that
makes Cirrus pilots cavalier about their training hours Can safety devices be dangerous?
and flying choices. That safety devices might cause
cavalier driving has been noted in cars -- more in a moment. And the Cirrus crashes call into
question the No. 1 trend in the general aviation industry, the advent of semi-automated small planes
that are designed to be much easier to fly than previous aircraft. The Cirrus, which costs $250,000
to $350,000, and two new "very light jets" called the Adam and the Eclipse, which cost $1.8 million
to $2.3 million, are runaway hits in the aviation market. The well-to-do and new air-taxi services are
buying these planes like crazy, partly on the theory that they do not require high proficiency of pilot
skill, and can make practical extremely convenient point-to-point air travel. That extremely
convenient point-to-point air travel will become affordable on semi-automated or even fully
automated small planes is the thesis of "Free Flight," a book that should be of renewed interest in
light of the Lidle crash. But will it necessarily be smart to fill the air with large numbers of planes
that novice pilots believe are "easy" to fly? Maybe not.
Death rates per mile of automobile travel have been in mild decline for decades, so as regards cars
and SUVs, the picture is mainly good. But the safety engineering of modern passenger vehicles is
so much better than a generation ago -- antilock brakes, air bags, electronic brake management,
improved handling power and impact-absorbing chassis design -- that perhaps road fatalities should
have declined even more. Researchers including Fred Mannering of Purdue University have
proposed that airbags and antilock brakes cause no net improvement in highway safety because they
encourage aggressive driving. Faster, less vigilant driving roughly offsets safety improvements,
leaving the net about the same as it would be without the safety engineering, Mannering believes.
A false sense of invincibility especially backfires as regards the
SUV. Many owners of SUVs drive like lunatics, perhaps because
they believe the SUVs make them invincible. Studies by Ted Gayer
of Georgetown University have shown you are more likely to die as
the driver or passenger of an SUV than if in a regular car. Be sure to
see this study by Michelle White of the University of California San
Diego, published in the Journal of Law and Economics , which
shows the backfire effect of Americans buying ever-larger SUVs
and pickup trucks in the false belief that size confers safety. For
each one million SUVs or pickup trucks that replace regular cars,
White found, from 34 to 93 additional highway deaths occur. Eerily,
White further found that "for each fatal crash that occupants of large
vehicles avoid, at least 4.3 fatal crashes involving others occur."
That is to say, the apparent protective qualities of big vehicles
actually cause more people to die. Mannering has a point about
careless driving, but my guess is that the trend toward SUVs and
pickup trucks driven as cars explains why highway fatalities have
not declined as much as they should.
Nascar race or typical
suburban boulevard scene?
Advanced safety features on vehicles might even be a root cause of the road rage that has been
afflicting American boulevards in the past decade. Road rage seemed to begin roughly
corresponding to the arrival of antilock brakes and universal air bags. Drivers falsely assume these
high-tech features make them invincible, and so gun the engine, cut each other off and race to beat
stoplights. It's impossible to oppose safety engineering, of course. But we must bear in mind that
safety features can lead to carelessness on the part of drivers or pilots.
Jim Fallows note: His brilliant new book "Blind into Baghdad" is the most important thing anyone
has written about the Iraq War. Read it.
More On Briscoe High: Of Nike's high school
football commercial, reader Jim Speese of Reading,
Pa., writes, "You argued no coach would call a
halfback option on the last play of the game from
midfield, because the defense would never bite on
the run in that situation. But Don Shula recognizes
that LaDainian Tomlinson throws a better ball than
Michael Vick. Putting the final pass in LT/2's hands
gives the team a better chance of victory." TMQ
also declared himself puzzled that the Briscoe High
spot uses "Spirit in the Sky" as its music track. Yes Would you want L.T. throwing the ball, or
Michael Vick?
this is a catchy tune, and yes it is heard in football
movies, prominently in "Remember the Titans." But the song is, after all, about dying and meeting
Jesus! Note that Nike manipulated the track so you hear its many references to dying but never hear
the name Jesus. (Play the commercial here; the song lyrics are here.) That a big corporation thinks
it's fine to subliminally associate military-age young men with glory in death, but not fine to
associate them with history's most important pacifist, creeps me out. Anyway comes now reader
Mary Beth Calorama of Venice, Calif., to report Norman Greenbaum was not, as everyone thinks, a
one-hit wonder. He was a two-hit wonder: under the name Dr. West's Medicine Show, Greenbaum
recorded the cult hit "The Eggplant that Ate Chicago," one of TMQ's all-time favorite songs.
Single Worst Play of the Season So Far: Relax, San Francisco, previous holder of this distinction:
It is now held by Kansas City. Leading 21-0 in the first half, Pittsburgh had second-and-6 on the
Chiefs' 13. The Steelers lined up with a tight end, fullback and receiver Hines Ward bunched tight
right. At the snap, the tight end ran an out into the flat, the fullback ran an "arrow" route into the flat
behind the tight end, and Ward ran straight up the field and turned around. Kansas City's defense
did not react in any way to Ward, simply leaving alone the opponent's most dangerous weapon:
Touchdown. Rookie safety Jarrad Page made the wrong decision, double-teaming another Steeler,
while the boastful Ty Law, the corner on that side, stood like a topiary covering no one at all.
Middle linebacker Kawika Mitchell also was near Ward and decided his time was best spent
covering no one. Three guys available and none of them reacted to the opposition's best threat: The
Single Worst Play of the Season So Far.
Miami Dolphins Sack-O-Meter: The Dolphins surrendered no sacks at Jersey/B -- but three
turnovers versus none for your opponent will pretty much do it to you. The serious pun potential
Mike Mularkey ran a dreadful offense in Buffalo for two seasons: dull playcalling, poor offensive
line performance, erratic quarterbacking plus a megabucks running back struggling to seem
average. Now Mularkey is running the Miami offense, and does anything sound familiar?
Meanwhile with Drew Brees playing fabulous and Daunte Culpepper benched, Miami's offseason
looks ever-worse. Brees was eager to join the Dolphins as a free agent; Nick Saban decided he'd
rather give up a second-round draft pick to trade for Culpepper. If you had to choose now, what
would you say was the worst management decision of the offseason: Mario Williams over Bush or
Young, or Culpepper plus a second-round choice over Brees?
This Week's High School Item: A couple years ago I touted James Collins, a gifted coach who
took over the program at my kids' high school, which hadn't had a winning season in a decade, and
by his second year reached round two of the state playoffs. My kids' high school is struggling this
season, so let me redirect your attention to a graduate of Collins' coaching staff, a former Arena
League (and briefly NFL) player named Gunnard Twyner. He was Collins' offensive coordinator,
then in the offseason became head coach at Kennedy High School of Silver Spring, Md. Kennedy
long has been a troubled school owing to academic problems plus complex racial politics; and on
the much less important topic of football, its football teams were just dreadful. When Twyner was
hired, Kennedy had lost 26 consecutive games. School spirit was so low only a handful of guys
came out for tryouts in the August heat. Home games were staged in eerie silence before a few
dozen morose immediate relatives of players. Last season, Kennedy was outscored 368-43.
Obviously, I'm telling you all this because there has been a remarkable turnaround. Just in his first
season, Twyner has Kennedy at 5-1 and the talk of Maryland prep football. Smart and charismatic,
somehow Twyner reversed the defeatist attitude of the school and made this summer's football
tryouts an A-list event. He promised a deep-strike Rams-style attack to provide entertainment to
spectators. Kennedy just played its homecoming before a raucous chanting crowd that would make
any Texas high school football star feel at home. Twyner even managed to win a game 55-8 without
running up the score -- it was 47-0 at the half and then he sat the starters. Remember the name
"Gunnard Twyner" because in a few years you'll read it in your sports section when he is hired by a
big-college program.
Generic Prediction Update: As the season began, I made the off-price private-label forecast,
"Home Team 20, Visiting Team 17 will in 2006 happen more than any other outcome." I urged
those who engage in quixotic quests to predict exact NFL final scores never to think about
matchups, field conditions, injury lists or mojo, simply endlessly predict Home Team 20, Visiting
Team 17. My system has the benefit that you don't need to possess incredible insider information, or
even know who's playing. On Sunday, Home Team 20, Visiting Team 17 happened twice -- in the
Miami at Jersey/B and Buffalo at Detroit contests. It's only Week 6 and already I have predicted
two exact NFL final scores. Has any full-time professional sports pundit come close to that?
Obscure College Score of the Week No. 1: California of Pennsylvania 24, Slippery Rock 14. The
buildup continues for TMQ's annual Obscure College Game of the Year -- Indiana of Pennsylvania
versus California of Pennsylvania at Hepner-Bailey Field at Adamson Stadium in California, Pa. on
Nov. 11. California of Pennsylvania University offers courses online, so you don't actually have to
be in either California or Pennsylvania. TMQ is suspicious of the online university movement,
which seems to me more marketing gimmick than actual education. The online University of
Phoenix, which just bought the naming rights to the place that should have been named Pat Tillman
Field, is profitable but borders on diploma mill -- you pay a fee to call yourself graduate of the
"university," without ever setting foot on a campus. But if marketing organizations using serioussounding names like University of Phoenix are going to sell diplomas online, it seems only a matter
of time until real universities do the same. California of Pennsylvania is at the forefront.
Obscure College Score of the Week No. 2: Brevard 10, Chowan 5. The Hawks' faithful lament -if only we'd gotten three more safeties. Located in Murfreesboro, N.C., Chowan University's dining
hall "is committed to providing a wide variety of healthy choices for our students" yet offers pizza
and french fries at all meals.
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at
[email protected] Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I might
quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Note: Giving your hometown improves your
odds of being quoted.
Next Week: Terrell Owens stands in the Cowboys' locker room and asks aloud, "Why did chance
distribution of natural resources and geographical advantages impact cultural evolution so
profoundly?"
Monday, October 23, 2006
Updated: October 24, 3:12 PM ET
The high school offense works!
By Gregg Easterbrook
So Michael Vick really can throw -- maybe Nike should film the Briscoe High commercial again
and let Vick attempt the final pass! Don't be deceived by Vick's four-touchdown-pass performance,
Atlanta's success starts with rushing. On Sunday, the Falcons ran for 173 yards despite facing an
overstacked defense. Pittsburgh stacked the line to stop the run, and Vick play-faked and rolled out
for his throws. Atlanta leads the NFL in rushing by a runaway margin: 222 yards rushing per game,
plus a diamond-sparkling 6.1 yards per rush attempt. Which leads us to the question of why is
Atlanta's running game so good? And the answer is not what you're thinking.
Maybe you think the Falcons rush so well because their offensive line uses the Alex Gibbs theory of
cut-blocking. In the Gibbs' scheme, offensive linemen move laterally more than driving straight
ahead, and seemingly attempt to injure defenders by diving at their knees. Injury attempts usually
fail, but because the front seven is preoccupied with protecting its knees, the defense does not
perform as well as it otherwise would, opening up running lanes. This cut-blocking philosophy is
indeed an ingredient in the running success of the two teams that feature it, Denver and Atlanta. But
it is not the key to the Falcons' ground game, especially since the league in recent years has
reviewed film of offensive line play by Denver and Atlanta and warned these teams about attemptto-injure tactics.
Maybe you think Atlanta rushes so well because Vick's running ability adds a dimension no other
NFL team has. That's surely a factor -- Vick is genuinely fast. But he's hardly the first quarterback
who can run (think Fran Tarkenton) or the first who is really fast (think Steve Young). The real
reason the Falcons are chewing up the National Football League on the ground is that they are the
first team in recent memory to have the sheer brass to use a high school offense.
Some high school teams run almost all the time, but that strategy breaks down against a
sophisticated opponent. A few high school teams attempt pass-oriented attacks. But at the prep
level, constant passing works only for schools with a combination of superior athletes and the
ability to have the entire team together six hours a day in July for a boatload of illegal practices. The
basis of most successful high school offenses is a run focus with a quarterback who is himself a
running threat; you run, run, run and then use the play action and pass deep. I've heard people
complain that high school offenses are too conventional because so many are run, run, run then
play-fake and throw deep. There's a reason so many high schools do this -- it works! And now the
Atlanta Falcons have brought this philosophy to the NFL.
Sure, every pro football team wants to run, and every team uses the play-action. But the NFL in the
last decade has become a short-pass-oriented league. Teams that keep running until they draw the
defense to the line, then play-fake and throw deep, are rare. Indianapolis is one -- despite the Colts'
pass-wacky image, so far they have run 173 times and passed 131 times. Atlanta is using the high
school approach to a fare-thee-well. The Falcons have rushed 219 times this season and passed 148
times. On Sunday, when Pittsburgh crowded the line to stop the run, Vick play-faked and threw
deep.
What makes the Atlanta offense more high-school-ish is the rollout emphasis. Effective high school
offenses have far more rollout passes than pocket passes. Somehow the idea has arisen among pro
coaches that only dropback passes are "real" passes and only yards gained with dropback passing,
not yards on quarterback scrambles, help. Rollouts confuse defenses, while simplifying the view for
the quarterback, who only has to look at half the field. Long scrambles absolutely break the backs of
defenses. The Colts' offense is only semi-high-school because Peyton Manning is almost always in
the pocket and almost never pulls it down to run. Vick this season has mostly been rolling out,
which helps his read -- he only has to look at about half the gridiron, not scan the whole gridiron
and wonder where to throw -- and gives him a better running option since he can get to the sideline
and avoid taking a big hit. Since Michael Vick came into the league, his coaches have experimented
with having him throw dropback deep passes; having him do loads of designed runs; having him
attempt the West Coast short-crossing-route attack; and now they're simply letting him operate a
classic high school offense. And just like in high school, it works!
The Falcons run, run, run and then when the defense comes up, they play-fake and throw deep -and they do it while rolling out. The moment when the opponent has run on five straight snaps, then
the quarterback play-fakes and sprints in the opposite direction, is the one every high school coach
dreads. This action is so popular in high school because it is so effective, yet is not used that much
in the pros. Denver is the only other club in recent years to go high school on a regular basis; last
season the Broncos' offense, although it did pass the ball more than it ran the ball, had a lot of run,
run, run and then Jake Plummer play-fakes and sprints out the opposite way. (Because Denver is
sputtering on offense this season, it's hard to assess what the plan is supposed to be.) NFL teams -you've tried power-rush, single-back, run-and-shoot, no-huddle, five-wide. Now it's time to try high
school! And yes, a quarterback as fast as Vick helps, but as anyone who watches high school
football knows, the run-run-run then play-fake and rollout offense can make almost any quarterback
look good. So why don't more NFL teams do it? Maybe it's vainglory. Offensive coordinators want
people to think they are engaged in super-complex mystical planning that only insiders can grasp.
They don't want to borrow tactics from high school, even if those tactics work.
In other football news, reader Hugh Gurney of Bournemouth, England, notes that you already can
vote for the Pro Bowl. Less than half of the season has been played! "Just like I started to find
Christmas gifts stocked in my local supermarket in August, Pro Bowl voting seems to come earlier
every year," Gurney writes. Bad enough that Pro Bowl voting closes after Week 15, with two games
left to play, rendering performance in those contests irrelevant. Tuesday Morning Quarterback calls
the Hawaii contingent the Eighty-Eight Percent All-Pros as a result. Allowing fans to vote so early
confirms the complaint that the Pro Bowl is a popularity contest, not an honor for the best
performers. Hey NFL, it's October. Nobody could possibly make a reasonable Pro Bowl judgment
already.
And in other football news, "Friday Night Lights" has revealed itself to be a fantastic television
show. For my suggestion to save it, see below.
Stat of the Week No. 1: Denver, at 5-1, has scored seven more points than Oakland, at 1-5.
Stat of the Week No. 2: Since taking a 20-point lead over undefeated Chicago, Arizona has been
outscored 46-12.
Stat of the Week No. 3: Jacksonville is 4-5 all-time against Houston.
Stat of the Week No. 4: Brett Favre threw two passes on the same play. (A deflected pass bounced
back to him.)
Stat of the Week No. 5: Dick Jauron is on pace to finish with one winning season in seven as a
head coach.
Stat of the Week No. 6: As noted by reader Emanuele Fadini of Turin, Italy, the Cardinals had 11
takeaways in the last two games and lost both.
Stat of the Week No. 7: From 4:29 to 4:48 p.m. ET, Atlanta had four field goal attempts to win
against Pittsburgh.
Stat of the Week No. 8: Bill Belichick is 13-1 against Buffalo.
Stat of the Week No. 9: Owing to multiple penalties, Washington kicked off from its 5-yard line.
Stat of the Week No. 10: Drew Bledsoe was lifted for throwing an interception. On his first snap,
backup Tony Romo threw an interception.
Cheerleader of the Week: Tom Bacon of Manhattan Beach, Calif., nominates from the mediumhot San Diego Chargers the red-hot Michelle, whose favorite charity is Make Trade Fair. This
offshoot of Oxfam International lobbies for reasonable payments to developing-world farmers and
tradespeople. According to her team bio, Michelle says "I support anything that helps third-world
countries." You don't bump into cheer-babes concerned with developing world economic issues
every day! One of the big causes for fair-trade advocates has been ending tariffs that penalize
developing-world nations importing textiles to the West. Though even with totally equitable textile
rules, developing nations would not sell much in the way of textiles for the two-ounces-of-fabric
swimsuits worn on the Charger Girls calendar.
From Hero to Zero to Romo: Sure you just gave up your body on a dramatic dive for a
touchdown, but Drew Bledsoe, what have you done for us lately? With 3:56 remaining in the
second quarter and the Cowboys at the Jersey/A goal line, Bledsoe scrambled, dove and took
hammer-hard hits as he scored the touchdown that pulled the home team to within 12-7. The crowd
cheered. Just five snaps later, with 1:38 left in the second quarter, Dallas was again at the Jersey/A
goal line and Bledsoe threw an interception. The crowd booed, and Bledsoe was yanked from the
game. Dallas fans roared their approval as Tony Romo entered -- except he threw an interception on
his first snap. Romo ended up tossing three interceptions in the second half, one when Dallas was
yet again at the Giants' goal line.
So both Dallas quarterbacks ended the game in the doghouse, and TMQ thinks bad coaching is the
explanation. Early in the contest, G-Persons leading 7-0, Dallas had a first-and-10 on its own 1-yard
line, the most dangerous spot on the field. Dallas' coaches called for Bledsoe to take a five-step drop
backward into his end zone; he barely avoided a safety. Now it's second down, and what do Dallas'
coaches call? Another dropback: sack, safety. The Cowboys' offensive line messed up on this play - LaVar Arrington came through the "B gap" untouched, the right tackle and right guard both
ignoring him. But the key mistake was the coaches' calls, not the players' performance.
Now we're at the Giants' goal line with 1:38 left in the first half. It's second-and-goal, Dallas holds
all three timeouts, plenty of time to run the ball. Instead, the Cowboys' coaches call a short squareout. When you're at the goal line, the short square-out is the riskiest play you can call. Defenders are
up at the line, so the cornerback is in position to break on the ball and intercept it; and in this
situation the pass travels almost entirely sideways, giving the corner time to react. Dallas' coaches
should know how risky the short square-out at the goal line is because three weeks ago when the
Cowboys were at the Philadelphia goal line in the closing minute, game in the balance, Dallas'
coaches called a short square-out that was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Maybe, just
maybe, the Giants watched film of that. So what do Dallas' coaches tell Bledsoe to throw? A short
square-out, interception. Just to prove it was no fluke, when the Cowboys reached Jersey/A's 11 late
in a game that was still contested, Dallas' coaches again called a short square-out, again intercepted,
and this time it was returned for the icing touchdown. Afterward, did Bill "Mr. Personality" Parcells
blame himself or his staff? Somehow he didn't get around to that.
Three Dallas notes: First, it's long been clear that Parcells is an egomaniac in both the casual and,
perhaps, clinical senses of that word. Lately he's gone downhill to simply becoming a nasty person,
spitting and snarling at everyone around him. What's Parcells going to do next, demand worship?
When I look at Parcells, the phrase that comes to mind is "failed human being." Second, the
deciding play of Monday night's game was a Terrell Owens blunder. Trailing 19-7 midway through
the third quarter, Dallas had a fourth-and-2 on the Jersey/A 32. Romo put a perfect short pass into
Owens' hands, and he dropped it like it was a live ferret. I wrote "game over" at that juncture. Third,
Dallas did run one really sweet play -- a play we rarely see, and I don't understand why. Scoreboard
reading 26-13 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Cowboys lined up for a deuce attempt.
Everybody split wide, empty backfield; the Giants' defenders frantically spread wide to stop the
wacky pass they expected; Romo simply went straight up the middle for two points. When you
spread the field at the goal line, often the result is five offensive linemen blocking only five
defenders in the box, and the odds for a successful quarterback sneak are excellent.
Giants note: At this point Tiki Barber, TTNY ("The Toast of New York"), should replace Brett
Favre as the most admired player in the NFL, and as the one who exemplifies the best of football
culture. This guy plays amazingly well -- last night when the Giants needed power running, he even
did that. Barber has played at a high level for a long time. He never complains, refuses to blame
others and never whines about his contract. He's well-read and well-informed. He radiates the fact
that he knows football is just entertainment, that there are a thousand things in the world that matter
a thousand times more. An awful lot of football is idiotic or even harmful. Fairly it may be asked,
"What has football produced that can be admired?" One answer is, "Tiki Barber." Only Barber
knows how his knees and ribs feel when he wakes up the day after a game -- the morning after is
always the worst. If his time to step aside is coming, so be it. But Tiki, you're the bomb.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 1: Game scoreless, Philadelphia faced a third-and-4 on its own 33.
The Eagles came out with two wide receivers to the left; City of Tampa blitzed six. Ronde Barber
was lined up to cover the slot man, but the instant Donovan McNabb turned to throw left, Barber
"jumped the route" -- assumed he knew where the throw was going -- and cut in front of the outside
receiver, intercepting the pass and returning it for a touchdown. Tampa coaches must have noticed
in film study that McNabb liked to throw a quick slant to the outside guy of two in these situations,
because Barber is a methodical player, not a gambler. (Barber left his own man uncovered, which
could have been a disaster had McNabb looked that way.) Later Barber cut in front of a
Philadelphia receiver for another touchdown return off an interception, as the Bucs' defense scored
two touchdowns while the Bucs' offense recorded three field goals.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 2 Atlanta had just scored in the second quarter to pull within 17-14 of
Pittsburgh. Kickoff man Mike Koenen adjusted the ball, turned to walk away -- and suddenly turned
back around for a snap onside kick. At that moment some Steelers were looking toward each other,
not the action. Onside recovered, Atlanta scored on the possession and went on to win in overtime.
Atlanta's league-leading running game outrushed Pittsburgh 173 yards to 55 yards. Cautionary note:
The Falcons' defense has given up 891 yards and 65 points in its last two home games.
Sweet 'N' Sour Play: Game tied, Carolina had a first-and-10 on the Cincinnati 20. Blocking
fullback Nick Goings lined up far right, like a flanker. Occasionally teams split out the fullback, but
it's usually a diversion to draw defenders from the real action. Goings went straight up the field into
the end zone, where Jake Delhomme hit him with a touchdown pass. Sending the fullback deep --
that was sweet. No one from Cincinnati covered Goings, who was, after all, an eligible receiver.
That was sour.
Sweet Tactic of the Week: The Jets went no-huddle the entire game, confusing the Lions' defense.
Now the Lions' defense is easily confused, but the tactic was especially apt because Detroit was
starting several who-dats in place of injured or suspended defenders. Eric "I Was a Teenaged
Coach" Mangini is 4-3 and as the season progresses the Jets face a motorcade of losers -- Cleveland,
Houston, Green Bay, Buffalo, Miami, Oakland. Don't be surprised to see this team play in January.
Sour Play of the Week No. 1: Trailing 20-6 with 1:42 remaining in the first half, San Diego
reached first-and-10 on the Kansas City 30, out of timeouts. Philip Rivers hustled the Bolts to the
line and spiked the ball. Huh? There's plenty of time, and a spike costs a down! After running just
two plays instead of three, San Diego missed a 47-yard field goal attempt with oodles of time
remaining on the clock. Every week there is one play TMQ watches over and over again in rapt
fascination, and this week, this was it. Why did Rivers spike the ball with ample time left?
Sour Play of the Week No. 2: In the previous week's game against Kansas City, Hines Ward
caught a touchdown pass from about the 10-yard line by running a simple buttonhook route into the
end zone and being ignored by the Chiefs' defense, which instead doubled up on other receivers on
the same side. Now it's Pittsburgh at Atlanta and presumably the Falcons have watched film of their
opponent. Trailing 7-3, the Hypocycloids have a third-and-goal on the Atlanta 11. Three receivers
line up on the right side. Ward runs a simple buttonhook into the end zone and is ignored by the
Falcons' defense, which instead doubled up on other receivers on the same side.
Sweet 'N' Sour Pair of Plays: Reader Diane Firstman of Brooklyn, N.Y., has pointed out that if
you're going to call a trick pass, have a running back, not a wide receiver, throw the ball. A wide
receiver pass might have worked in the last Super Bowl, but the odds say it's a bad call. In the 2004
season, running backs were 7 of 12 passing for six touchdowns and one interception, while wide
receivers were 5 of 25 passing for two touchdowns and three interceptions. On Sunday, the Raiders
were cruising at 22-6 until Oakland's coaches called a trick-play pass by wide receiver Ronald
Curry (who did play QB at North Carolina); the wild interception he heave-hoed created what little
late drama this game offered. Compare that to the touchdown pass thrown by Minnesota running
back Mewelde Moore. The play diagrams looked better for the Vikings' play than the Raiders', too.
Curry was throwing deep, while Moore's receiver was directly in front of him about 10 yards away.
Moore's option was simple: Throw if the man is completely uncovered, otherwise just run.
Amusement Value Play of the Week: Trailing Washington 14-10 with 46 seconds remaining in
the first half, Indianapolis faced a second-and-goal on the Skins' 2. Marvin Harrison lined up wide
right, then came in motion back toward the formation, then stopped at the shoulder of the Colts'
right tackle. Usually a receiver who does this on a short-yardage play will lead the blocking for a
runner coming right behind him. At the snap, Colts tailback Dominic Rhodes came straight behind
Harrison -- who stepped out of his way and stood there, making no attempt to block anyone. Run
stuffed. Normally I'd slam this as a sour play but as Harrison came in motion before the snap, I
thought, "There's no way Marvin Harrison should dive into the line and lead block." Apparently he
felt the same. Harrison made up for it by catching two touchdown passes in similar goal-to-go
situations.
Maroon Zone Play of the Week: Trailing Carolina 14-10 on a blustery afternoon, Cincinnati faced
a fourth-and-1 on the Cats' 35 with 9:13 remaining. This is the Maroon Zone -- too close to punt,
too far for a field goal attempt. On fourth-and-1 in the Maroon Zone, you should either power-rush
or play-fake and throw deep. Cincinnati did the latter, Carson Palmer connecting for 32 yards to
Chad Johnson. That set up the winning touchdown. Green Bay also went for it on fourth-and-1 from
the Miami 41, setting up the icing touchdown.
Jeans in Poor Condition Cost More Than Jeans in Good Condition -- Only in America! Last
February, TMQ marveled at $198 "premium destroyed" jeans from Abercrombie. Imagine, I wrote,
trying to explain to someone in Bangladesh who is impoverished partly by lack of fair-trade laws
that Americans pay extra to have their pants damaged. Consider now that an Italian company called
Martelli Lavorazioni Tessilli had $140 million in revenue in 2005 -- all from smashing up expensive
jeans and other fashion wear to make the items look misused. "Careful attention to vintage forms
the basis of Martelli's artistic path," the company declares of its work shredding and discoloring
jeans, showing a pair of jeans that appear to have been found at the bottom of a collapsed mine
shaft. Imagine trying to explain to someone in Bangladesh that destroying perfectly good jeans has
proven a boom business for a company.
Pun Alert: Last week scandal-plagued Hewlett Packard admitted it hired a private eye to go
through the household trash of Wall Street Journal reporter Pui-Wing Tam. Going through trash -why, that's beyond the pail!
Most of Universe Still Missing: "We have confirmed that at least 80 percent of the material in the
universe consists of an invisible dark matter whose nature is not yet understood," Dr. Sarah Bridle,
a physicist at University College of London, announced in May. We don't know what 80 percent of
the universe is -- but trust us, we're experts! Bridle spoke in conjunction with the unveiling of the
first large three-dimensional map of the locations of galaxies in the observable universe. This megaatlas shows the galaxies moving as if being acted upon by far more force than could be accounted
for by the matter and energy present in stars, stellar nebulae, black holes and other known cosmic
objects. Hence, the map represents more support for the vexing speculation that most of the
universe exists as "dark matter" and "dark energy," commodities we don't see because they are not
found in our galaxy, the Milky Way. Bridle's calculations suggests the ordinary matter from which
the Milky Way formed might constitute only a fraction of the larger universe. Or to flip it around,
what we consider ordinary matter might, in cosmic terms, be the weird stuff, with most of the
universe made of something entirely different. Reader Rusty Neff of White Salmon, Wash., adds
that a few months after Bridle's map was released, NASA researchers claimed the first observational
evidence of dark matter, in a distant galactic cluster known to astronomers as 1E0657-56. And
actually it does not surprise me that scientists are unable to locate most of the universe. Surely at
this initial stage in the human quest for knowledge, men and women barely grasp the basics of the
cosmos and physical law. My personal guess is that so far we know 1 percent of what there is to
know.
We're All Professionals Here: ESPN's pregame coverage on Sunday, "NFL Countdown," touted
San Diego as the AFC's best team. The Bolts took the field at Kansas City and their first four
possessions went fumble, punt, interception, fumble.
At Happy Hour in Hell's Sports Bar, They Offer Free Chicago Cheesesteaks, Philadelphia
Wings and Buffalo Deep-Dish Pizza: Hell's sports bar has 28 wide-screen plasma TVs, and on
Sunday all were showing Arizona at Oakland. For the highlight show, all 28 screens showed
nothing but, over and over, Arizona kicking a field goal from the Oakland 19 though down 22-6 in
the fourth quarter.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 1: Kansas City led 27-13 early in the fourth quarter and had
San Diego facing a fourth-and-3 on the Chiefs' 37. The Chiefs blitzed seven, which is like handing
out an engraved card reading, "Please accept our invitation to score a touchdown." Which the
Chargers did on a simple flare pass to LaDainian Tomlinson.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 2: Denver leading 10-0 in the third, the Broncos faced a
second-and-goal on the Cleveland 9. The Browns blitzed seven, which is like handing out an
engraved card reading, "Please accept our invitation to score a touchdown." Which the Broncos did,
icing the game with a six-point pass to Brandon Marshall.
One Fascinating Life: The below obituary, of a man neither you nor I ever heard of, appeared in
the Washington Post last week. Every word of this obituary is fascinating. The life's story told
represented, for me, an argument why God would remain interested in human affairs:
Harald Lindes, 85, former editor of the U.S. Information Agency's Russian-language magazine
Amerika, died Oct. 11 at the Deer's Head Hospital Center in Salisbury, Md. Mr. Lindes worked
for the USIA for 21 years, starting under broadcaster Edward R. Murrow during the Kennedy
administration. Mr. Lindes retired in 1980, then worked for about five years as a personal
assistant to cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, former director of the National Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Lindes was born in St. Petersburg, Russia. When he was 15, his father was arrested and
executed, and his family was exiled to Siberia. In 1939, he returned to study in his native city
but in 1942 was arrested by the Stalin regime, sentenced to a labor camp and sent to the Finnish
front, where he was captured by the Finns. Because of his German name, he was handed over to
the Germans, where he was drafted into the German army.
After World War II, he left Europe and moved to New York and then Monterey, Calif. He
became a master sergeant in the Army Reserves and began teaching Russian at what is now the
Defense Language Institute in Monterey. He moved to the Washington area in 1958, working
briefly for the Voice of America before joining the USIA.
Apart from work, he enjoyed researching his genealogy at the Library of Congress and reading
Russian history and works of world culture and religion. He also enjoyed travel and growing
vegetables and herbs at his home in Kensington. Survivors include his wife of 60 years, Olga
Lindes of Kensington; two children, Nina Willett of Ocean Pines, Md., and Hal Lindes, a
guitarist in the rock group Dire Straits, of Los Angeles; and seven grandchildren.
Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk No. 1: Trailing 21-3 with 11:50 remaining in the contest, Buffalo
faced a fourth-and-9 on the New England 28. In trotted the field goal unit. What does a field goal
here accomplish except perhaps make the final score less embarrassing? Entering this game, the
Bills had been defeated in 11 of their past 12 outings against New England. Play to win! Play to
win! Plus you're 2-4, what do you have to lose? And now you're 2-5. Note: You deserve to be 2-5.
New England led 7-3 and faced a third-and-10 on the Buffalo 21. Tom Brady was hemmed in by the
rush, danced around a bit and then simply took a knee for a loss of yardage. After Brady went down
-- the rules specify that when a ballcarrier voluntarily goes to his knee, the play ends -- Buffalo's
London Fletcher body-slammed the kneeling quarterback. There's dumb, there's stupid and there's
beyond-classification; this was the last one. Rather than attempt a field goal, New England got a
first down, scored a touchdown on the possession, and TMQ wrote the words "game over" in his
notebook.
Warning, Serious Item: Of the many moral questions regarding the Iraq War, the one the
American political and media systems are not dealing with in any way, shape or form is the number
of Iraqi deaths. A few months ago President Bush said the estimate he has been given by military
intelligence is 30,000 Iraqi deaths caused either directly by our military or set in motion by our
invasion. American forces have been trying to avoid killing the innocent. But no matter how
carefully our armed forces have behaved, why is the American conscience not shocked by so many
innocent people killed owing to our unilateral decision to seize another nation? Why did the media
shrug when Bush used this shocking figure?
Had some other country or group done something that caused 30,000 deaths here, we would claim
an unlimited right of self-defense and retaliation. Yet the death the United States has brought to the
innocent of Iraq isn't even being discussed here. Some of the Iraqis who have died because they
have been hit by our bombs, or in the sectarian violence our destruction of the Iraqi government set
loose, would have died by now regardless; perhaps some of them would have been killed by
Saddam Hussein, had he remained in power. But by invading Iraq we made ourselves responsible
for what happened next, and what has happened next is killing of the innocent. When 3,000 were
villainously slain here, we called it a crime against humanity. Since then we have caused or played a
role in the deaths of perhaps 10 times as many in Iraq, and this is spoken of here as if it were some
mere unfortunate side effect of policy. History may judge America harshly for acting as though
Iraqi lives have no value.
I suspect one reason the Iraq death toll elicits so little concern is that exaggerated estimates exist.
Americans can say of the exaggerated estimates, "Oh, that's way too high" and skip over thinking
about the more probable numbers. The latest silly estimate comes from a new study in the British
medical journal Lancet, which absurdly estimates that since March 2003 exactly 654,965 Iraqis
have died as a consequence of American action. The study uses extremely loose methods of
estimation, including attributing about half its total to "unknown causes." The study also commits
the logical offense of multiplying a series of estimates, then treating the result as precise. White
House officials have dismissed the Lancet study, and they should. It's gibberish.
But gibberish that diverts attention from the real numbers. Let's assume the estimate given to
George W. Bush is correct, and 30,000 Iraqis have died because of the American invasion. Let's
assume half were members of Iraqi military engaged in combat and thus fair targets under the laws
of war, setting aside whether the fighting, initiated by us, was morally justified. That still leaves
15,000 innocent dead on our hands. But not on our consciences, since no one is talking about this.
Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk No. 2:Trailing Indianapolis 33-14, Washington faced fourth-and-5 on
the Colts' 17 with 10:15 remaining. A field goal here only cuts the margin to 16 points, meaning the
Redskins still must score two touchdowns and two deuce conversions while shutting Indianapolis
down for the remainder of the contest. Chances of this? One-in-10, at best. Going for it would offer
a roughly 50/50 chance of a first down, then perhaps a touchdown that makes the rest of the game
interesting. As the field goal unit trotted onto the field, TMQ wrote the words "game over" in his
notebook. Outraged, the football gods pushed the try wide.
Best Blocks: Fantasy leaguers were thrilled by the 95-yard touchdown run by Chester Taylor, but
what impressed TMQ was the blocking. Center Matt Birk had a perfect block at the point of attack
while tackle Bryant McKinnie made the too-rare "secondary" block -- first he blocked his assigned
man, then hustled to block someone else. On Ahman Green's 70-yard touchdown run for Green
Bay, the backbreaker against Miami, perfect blocks were thrown by tackles Mark Tauscher and
Daryn Colledge. Green went the distance untouched: It's pretty fun to run 70 yards for six points
when everyone in front of you already has been knocked to the ground. Reverse of best blocks: The
Cincinnati offensive line, which gave up 21 sacks in 2005, already has surrendered 19 in 2006.
New Record for CEO Gluttony: Last week William McGuire, CEO of insurer UnitedHealth and a
centerpiece of the latest corporate-boardroom scandal (backdated stock options) agreed to leave the
company. The Wall Street Journal estimated that for his 14 years running UnitedHealth, McGuire
pocketed a total of about $1.6 billion. That's $457,000 per day, or $57,000 per working hour. So
McGuire paid himself more per hour than the median American annual household income. And this
was during a period when UnitedHealth was cutting benefits to those it insures, cutting benefits
received by its own workers, and cutting payments to physicians and hospitals for health care.
Obviously this greedy little man is beyond disgrace: To experience disgrace, one must have a
conscience. But why isn't McGuire's $1.6 billion simply considered theft from shareholders?
UnitedHealth is a public company, and there is no possibility the fantastic amount was justified by
market forces -- that is, that the UnitedHealth board could not have found a similarly qualified CEO
for less than $1.6 billion.
Miami Dolphins Sack-O-Meter: Everybody in the sports-pundit world predicted great things for
the Marine Mammals 2006 because they wanted to believe Miami was back. There was that sixgame winning run at the end of 2006, though as TMQ pointed out at the time, only one victory
came in a meaningful game against a winning team. But all sports nuts love the Miami area.
Sportswriters and sportscasters itch for reasons to go to Miami on expense accounts -- then hang out
in the great clubs, eat stone crabs and gawk at babes in thong bikinis on South Beach, now the No. 1
babe-watching destination in the Western Hemisphere. (Readers, if you contest that judgment, send
pictures.) Nick Saban has a rep as a man's-man coach, so the sports-yak world wanted to believe
Saban is a super-genius who somehow knows something about coaching that nobody else knows.
South Florida is a trendy destination for athletes, agents and celebs, has an NBA crown and two
World Series titles, and needed only a Dolphins rebound to complete the picture. The feel and
mystique of the Miami franchise -- how could you not win with that in your corner? And the
gorgeous Dolphins' cheerleaders, how could you not win with them dancing on your sideline?
ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated said Miami would make the Super Bowl, while others
were nearly as sanguine.
The considerable wishful thinking about the now 1-6 Dolphins was not tempered by realism about
their roster. It's not just two high-priced struggling quarterbacks who both were shown the door by
previous employers. It's everybody else, too. Look who started Sunday against Green Bay. The
defensive line -- all retreads from other clubs. The linebackers -- a couple of nice players in decline
(Jason Taylor is a linebacker now). The defensive backs -- who are these guys? Mostly rejects from
other teams; one was recently let go by Oakland! Miami has some decent talent at running back and
receiver. Then there's the offensive line, which has surrendered 26 sacks, second-worst in the
league. The right guard was let go in consecutive offseasons by Arizona and then Cleveland. The
right tackle is a No. 1 draft pick who couldn't handle the pressure at left tackle. On Sunday only
three players started for Miami who would start for New England, Denver, Chicago or a similar
quality team: Chris Chambers, Jeno James and Taylor. In recent years the Dolphins have freely
squandered draft choices -- two ones for Ricky Williams, a two for Daunte Culpepper, a two for
A.J. Feeley, a three for Lamar Gordon. The result is a weak roster of retreads. Saban has a blog, a
megabucks beachfront home and a nice panama hat, but no magic fairy dust to sprinkle on these
guys. The Dolphins' core problem is a lack of quality players, and there might be unpleasant seasons
of rebuilding ahead.
Now a few kind words for Joey Harrington. Though he finished with three interceptions, two of
them were perfectly thrown passes that bounced off the hands of the no-account Randy McMichael.
Once McMichael seemed like an emerging NFL star; now having to watch him play makes you
wince.
Wacky Martini Watch: Todd Nemish of Tacoma, Wash., reports that Sublime, a tres-chic
restaurant of Palm Beach, Fla., offers smoked pear, green tea and lychee martinis. Nothing like a
little healthful green tea with your triple shot of vodka!
NFL in Iran Update: We must be cracking down on Iran, because with several attractive games in
the early Sunday slot, Tehran saw New England at Buffalo.
Houston Texans Sack-O-Meter: The Houston offensive line allowed just one sack and provided
excellent run blocking as the Moo Cows toyed with the supposedly powerful Jacksonville defense.
Defense wasn't the only letdown for Jax; the team's offense gained just 220 yards against then
NFL's last-ranked defense. Stretching back to last season, Jax is on a 3-4 run. The Jacksonville team
does an awful lot of talking; it needs to do more playing. Reader Robert Thee of West Hempstead,
N.Y., also notes that a week ago, Jax still had its starters in with three minutes to go and a 38-0 lead
over Jersey/B, trying to run up the score. On Sunday, the football gods exacted vengeance.
Actual Phil Simms Quotes Without Editorial Comment: Pittsburgh at Atlanta broadcast: "The
Steelers like to throw it inside and they like to throw it outside." "When Michael Vick rolls out, he
might run it or he might hit a pass or he might throw it away." "The reason this offense works is that
they practice it during the week." Also, Simms declared "he's wide open!" of a receiver who was hit
before his feet came down.
Will "Friday Night Lights" Forfeit Its Season for Using Ineligible Actors? NBC's "Friday Night
Lights" is struggling in the ratings race. There's a new episode tonight -- Tuesday Morning
Quarterback urges you to tune in while you still can! "Friday Night Lights" is just tremendous: wellmade, well-acted, engaging, both visually and intellectually rich. Only a handful of shows in the
history of television have attempted to portray the stresses and beauties of average American life,
without glamorization, absurd plot contrivances or one-liners. In its effort to capture the fleeting
feeling of Grovers Corners small-town life, "Friday Night Lights" is art: and being art, faces a
challenge in winning public acceptance. Yet success is possible. I dare you to watch "Friday Night
Lights" and try telling me it's not great television!
Here are the good aspects of "Friday Night Lights." First, brilliant cinematography. Many television
shows claim to offer theatrical-quality film values; "Friday Night Lights" actually does. NBC has
spent a ton of money on "Friday Night Lights," a reported $2.6 million per episode -- perhaps too
much for the long-term survival of the series. In Hollywood, production money often disappears
into Ferraris for the director and presidential suites for the cast; "Friday Night Lights" producers are
getting their money's worth onto the screen. The episodes have many outdoor scenes, which are
more expensive than studio-filmed scenes; lots of crowd scenes; lots of gritty depictions of school
corridors, parking lots, restaurants, gas stations and other standbys of daily life. (The greater the
number of scenes, the more expensive an hour of television is to produce; many contemporary TV
dramas have too many scene shifts, but that's a separate issue.) Next, the acting is first rate. Third,
the situations and characters presented are as close to real life as television can come. Yes, the cast
is better looking than any representative sample of actual people, and 25-year-olds play 17-yearolds. But there's no over-glamorized action, no preposterous subplots. Surely "Friday Night Lights"
would have stood a better ratings chance had the show been some "Gilmore Girls"-esque teen
inanity. Instead "Friday Night Lights" challenges viewers with material that isn't flashy or pumped
up.
Now to the not-so-good aspects. The pilot episode not only was a total downer -- it ended with the
character you thought would be the series focus being paralyzed for life -- but gave viewers the
impression the show held small-town life and prep football in disdain. The pilot was heavy on
subliminals suggesting the producers thought the sort of people who play or care about high school
football are rubes or have warped values. That view might be defensible as an artistic choice, but
my informal survey of friends who love football culture and who watched the pilot was unanimous
on this point: Everyone one of them said that if "Friday Night Lights" was going to be about
bashing football, they weren't going to watch. It turns out the show does not think small-town
America or people who care about high school sports are weird; subsequent episodes have been
sympathetic to the characters and to the town depicted. But as the saying goes, you never get a
second chance to make a first impression. Having the pilot be depressing, then end with a character
paralyzed and everyone sobbing, was the sort of touch effete Manhattan critics love, but viewers
don't -- who wants to watch more of that? The "Friday Night Lights" pilot was a disaster in terms of
stating the show's case for its audience. This show would have been better served to start with the
second episode, whose concluding image -- the coach and his petrified backup quarterback standing
alone on the field of an empty stadium late at night with all the game lights on -- was haunting.
Can "Friday Night Lights" find the ratings numbers to survive? NBC premiered the series at 8 p.m.,
when teenagers watch. But adults are more likely to be regular viewers, and 10 p.m. a better time
slot. To see what happens, NBC will broadcast an episode of "Friday Night Lights" at 10 p.m. on
Oct. 30. The trouble is that's a Monday, and thus the episode will air across from ESPN's "Monday
Night Football." Come on NBC, we know you have staff cutbacks, but surely you could afford to
have someone check first to see what else is on that night!
Here's my radical notion to save "Friday Night Lights": The show should be marketed to women.
Though "Friday Night Lights" has contact drills and running hills and football insider terminology
such as "skinny post," the true subject of this series isn't sports. The true subject is teenagers under
the pressure of contemporary life. The same scenes of tense family life, husband-wife strain and
economic insecurity that turn off viewers who expected all-out sports action ought to give "Friday
Night Lights" considerable appeal to women. Also, the show could be marketed to upper-income
female viewers as a way for them to get in touch with an aspect of society that all the men around
them care about but they don't understand. (Working-class women generally already understand
football, it's the upper-income women who don't.) NBC, this show will soon be facing fourth-and99! Market "Friday Night Lights" to women to save the series.
Worst Crowd Reaction: As Seneca Wallace, in for the injured Matt Hasselbeck, fumbled late in
Seattle's loss to Minnesota, the Qwest Field crowd loudly booed. Sure the Seahawks went to the
Super Bowl last season and came into this game with a 12-game home winning streak, but what
have you done for us lately? And remember Qwest crowd, Wallace is your leader now. Booing him
accomplishes exactly nothing.
I'm Pickin' Up Good Vibrations: First my television set shook from ecstatic cheering as the
Buccaneers hit a 62-yard field goal on the final play to win at home, then a moment later my laptop
shook from ecstatic cheering as I listened to the radio call of Kansas City hitting a 53-yard field
goal on the final play to win at home.
Trust Us, We're Experts: Sports Illustrated predicted Carolina and Miami would meet in the Super
Bowl. The teams are a combined 5-9. Three weeks ago, ESPN: The Magazine ("Published on Earth,
the Planet"), which also picked the Dolphins for the Super Bowl, said "there is no need to panic" in
Miami because the team "will rally." My advice to the Dolphins? Panic.
TMQ Ombudsman Needed: Last week I said my kids' high school "hadn't had a winning season in
a decade" before making the playoffs in 2004. As I have now heard from an estimated 99.9 percent
the members of the teams of 1999 and 2000, the school went 7-3 both seasons. You'd think I could
get the facts straight about my own local high school!
TMQ Ombudsman Not Needed: I took some heat for my April item saying that not only was
D.C.'s tax-subsidized new stadium for the Nationals way too expensive, the plan calls for so little
parking, suburbanites will never come. Staff members of the D.C. Council e-mailed to call me an
idiot, to say there would be plenty of parking. Headline from page one of last week's Washington
Post: STADIUM GARAGE PROPOSALS REJECTED. D.C. Plan Now Lacks Parking." Not only
did the original plan call for a ridiculously low 1,225 spaces, or one parking place per 34 seats in the
ballpark -- the new Yankee Stadium will have 10,000 parking spaces, one per 5.3 seats -- even
provisions for that mini-garage have stalled. As of the moment, the cunning master plan is for the
new Nationals facility to offer no parking at all. Let me repeat my April pronouncement: "When the
ballpark project zeroes out the D.C. government's bond rating, please, congressional committees,
don't say you weren't warned."
Massive Re-Spelling, In Times and Places of Our Choosing: Tuesday Morning Quarterback has
obtained a memo declaring that "the whole USG" (internal Washingtonese for "United States
government") will now refer to the Ukrainian capital as Kyiv, rather than Kiev. This decision was
made by unanimous vote of the Board on Geographic Names, which apparently is an actual
organization, not an element in a Monty Python sketch. The Board has declared, "Although Kiev
remains the conventional name for this city, all State Department and operations are requested to
immediately begin using the new spelling Kyiv in all written communications." So we can't stop the
North Korean nuclear program, we botched the Iraq war, we've handed a trillion dollars in federal
debt to our children, but dadgummit, we will spell the name of the capital of Ukraine any durn way
we please. Note: TMQ believes if the NFL expands internationally, the franchise for this city should
be called the Kiev Chickens.
Hidden Plays: Hidden plays are ones that never make highlight reels, but stop or sustain drives.
Two snaps before the Bengals' Reggie Kelly caught a touchdown pass, Carolina cornerback Ken
Lucas dropped an interception thrown directly into his hands; the Bengals went on to win by three.
And yes that was the Reggie Kelly, the tight end Dan Reeves once traded a first-round draft pick for
at Atlanta. Kelly was viewed as a bust in Atlanta owing to high expectations, but has gone on to
become a solid performer along the Ohio River.
Obscure College Score of the Week No. 1: Pittsburg of Kansas 63, Southwest Baptist 20.
Pittsburg of Kansas is the Matewan High of college football, a team that seeks out weak opponents
then relentlessly runs up the score against them. Two years ago, on its way to having the highestscoring season in college football history, Pittsburg of Kansas faked a punt while leading 63-7.
Then faced with an equal foe, the Gorillas honked the Division II title game. This Saturday,
Pittsburg of Kansas led Southwest Baptist 49-17 at the start of the fourth quarter yet continued to
pass, relentlessly trying to run up the score on a completely overmatched opponent. Earlier this
season, in an ugly display of bad sportsmanship, the Gorillas ran the score up to 87-0 against
helpless little Panhandle State. (Currently Panhandle is 0-7 with four losses by at least 50 points.)
Apparently they don't have character-education courses at Pittsburg of Kansas but they do have
plenty of punks in the football office. Presumably when Pittsburg of Kansas meets a real opponent
in the playoffs it will collapse as usual.
Obscure College Score of the Week No. 2: Western New England 3, Endicott 0. Located on a
beautiful North Shore hillside in Beverly, Mass., last weekend Endicott recalled simpler times by
playing host to a Saturday night fire pit with cocoa and ghost stories.
Law of the Obvious (College Edition): TMQ's Law of the Obvious states: Sometimes all a team
needs to do is run the ball up the middle for no gain, and everything will be fine. Leading Michigan
State 38-10, Northwestern took possession with 6:31 remaining in the third quarter. Did the
Wildcats run, run, run to grind the clock? For the remainder of the contest, Northwestern coaches
called 10 rushes and eight passes. Five of the passes clanged incomplete, stopping the clock, while
two were intercepted; Michigan State kicked the winning field goal with five ticks remaining on the
scoreboard. From the point it took possession with a 38-10 advantage at 6:31 in the third, had
Northwestern simply run up the middle for no gain on every play, victory was close to certain.
You've got to work hard to blow a 35-point lead, and Northwestern coaches were determined.
Craziest call: Leading 38-17 at the end of the third quarter, the Wildcats faced third-and-10 on the
Spartans' 11. Run up the middle for no gain then kick the field goal that makes it 41-17, and
everything is fine. Instead pass, interception, and a collapse for the record books is set in motion.
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at
[email protected] Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I may
quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Note: Giving your hometown improves your
odds of being quoted.
Next Week: The NFL bans players from ingesting dark energy.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
TMQ Nation fires back
By Gregg Easterbrook
Tuesday Morning Quarterback has long complained that neither the Giants nor the Jets have
cheerleaders, though the New York City area is home to hundreds if not thousands of beautiful
young women who have dance training and great legs and are looking for their big break. Barry
Negrin of New York City reports the Jets have taken a step in the right direction with the addition
of hot-babe flag carriers. Negrin specifies that in their home loss to Indianapolis, the Jets had no
flag carriers. The next home game, a squeaker win against Miami, featured the debut of five female
flag carriers, though tastelessly overdressed in sweat suits. The latest home game, Sunday against
Detroit, was a rollicking win, no doubt helped by the fact that this time the flag carriers wore tank
tops and sprayed-on tights. "Two points may make a line, but three give you grounds to generate a
correlation coefficient," Negrin notes of the obvious upswing in approval by the football gods.
Alice Tremont of Rochester Hills, Mich. writes, "I am a law
student at Thomas Cooley Law School in the evenings. I have civil
procedure on Tuesday nights. You cannot imagine how
excruciatingly dull this is, like entering some bizarre space-time
continuum where time slows to a crawl and every minute expands to
inestimable lengths. If not for the availability of wireless Internet
and your column, I am sure I would have died of sheer boredom
already." So Alice, you read TMQ during class -- you have your
priorities in order!
Recent columns speculated that increased attention to high school
football will bring to the game's last bastion of purity the problems
of the pro and college levels -- money obsession, recruiting scandals,
a win-at-all-costs approach, ignoring of education. Already there are
high schools with football-factory reputations that either openly or
covertly recruit, urging the best players to transfer in, which only
C'mon, off with the
leads to more lopsided outcomes in which powerhouse teams crush sweatsuit!
weak teams. Paul Hamann of Redmond, Wash. notes that
Bellevue High outside Seattle, winner of four of the last five Washington state big-school titles, was
recently investigated by its school district for violating anti-recruiting rules, and only sort of
cleared. Hamann further notes that the varsity coach at Bellevue High receives $55,000 per year
from the school's booster club. (In some states high school coaches are volunteers, not
schoolteachers; the Bellevue coach is a local businessman.) Bellevue's booster club is a private
organization handing privately raised money to someone who is not a public employee, so there's no
impropriety. But this is just the kind of slippery slope we don't want high school football started
down. According to the Seattle Times, Jack Welch, football coach of Copperas Cove High School
in Texas, makes $102,000 as a school-system employee but doesn't teach -- the salary is solely for
sports coaching.
Still more on Matewan High, the West Virginia school now synonymous with bad sportsmanship
for using a no-huddle hurry-up offense throughout the second half in order to run up the score to 64-
0 and claim a bogus single-game rushing "record" for a player. Up to and including the night
Matewan did this, it was 5-0. Since that night, notes Catey Aaron of Morgantown, W.Va.,
Matewan has lost three consecutive games and tumbled out of state playoff contention. The boy
with the bogus "record," previously viewed as a leader for the Kennedy Award, given to the state's
top high school football player by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association, is now considered
an unlikely candidate. Surely the West Virginia Sports Writers Association will have the good sense
to grant this distinction to a player and school whose behavior reflects honorably on the state.
Postscript: The tiny, helpless school Matewan trounced 64-0 is now 0-8. The more you learn about
that night, the more disgusting the whole thing sounds.
Craig Bursch of Duluth, Minn. notes, "I hate arrogant coaches who run up the score as much as
you do." He was among many readers to observe that Pittsburg State of Kansas is promoting coach
Chuck Broyles for the Division II Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year. Two years ago, Broyles
ordered a fake punt when ahead 63-7; this season he committed an ugly act of bad sportsmanship by
running up the score to 87-0 against defenseless Panhandle State, which could barely dress enough
players for the game. Scott Anderson of Los Angeles points out that candidates for the Liberty
Mutual Coach of the Year award must demonstrate "high ethical standards" and "responsibility …
on the field." Hey Liberty Mutual -- take note that if Chuck Broyles of Pitt State wins your Coach of
the Year award, your company will be mocked for honoring a guy who sets a terrible example.
Rather than complain, Bursch suggested, TMQ readers should take matters into their own hands and
vote for other nominees for this award. You can go here until Nov. 5 and throw your weight behind
some other Division II coach. I just voted for current poll leader Mel Tjeerdsma of Northwest
Missouri State, which plays a schedule similar to Pittsburg of Kansas but does not have a history of
running up the score. (Northwest Missouri has one runaway-margin victory this season but did not
pass in the fourth quarter of that game.)
All told, I'm sick of these stories of college and high school punk coaches who only reveal their own
psychological problems by humiliating weak opponents. I'd like to read about good sportsmanship
for a change. Do you know any recent instance of good sportsmanship, dignified behavior or
generosity to the opponent at a high school or small college (Division I-AA or lower) football
game? If so, tell me at [email protected], including your real name and hometown. Please
be brief, and if available include supporting evidence, such as a newspaper article.
I supposed that human knowledge so far represents no
more than "1 percent of what there is to know." Alex
Janevski from Ann Arbor, Mich. countered, "If you
consider that humans have only been acquiring
knowledge for a ridiculously slight fraction of the
existence of our universe, say a generous estimate of
10,000 years out of the roughly 14 billion years the
universe appears to have existed, or .0000007 percent of
that time, it seems optimistic to think we would have
already amassed 1 percent of what there is to know. I
suspect we have learned only a fraction of a percent of
what there is to know of the Earth alone, and possess an
imperceptible speck of knowledge in the grand scheme
of things."
We've got a long way to go in our quest
to solve the universe.
Over the years TMQ has called Cincinnati the Tootsie Rolls and the Candy Corns; the Bengals have
so many Halloween-themed alternate uniforms, it's hard to keep them straight. Robyn Chapman of
Chesapeake, Ohio proposes, "Call them the Trick or Treats and be done with it. That way it doesn't
matter which version of the uniform they wear." Nicole Lemoine of Uxbridge, Mass. suggests that
TMQ give a nickname to Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio: Jack of the River. Mr. Data, make
these so!
Loic Duchesne of Jouy-le-Moutier, France notes that if you watch the replay in the NFL.com
video section of Ahman Green's 70-yard touchdown run for the Packers at Miami, at the end one of
the Dolphins' cheerleaders is seen seated, drinking Gatorade. He asks, "How is the Miami defense
supposed to stay professional when its own cheerleaders aren't paying attention?" Duchesne is on
the coaching staff of the Saint Ouen L'Aumone Cougars, a French U.S.-rules football club. We're
building McDonald's and Wal-Marts in China, promoting tackle football in France -- yes, the U.S.
plan for world domination is going smoothly.
As TMQ readers know, my compromise with my Baptist upbringing
is to be pro-topless but antigambling. Beyond the harmless $5 office
pool, gambling only brings debt, sorrow and regret. I don't care if
Donald Trump plays the roulette wheel in Casino Royale because I
don't care how much a rich person loses. But bookie gambling and
state-run lotteries are targeted toward the working class and the
poor, the state-run lotteries being an exceptionally cynical act on the
part of state governments. To top it off, though state-run lotteries
urge the poor to throw their money out the window on scratch-off
games, the one kind of gambling that's harmless, small-stakes office
pools, technically is illegal. (Except in Vermont!) Gary of
Beaverton, Ore. notes that his state, which bans informal office
pools, now is encouraging the working class to throw their money
out the window via state-administered office pools. What's next,
state of Oregon -- state-sponsored crack sales on street corners?
What's more fun, this stuff
Ben Kessler-Reynolds of Ridgefield, Conn. writes, "LaDainian
or office pools?
Tomlinson is now 6-for-9 passing with five touchdowns and no
interceptions in his career, good for a passer rating of 146.8. No wonder Briscoe High offensive
coordinator Urban Meyer had him, not Vick, throw the ball on the last play!" Rob Wold of
Antioch, Ill. offers this generic final score prediction: Manning Team 36, Opponent 22. It worked
twice this weekend. I noted that with all the attractive early-slot games this Sunday, the woofer New
England at Buffalo pairing was broadcast to Iran. Perhaps this was a CIA PSYOP ploy designed to
cause an Iranian uprising! Alexander Chester of Jerusalem reports that much of Israel saw Pats at
Bills, too. He writes, "It's one thing for America to punish Iran; why punish an ally?"
In a recent commercial for the Kawasaki ATV, notes Jere and Ann Northridge of State College,
Penn., as an ATV barrels through a corporate office, destroying all in its path, the disclaimer at the
bottom says, "Not the intended use of the vehicle." The phrase "intended use" has meaning in
liability law. Is Kawasaki worried that someone will barrel through an office in one of its ATVs,
then Kawasaki will be found liable?
Speaking of disclaimers, Jason Reiser of Philadelphia writes, "I was crossing a busy intersection
in Philadelphia yesterday and noticed a fellow with his head buried in a sheaf of papers, walking
across said intersection. I leaned over to see what he was reading and saw the heading Obscure
College Score of the Week. Aha, I thought, understanding why he would risk his well-being to
catch up on TMQ. But I think your column needs a disclaimer about reading the material while
operating heavy machinery, driving and, of course, crossing the road." Caution -- do not read
Tuesday Morning Quarterback while operating tunnel-boring equipment or artillery!
Monday, October 30, 2006
Updated: November 3, 2:34 PM ET
Rocky Mountain high/low
By Gregg Easterbrook
So my plan was to lead this column by praising the Denver defense, which goes out and gives up 34
points against Indianapolis. Now Denver has allowed 78 points in seven games, bested by Chicago's
69 points allowed. But the Broncos still are having the best defensive season so far, considering
they have played four of the league's power teams (Colts, Patriots, Chiefs and Ravens) while the
Bears have only played one (Seattle), with Chicago opponents a combined 17-33. Anyway the Colts
always stomp the Broncos; it's some horse voodoo thing. We still need to know why the Denver
defense is playing so well. Last week, I proposed the Atlanta offense was playing well because the
Falcons are daring to use a high school offense. This week, I propose the Denver defense is playing
well because the Broncos are daring to use a high school defense.
Watch tape of the Denver defense and you'll be amazed at how plain Jane it is. Almost always a
conventional 4-3-4. No stunting before the snap. No overloading one side, not even showing
overload then backing out. No linebackers shooting gaps. No press corners. Almost no blitzing.
Most remarkable by recent NFL standards, the linebackers and cornerbacks are six yards off the
line, rather than three to four yards as virtually all other teams use. This year, the Broncos have
lined up almost every down in a classical by-the-book defensive set with everyone in the standard
position and not moving. If you attend a lot of high school football, as I do, you know: This is
exactly how high school defenses play.
Denver's lack of blitzing is what might jump out at the
casual spectator. According to NFL analyst Pat Kirwan,
last season Denver blitzed on 16 percent of opponent
snaps, somewhat above the league average. This season,
Denver has hardly blitzed at all -- just three blitzes in 60
Colts snaps Sunday, a 5 percent blitz rate. Most high
school teams rarely blitz, because the blitz leads to big
plays surrendered. In recent seasons, NFL defensive
coordinators have boasted about sacks and turnovers off
the blitz, then changed the subject when some partypooper like me mentions big plays surrendered. I've
heard that in the offseason, Denver coach Mike
Shanahan decided he wanted to limit big plays. That
meant little blitzing.
Denver's defense had a hiccup against
Indy, but they're still having an
outstanding year.
The lack of pre-snap movement by the Denver defense is less obvious, but equally high school-ish.
In recent seasons, NFL defensive coaches have gone ga-ga for unorthodox looks and jumping
around before the snap to confuse blocking schemes. High school defensive coaches traditionally
are more concerned with making sure everyone is in the right place before the snap. That means
conventional static sets: exactly what Denver is using! Sunday, Peyton Manning almost never did
his "chicken dance." He audibled and pointed around less than he has in years -- and the reason was
the defense was not shifting, so he had nothing to point about. Maybe the effectiveness of the 2006
Denver defense will wear off as opponents figure out what the Broncs are up to. I suspect this
defense has worked well so far because other teams come into games expecting the Denver defense
to jump around and show unconventional looks like everyone else, and aren't prepared for
orthodoxy!
In more football news, examples of bad sportsmanship have been all too frequent this season, with
many college and high school teams relentlessly running up the score. (Running up the score is
fairly rare in the NFL.) Once I thought that any high school or college team up by 50 points should
begin kneeling on the ball, even if it was the third quarter. Letters from coaches and former players
have persuaded me that proposal is impractical. To my complaints about running up the score,
coaches and former players have countered: How do we know when we've scored enough, and how
can we send out the second- or third-string but not let them run regular plays? Therefore let me
propose a practical guide to points sportsmanship.
• First, teams may score at will in the first half. Even if you're ahead by a huge margin it's fine to
throw deep or do anything else, until intermission.
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/print?id=2644034&type=Page2Story&imagesPrint=off• In the
second half, scoring is no longer needed if a team leads by 40 points in the third quarter or 30
points in the fourth quarter. Michigan State just proved it is physically possible to overcome a
35-point lead in the third quarter. But since that has now happened once in a century of college
competition and never in the NFL, a 40-point lead in third quarter signals it is time to rein in the
horses, while a 30-point lead in the fourth quarter signals the same.
• Once an unassailable lead has been achieved, teams may continue to run regular plays -- but if
scoring a touchdown, players should kneel on all PAT tries. This is my Big Important Proposal.
You're ahead 42-0 at the start of the fourth quarter. The starters are all seated, but you can't tell
the subs to do nothing but run up the middle for an entire quarter. You let them run most of the
playbook except deep passes, reverses and so on. They score a touchdown making it 48-0, and
you kneel on the PAT try, even if there's a quarter remaining. Extra points are, after all, "extra"
points. Once a huge lead is attained, "extra" points are totally unneeded. With an
insurmountable lead you've got to run some kind of offense, but you don't have to try extra
points. By kneeling on all extra-point plays after attaining a huge lead, the victor would
communicate respect for its opponents and make clear that it is not trying to inflate the score,
merely running its offense until the game ends. Also, this solution allows the second- and thirdteams their chance to run the regular offense. Coaches of powerhouse college and high school
teams: Start kneeling on those PATs in the second half.
Let's sum this up as Tuesday Morning Quarterback Law of Fair-Play Scoring. One, all is fair in the
first half. Two, after attaining a 40-point lead in the third quarter or a 30-point lead in the fourth
quarter, no starters on the field and no deep-strike plays. Three, if you do score with either of these
leads, kneel on the point-after, no matter what the clock. Isn't this a decent proposal for a common
understanding of how to avoid running up the score and the bad feelings it engenders all around? I'd
think any coach could live with the Law of Fair-Play Scoring -- any coach except a bad sport, of
course.
Just one month ago, TMQ asked, "How soon 'til Steelers fans start booing Ben Roethlisberger?"
Sure he came into the season having just won the Super Bowl and was 28-4 as an NFL starter. But
now Roethlisberger is 1-4 this season and already has thrown 11 interceptions, including a dreadful
pick this Sunday into triple coverage at the Raiders' goal line. Had Roethlisberger simply tossed the
ball away on that down, the field goal on the next play makes it Oakland 13, Pittsburgh 9; instead
the interception went the distance in the opposite direction making it Oakland 20, Pittsburgh 6. I'll
ask again: How soon 'til Steelers fans start booing Ben Roethlisberger?
In other football news, man, what great games this weekend! Kansas City-Seattle, AtlantaCincinnati, Indianapolis-Denver, Jacksonville-Philadelphia, Baltimore-New Orleans and New
England-Minnesota were all strong matchups. Why so many strong pairings? The four bye teams -Buffalo, Detroit, Miami and Washington -- had a combined record of 6-22. Most of the cupcakes
took the weekend off, and the result was the games played were tremendous. TMQ's suggestion to
improve NFL play: Let these four teams take the rest of the season off.
And in still more sports news, last week I asked readers for examples of dignified or generous
behavior by college or high school teams. I am happy to report many such examples of good
sportsmanship below.
Stats of the Week No. 1: Undefeated Chicago is winning by an average of 22 points per game.
Stats of the Week No. 2: Since leading undefeated Chicago by 20 points at home at the end of the
third quarter, Arizona has lost three straight and been outscored 23-74.
Stats of the Week No. 3: Seattle allowed 16 points in its first two games and has been allowing 32
points a game since.
Stats of the Week No. 4: Pittsburgh is 2-5 despite outscoring its opponents.
Stats of the Week No. 5: Five teams already have more than 200 points but one of them,
Philadelphia, does not have a winning record.
Stats of the Week No. 6: All NFC West teams have lost at least two straight games; the division is
on a combined 0-13 streak. Reader stat submitted by Sharp Richmond of Mount Airy, Md.
Stats of the Week No. 7: College stats bonus: In a four-point loss to Texas, Texas Tech had 519
yards passing and minus-1 yard rushing.
Stats of the Week No. 8: In the last quarter-century, Seattle is 2-19 at Arrowhead Stadium.
Stats of the Week No. 9: Cincinnati's offensive line already has given up as many sacks as it did in
the entire 2005 season.
Stats of the Week No. 10: Discounting meaningless contests played after the Colts locked their
best postseason seeding, Indianapolis has won 28 consecutive regular-season games.
Cheerleader of the Week (Halloween Special): In the last week, the nation's news pages have
been filled with reports of a national craze for teenaged girls and young women wearing revealing
Halloween costumes with hardcore themes such as French maid or bondage harness -- see this New
York Times article by Stephanie Rosenbloom. On Saturday night, TMQ and the Official Wife
attended a trendy Halloween party, and there beheld one woman in a super-skimpy French maid's
costume including accessories that would be worn only by a very obedient maid, another woman in
a mermaid outfit that came close to the topless look reported by ancient sailors who struggled to
resist these creatures.
For more than a decade, studies have reported declining sexual activity, especially among the young
-- fewer teens below age 18 who have had intercourse, later age of first intercourse, fewer total
sexual partners by most people, falling rates of teen pregnancy. (That teen pregnancy was in 2005 at
its lowest rate ever in the United States is the kind of positive news the media never get around to
reporting.) At the same time that take-it-slow and monogamy are rising, teen girls and young
women wear ever-more-revealing clothes and, now, sex-themed Halloween costumes. Tuesday
Morning Quarterback does not pretend to understand the paradoxical trend of declining sex coupled
to increased sexiness. But I can tell you who was there first: NFL cheerleaders!
The fad for high-sex-appeal NFL cheerleaders began about 20 years ago, and not long after that
studies began to show lessening incidence of young-teen sex and frequent promiscuous sex. Five to
10 years ago, NFL cheerleaders began sporting sexy Halloween costumes. Naughty nurse, naughty
elf, naughty serving girl, scantily attired devil, let's-play-doctor doctor -- all have been done on an
NFL sideline on Halloween weekend in recent seasons. Can an NFL cheer-babe dominatrix
cracking her whip be far behind? Spectators are grateful, needless to say. But just as the larger
social trend seems to be more sex appeal coupled to less sex, the put-it-out-there sexiness of
cheerleaders' Halloween costumes seems more aesthetic than arousing. Somehow, NFL
cheerleaders can be really good looking and nearly naked without suggesting the erotic: the image
presented is one of attractiveness, fitness and body confidence, rather than of sex itself. This must
tell us something about society -- I just have no idea what. At any rate, throughout this column
TMQ celebrates the weekend's cheerleader Halloween costumes.
Label on Patriots' Helmet: Insert Player, Perform Well: Doug Gabriel, Reche Caldwell, Junior
Seau -- nobody else in the league wants 'em, you put 'em in a Patriots uniform and they're stars. Last
night on "Monday Night Football," the New England Patriots once again rolled out castoffs and
who-dats to pound another team. Miami said Seau was washed up. Approximately 31 teams passed
on Gabriel and Caldwell. Billy Yates started at guard for New England -- his first career start in four
seasons. No, I'd never heard of him, either. Yates was cut by Miami, which has a terrible offensive
line. Last night Yates played fine for New England. Ryan O'Callaghan started at right tackle for the
Flying Elvii. O'Callaghan was the 13th tackle taken in April's draft, selected in the fifth round after
a lot of glamour names went, and he's playing great while glamour-name, high-drafted tackles like
Winston Justice aren't even on their teams' active lists. Whatever Bill Belichick has, he sprays it on
new players awfully quick.
As for the game, it was mere formality after the first possession. And Minnesota was a winning
team getting its stuffings kicked out despite the benefit of the mystique of its first "Monday Night
Football" home appearance in five years. Minnesota couldn't cover any of the Pats' castoff receivers.
Minnesota couldn't get past the Pats' who-dat offensive linemen to pressure Tom Brady, despite the
New England five-wide, which meant no halfback to pick up Vikings blitzers. Representative New
England perfect play: Leading 10-0, the Patriots faced third-and-12. At the snap, Brady and his
tailback sprinted right, influencing the defense that way; then Brady stopped on a dime and threw
the half-screen (one blocker) back left to Caldwell. Matt Light, the blocker, pasted the Viking at the
point of attack and off Caldwell went for a 34-yard gain. New England scored on the possession to
make it 17-0 and at that point the Vikings might as well have left to get peanut butter-chocolate
Halloween martinis. Everybody sprints one way, then throw the half screen back the other way -we have this play in my sixth-grader's flag football league playbook, and the New England Patriots
can fool the Minnesota Vikings with it.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 1: Last week TMQ said teams should spread the field at the goal line,
then simply have the quarterback run up the middle with five offensive linemen taking on five
defenders in the box. Game scoreless, Baltimore faced third-and-goal on the New Orleans 5. The
Nevermores lined up with two wide receivers wide on each side; Saints defenders frantically spread
wide; then Steve McNair simply ran straight up the middle for six. Apparently now that Brian
Billick is calling his own plays, he's free to call from the Tuesday Morning Quarterback playbook!
Baltimore also ran a nice "series" sequence in which one play sets up another. From the New
Orleans 4, the Ravens set three receivers right and had Clarence Moore, the inside guy, run the
quick turn-in -- touchdown. Later from the Saints' 6, the Ravens set three right and had Todd Heap,
the inside guy, run a quick turn-out -- touchdown; the defense seemed to expect turn-in.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 2: Trailing 3-0, Denver faced second-and-goal on the Indianapolis 1.
In a variation of the spread-then-sneak action advocated by TMQ, the Broncos came out double
tight end with I-backs and a slotback right; then blocking back Kyle Johnson went in motion wide
left, drawing a defender with him; at the snap tailback Mike Bell sprinted left, as if expecting a
quick flip and drawing a linebacker out of the middle; then Jake Plummer drove straight ahead for
six. Earlier in this drive on third-and-long, Plummer sprinted out right then threw a 45-yard
completion on the deep zed-out to David Kircus on the left. Considering how far behind the line
Plummer was and that his pass traveled across the field right to left, Plummer threw a perfect ball
almost 70 yards in the air.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 3: Trailing 35-14 in the fourth quarter, New Orleans faced fourth-andgoal on the Baltimore 5. Saints coaches called for seven blockers; Ravens' coaches called a one-man
rush. One defender rushed, 10 dropped into coverage -- I've never seen it. Seven New Orleans
blockers stood walling off one single man while 10 Baltimore defenders covered three receivers.
Flummoxed, Drew Brees threw the ball away, for all intent and purpose ending the game. This
week, this was the play TMQ obsessively watched over and over. The fascinating thing is that after
10 Baltimore defenders dropped off, there stood Brees surrounded by seven blockers with only one
Raven between him and the goal line. Had Brees and his wall of blockers simply surged forward, a
touchdown run was likely. But not too many teams practice for a one-man rush! Lite rush bonus:
Trailing 29-27 with 13 seconds remaining, Cincinnati lined up for the Hail Mary. The Bengals had
six blocking, Atlanta rushed three -- and got the sack.
Sour Play of the Week No. 1: Trailing San Diego 14-7 in the third quarter, St. Louis had first-and10 on the Bolts' 29. Recycled power back Stephen Davis fumbled forward, ball bouncing to the San
Diego 21. Usually touchdown returns of fumbles come on those that bounce away from the
direction of the play, allowing a defender to "scoop and score" with only green grass ahead.
Forward fumbles are usually fallen on in a mass of humanity. In this case, San Diego safety Marlon
McCree ran the fumble back 79 yards for a touchdown that was the decisive play in San Diego's
win. How did he get away with it? As McCree picked up the loose ball, Les Mouflons' gentlemen
simply stood there doing nothing. Hey, highly overpaid St. Louis offensive starters -- "play to the
whistle!"
Sour Play of the Week No. 2: Trailing Tennessee 7-3 with 18 seconds in the first half, Houston
faced third-and-13 on its 46, holding one timeout. David Carr dropped back, was sacked, his fumble
returned for a touchdown by the Flaming Thumbtacks. With only 18 seconds and one timeout, what
were the odds of anything good happening for the Texans on a third-and-long pass?
Sour Play of the Week (Matched Set): When someone other than a quarterback throws on a trick
play, the player should be coached thus: Throw only if the receiver is completely unguarded,
otherwise just run and we don't care if you take a loss. Baltimore leading 7-0, New Orleans had
first-and-goal and called a halfback pass by Reggie Bush. The receiver was double-covered and
rather that just run, Bush heave-hoed, interception. Later at Denver, game scoreless, Indianapolis
called the halfback pass by Joseph Addai. The receiver was double-covered and rather that just run,
Addai heave-hoed, offensive pass interference.
Sweet 'N' Sour Play: Brett Favre ran for his first touchdown in five years; that was sweet. As he
rolled right, on the outside there was Favre, blocking back Brandon Miree and four Arizona
defenders. Favre motioned Miree into the corner of the end zone -- and all four defenders went with
the who-dat fullback, ignoring the future first-ballot Hall of Famer as he strolled into the end zone.
That was sour.
You Can Leave a Taurus With the Door Open and the Engine Running, and It Will Be There
When You Come Back: Last week the final Taurus rolled off the assembly line, as Ford ended the
two-decade production run of the car. Today the Taurus is thought of as dour and frumpy, but when
it debuted in 1985, the car was a breath of fresh air -- the first American-made sedan intended to
compete with Honda and Toyota on quality. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Taurus was the
No. 1-selling vehicle in the United States. This car got you where you wanted to go, and there was
even once a sexy edition, the Taurus SVO, in monochrome black with big wheels, foreshadowing
the current craze for pimped editions of the Chrysler 300 sedan. The world eventually passed the
Taurus by. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in 2005 the Ford Taurus was
the nation's least-stolen car.
Is United Nations Day the New Thanksgiving? Each year, Tuesday Morning Quarterback
bemoans the earlier-and-earlier start of commercialization of Christmas. This year the first
Christmas movie, "The Santa Clause III," opens Nov. 3. I saw a Christmas-themed television ad for
the Garmin navigational device, complete with fake snow and caroling, on Oct. 29.
Click That Seat Belt! It's good to hear Indianapolis defensive tackle Montae Reagor is expected to
recover from injuries sustained in a recent car crash. Guess what Reagor was driving: an SUV,
which rolled over. Though many buyers believe SUVs are safer than regular cars, and
manufacturers subtly play to this belief in advertising, statistics show you are more likely to die or
be injured inside an SUV than inside a regular car. In low-speed, front-to-rear and side-to-side
impacts, SUVs are in fact safer for occupants; but SUVs are so much more likely to roll over at high
speed than regular cars that the total risk of death is greater for the person in the SUV. Also, what
was Reagor not wearing at the time of the crash?
Preposterous Punt Watch: Trailing 14-10 at the end of the third quarter, Dallas threw incomplete
on the Carolina 42 on third-and-2, and also was called for holding. Surely, I thought, John Fox will
take the penalty to push the Cowboys out of his territory; otherwise they will go for it on fourthand-2 at the Carolina 42. Instead Fox confidently declined the penalty, and Bill Parcells obliged by
ordering a punt on fourth-and-2 from the opposition 42 while trailing in the second half. Dallas
went on to win the game, but don't tell me Parcells knew Carolina would later commit three
turnovers. You're behind in the second half and punting on short yardage in opposition territory!
At Happy Hour in Hell's Sports Bar, Pitchers Are Just $5 But the Beer Is Warm -- Unless
You're English, In Which Case It's Cold: Hell's sports bar has 28 wide-screen plasma TVs, and
on Sunday all were showing Houston vs. Tennessee at Long Playing Field. For the highlight
program, all 28 screens in Hell's Sports Bar showed nothing but, over and over, San Francisco
punting in Chicago territory when the Niners were trailing by 41-0.
Best Purist Drives: Kansas City drove 88 yards for a touchdown in 13 plays -- 12 of them rushes.
Leading 13-3, Jacksonville took possession with 7:27 remaining. Jax ran, ran to grind the clock to
2:45 before punting, and the rest was filler.
Congress Is Afraid to Do Anything About Petroleum Imports, But Happy to Issue Orders to
God: Enjoy your trick-or-treating in the dark tonight, because starting next Halloween, Daylight
Savings Time still will be in effect on Oct. 31. The recent energy bill enacted by Congress -- which
contains hundreds of pages of special-interest favors but largely does nothing about energy supply
or consumption rates -- had a title lengthening the part of the year when DST remains in effect.
Beginning in 2007, Standard Time will be in effect only from Nov. 4 'til March 9 -- two-thirds of
the year will be non-standard, only one-third Standard. (Unless you live in Arizona or Hawaii,
which do not observe Daylight Savings Time.) Though I like an extra hour outdoors in the summer
too, Daylight Savings Time seems to have gotten completely out of hand. The God-given cycles of
sunrise and sunset aren't good enough for us?
Proponents of DST always say that it reduces electricity use, by postponing by one hour the time
when all the interior lights of structures are turned on. See Michael Downing's "Spring Forward," an
entire book devoted to attacking Daylight Savings Time! Downing acknowledges DST cuts
electricity use but maintains it increases petroleum demand, which is more harmful than reducing
electricity use is helpful -- especially considering Congress refuses to enact a meaningful energy
policy. "Spring Forward" demonstrates that the primary energy impact of the extra hour of evening
daylight is to cause people to drive places to do things; and while the United States has centuries'
worth of coal and uranium to make electricity, we're already too dependent on imported petroleum
from Persian Gulf dictatorships. What sinister conspiracy does Downing believe is behind the
extension of Daylight Savings Time? The golf industry! Spring Forward asserts the extra month of
DST added that Congress mandated in 1986 "represents $400 million in added annual sales and
fees" to golf-course operators because more people play in the evening.
The Obvious Solution Is to Rename It "Politically Correct Time": Speaking of Standard Time,
since 1847 the world's time has been judged in relation to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich,
United Kingdom. In the days of sailing ships, Greenwich Mean Time was what British sailors set
their timepieces to, in order to calculate longitude. Gradually, hours plus-or-minus GMT was
accepted as the world standard for delineating time zones. Of course it's an arbitrary standard -some place on Earth must be chosen, and whatever place is chosen would be arbitrary. In recent
years a politically correct movement has demanded that Greenwich Mean Time not be spoken of, as
it implies England is the center of world culture. Instead, Coordinated Universal Time is now the
preferred term, since it makes no reference to the existence of English culture. But Coordinated
Universal Time is still based on the time in Greenwich, England! Changing GMT to CUT changes
nothing except to replace an exact physical description with a PC euphemism. And what about
"Zulu time"? The clock reading in Greenwich is abbreviated Z, which is pronounced "Zulu" in radio
argot (like "whiskey" for W, "November" for N and so on). This means United States military
communications commonly refer to Greenwich Mean Time as "Zulu time." How long until saying
"Zulu" is deemed politically incorrect?
This global time utility can be useful, though beware it is only "accurate to within 0.3 seconds."
Think such tiny amounts of time can't matter? In calibrating the GPS guidance devices of the bombs
dropped on Iraq in March 2003, Air Force planners took into account not only the lag between
when a GPS signal was transmitted from a satellite and received by a smart bomb -- far less than a
second at the speed of light -- they took into account the effects of relativity on the signals, since
time passes ever-so-slightly differently when the bomb accelerates by falling.
Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk No. 1: Trailing 28-7 in the third quarter, the United States Saints
punted on fourth-and-1. The Saints went on to lose 35-22.
Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkkk No. 2: Trailing Jersey/A by 17-3, City of Tampa faced fourth-and-5
with 3:29 remaining. In trotted the punt unit. "This absolutely must be a fake," I said aloud. Boom
goes the punt, and TMQ wrote the words "game over" in his notebook. There are three minutes left
and you need two touchdowns, why are you punting???????
Buck-Buck-Buck-Buck-Buck-Buck-Buck-Buck-Buck-Buck-Buck-Buck-Buck-Buck-BuckBrawckkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk: Trailing Chicago 41-0, San Francisco punted from the
Bears' 38. Still down by 41 points and facing fourth-and-goal on the Bears' 5 in the fourth quarter,
San Francisco kicked a field goal.
Your Seat Assignment Is Coach, But for an Additional Fee, You Can Upgrade to an Overhead
Bin: It was a bad sign when the launch customer for the new Boeing 787 was startup Air Gitmo, an
ultra-no-frills carrier that will jam the maximum number of people into the minimum space by
strapping passengers down so they cannot move their limbs during the flight. A Wall Street darling
and endorsed last week by Vice President Dick Cheney, Air Gitmo plans to offer low fares but no
meals and no human rights. Passengers must sign waivers of the Geneva Convention, the
Constitution and the Peace of Westphalia. Water will be rationed; blaring rock music will insure inflight sleep deprivation; anyone who presses the flight-attendant call button will receive an electric
shock. The Air Gitmo marketing slogan -- "We Give 'Now Ready for Boarding' a Whole New
Meaning" -- says it all.
OK, so I'm making up Air Gitmo: though please don't
show this item to Delta or American, as their existing
fleets would require only minor modification to fit the
Air Gitmo business plan. The part about the latest
Boeing is not made up. Due in the sky soon as Boeing's
first new jetliner of the 21st century, the 787
"Dreamliner" is a monster hit in terms of airline orders.
Airlines are drawn to the 787 because it offers a big
leap in fuel efficiency, while Boeing has promoted the
plane as the first airliner since Pan Am's Flying Clippers
of the 1930s designed with passenger comfort in mind.
Boeing released photos of mock-ups with comfortable
3-2-3 coach seating schemes and relatively generous
19-inch-wide coach seats, versus the current industry
standard of 17-inch coach seats.
The last airliner that was designed for
passenger comfort.
Your writer warned in 2003, "Don't believe for one minute you will ever board a 787 that looks
anything like the pictures!" I warned the same again in 2005. What's happened since? Last winter,
Boeing quietly admitted the planned 3-2-3 coach seating will be dropped on most Dreamliners for
3-3-3, wedging an additional passenger into each row. Comfortable 19-inch-wide seats have given
way to 17-inch tush crunchers. And that's with the 787 still awaiting test flight. Traditionally after
airline customers take delivery of jetliners, they rip out the interiors, shrink the "pitch," or fore-andaft distance between seats, and jam in more chairs, eliminating legroom. Airline marketing
departments call this "density modification." Surely in actual use the Dreamliner will become a
density-modified airborne livestock pen.
But if the Dreamliner is hostile to passengers, at least it will be easy on the environment. Boeing
promotes the jetliner as "eco-friendly" and says, "We are designing the most environmentally
preferred airplane ever, whether in the air, in the factory, or on the ground. From initial design to
the retirement of the airplane, we are seizing every opportunity to minimize the impact on the
planet's natural environment." If a spotted owl books a 787 flight, for it the seats will be decentsized.
The Dreamliner's competitor, the new Airbus 350, has been a flop with airlines companies, which
are not ordering the plane. Partly, this was because elements of the A350 design made nine-across
seating impossible. In July, Airbus announced it will reengineer the 350 to allow nine-across
seating. The reengineered Airbus 350 also gets a cabin three inches wider than the 787, meaning
typical coach passenger receives an extra one-third of an inch of space. Airbus had the nerve to
christen this new design the A350 Xtra Wide Body. Wider by one-third of an inch -- live it up!
Note 1: If you saw the New York Times story saying Airbus was designing standing-room "seats"
in which passengers actually would be strapped to boards, this story is not true, as the Multicolored
Lady has since admitted.
Note 2: When you say "customer" for Boeing and Airbus, usually you don't mean the airlines
themselves but little-known International Lease Financing Corporation, owner of record for much
of the world's commercial air fleet. International Lease Financing buys jetliners and leases them to
American, United and so on, doing the paperwork in such a way that the depreciation can be shifted
around in years when the airlines lose money and thus owe no taxes to claim deductions against.
International Lease Financing, a subsidiary of scandal-plagued insurance giant AIG, is run by
Steven F. Udvar-Hazy, the man who pioneered commercial jetliner leasing, then repaid his debt to
the skies by donating $65 million in seed money for the way-cool new air and space museum near
Dulles Airport outside Washington, D.C. If you haven't been to this museum, it is well worth the
trip. But as TMQ continues to marvel, the official name of the place is the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy
Center, including the middle initial. Oh, so you mean that Steven Udvar-Hazy.
Note 3: I don't mean to sound too harsh on the 787, which will use less fuel per passenger-mile and
pollute less than any current jetliner, thanks to a light carbon-fiber composite fuselage and the
advanced GEnx turbofan from General Electric, a breakthrough in aviation engine design. (Though,
good luck pronouncing "GEnx.") Headroom and overhead bin room will increase; tiny windows, a
common complaint about jetliners, will be supplanted by larger ones. I'm sure once the Dreamliner
is airborne, savvy flyers will book it. Current airliner cabins are kept super-dry to reduce humidity
in contact with the metal fuselage. A carbon-based fuselage means the Dreamliner will have normal
cabin humidity, which passengers are sure to appreciate.
Today's jetliners are also pressurized not to ground level
but to the equivalent of an altitude of about 8,000 feet.
This is why your ears pop even inside a pressurized
cabin, and why babies' ears hurt, making them cry.
Pressurization to 8,000 feet reduces stress that causes
metal fatigue on the fuselage -- at cruise altitude, the
cabin is pushing outward against the hull with less force
than if the pressurization mechanisms were simulating
air pressure at the ground. With the 787's composite
hull, fatigue shouldn't be an issue. The Dreamliner will
be pressurized to near ground level, meaning no more
popping ears and fewer babies crying. But this might
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner cabin mockprove a mixed blessing. The reason so many flyers
up. Use for comparison only. Your
slumber on airliners, even during turbulence, is that thin actual seat may be far smaller.
air makes you drowsy. People sleep well in mountain
vacation cabins, and they sleep well at a simulated 8,000 feet. Aboard Dreamliners pressurized to
near ground level, passengers might find that they can't sleep the flight away. Flights attendants
might spend a lot more time racing to bring drinks to cranky, wide-awake people in 17-inch-wide
seats. Don't be surprised if airlines end up reducing pressurization aboard 787s, so the passengers
fall asleep and don't complain about the lack of room.
Note 4: Boeing is recommending that all 787 engine housings be painted a single color. The
company's studies show that the tiny ridges between paint shades in multiple-color airline liveries
interrupt laminar airflow over engine nacelles, increasing fuel consumption by nearly 100 gallons
per airliner per day. This is the level of detail that manufacturers already are working with to reduce
petroleum consumption -- and the world still needs to get, what, maybe four or five times more
energy-efficient?
We're All Professionals Here: Possessions for the Eagles at home against Jacksonville: punt, punt,
punt, punt, downs, punt, end of half, punt, field goal, punt, field goal.
Frontiers in Advertising: This week General Electric is running television ads extolling its
unpronounceable GEnx. This might well be the best aviation engine ever manufactured, but what
are the ads supposed to do, make you want to run out to the store and buy a high-bypass jet engine?
In the Washington, D.C., subway system a few weeks ago, billboard ads appeared for the new 767based tanker aircraft Boeing proposes building for the Air Force. Are the ads supposed to make
subway riders want to run out and buy an aerial refueling fleet? Of course Boeing is trying to get
Congress to fund its tanker program -- but members of Congress do not ride the subway.
Best Blocks: One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, one
thousand five, one thousand six, one thousand seven, one thousand eight. That's how many
thousands I counted as Michael Vick scanned the field on third-and-5 in the fourth quarter, before
finding Roddy White for the first-down catch that made possible the winning field goal against
Cincinnati. On LaDainian Tomlinson's 38-yard touchdown run, an off-tackle right, LT/2 was
touched once, when he was already 20 yards downfield. Mike Bell went into the end zone from
close range standing up for Denver, and when you go in standing up on a goal-to-go play, that's
good blocking. Julius Jones of Dallas was barely touched as he went straight up the middle for 14
yards for the key touchdown against Carolina, and Fred Taylor of Jax was barely touched on a
simple straight-ahead touchdown. With Seattle leading 14-13 late in the second quarter, Kansas City
faced third-and-5 and handed off to Larry Johnson, whose 7-yard run isn't the kind that makes
highlight reels, but sustained the drive -- and benefited from beautiful blocking.
Note: Jones' run was an example of TMQ Law of the Other Shoe: When there's a bad turnover, the
defense usually gives up a bad play on the next snap. Dallas scored to make it Cats 14, Cowboys 13
in the fourth quarter. Brad Hoover of Carolina fumbled the kickoff, and the other shoe fell when
Dallas scored on the next snap. But wasn't Hoover's knee down before the ball popped out? Sure
looked down to me. This is a common officiating error, to watch the scramble for the ball, not
simply watch the knee, which can render moot the scramble for the ball.
How Indianapolis Beat the Denver High School Defense: The Broncos had given up two
touchdowns in six games against a strong schedule, then surrendered four touchdowns to the Colts.
Indianapolis scouted Denver well, and knew was it using a six-yard back-off for linebackers and
cornerbacks, while most other teams place these players three to four yards off the ball. If the
defense is backing off, why not throw under? That's what Peyton Manning did, endlessly throwing
short passes in front of the Broncs' defenders. Even taking over on its 20 with 1:49 remaining,
Indianapolis short-passed down the field for position for the winning figgie. Since the Colts like to
run-run-run then deep strike, adjusting to the short pass showed flexibility on the part of
Indianapolis coaches. Endlessly the Colts threw under the Bronco. They didn't drop the ball and
remained patient despite the lack of big plays, which the Denver defensive set is unlikely to allow.
The Colts' sweetest play? Trailing 14-13, Indianapolis faced third-and-3 on the Denver 5. The Colts
lined up with Reggie Wayne wide left, Dallas Clark in the slot left; corner Darrant Williams (who
had a bad game) was across from Wayne and safety John Lynch across from Clark. At the snap,
Wayne ran a quick post and Clark ran laterally into the area Wayne vacated. Both Williams and
Lynch read this as a pick pattern to set up a hitch to Clark. Both went toward Clark, leaving Wayne
uncovered for the touchdown.
I Want My Midweek MAC! One of TMQ's favorite aspects of the college football season is
Tuesday and Wednesday night MAC games on ESPN. I love those midweek contests that don't
involve megabucks top-20 schools, and yet provide excellent football, plus rockets on helmets. But
here November is about to begin, college football is entering its home stretch, and still no midweek
MAC on ESPN! Tomorrow night's card does offer Fresno State at Boise State, and midweek WAC
and Mountain West games are fun too. But where, oh where, is the midweek MAC? Midweek
games have been oddly few on ESPN this fall, doubly puzzling as football goes 24/7.
Good Sportsmanship Report: Mike Paulson of Canton, Mass., wrote, "I teach at Canton High,
whose football team has not won a game in more than two years. A week ago Friday night we
hosted North Attleboro High, an undefeated powerhouse school ranked in the state's top five. It was
not surprising that at halftime, North Attleboro led 35-0. The second half was very different, the
game ending with a final score of 35-13. Afterward I complimented our coach on a well-played
second half. He explained that North Attleboro had dressed its junior varsity squad for the game and
played JVs the entire second half." Congratulations to North Attleboro High coach Kurt Kummer
for showing good sportsmanship. Note that when good sportsmanship is shown, everybody wins.
North Attleboro got its victory; the team's junior varsity got some valuable game experience;
Canton got the thrill of recording touchdowns against a ranked team. Had North Attleboro run up
the score, everyone including the victors would have left the event with an empty feeling. Instead,
everyone felt good about what transpired.
Michael Plowman of Dyer, Tenn., and the class of '94 at Gibson County High School, writes:
"During my junior season we only had 17 players on our team. We were playing the highly ranked
Union City Golden Tornadoes, third in the state at the time. We lost 41-0, but Union City coach
Rick Barnes pulled his starters after the first series of the second quarter. Coach Barnes actively
tried to avoid embarrassing us. His was the only hand of a coach I shook after a game all season."
Michael, coach Rick Barnes earned your handshake!
Jason Dagle of Selinsgrove, Pa., wrote: "In the summer of 2004, the Southern Columbia High
School team lost two players in a drowning accident at a football camp. That year en route to an
undefeated season, the Tigers would only field nine players for their first play, to honor their lost
friends. While a few teams tried to a hit a big play against the Tigers' nine-man set, most opponents
also fielded only nine players for the first play." In the 2004 Pennsylvania state Class A
championship game, Southern Columbia sent out nine players for the first play, and opponent
Rochester High responded by sending out only nine. Thus good sportsmanship was shown by
Rochester High School and many other Pennsylvania high schools that year.
Tim Agnew of Omaha, Neb., wrote: "Outside Omaha there is a little high school called Mount
Michael. For years in the 1970s and 1980s they had a dominant basketball team that won two state
championships, coached by a man named Jim 'Killer' Kane. This nickname was more for the effort
he coaxed out of his players than what he did to opponents. 'Killer' would NEVER allow his team to
put up 100 points. If they managed to get ahead by a safe lead he would send in the subs, and if the
subs reached 99 points he would have them purposefully turn the ball over to let the opponents
score. Jim Kane, who died in 2003, was the Omaha World Herald Coach of the Year in 1983, is a
Nebraska Hall of Fame coach and recently the trophy for the best Nebraska high school basketball
team was named after him. Kane constantly pushed his own players but also respected his
opponents." Because of good sportsmanship he is warmly remembered, whereas bad-sport coaches
are forgotten the instant they slink off.
Finally, Miraida Morales and Ashley Lane of Chicago were among many readers to point out the
recent New York Times story about Cold Spring Harbor High of Long Island, N.Y., located in an
affluent district, which raised $45,000 so that crosstown rival Roosevelt High, from a low-income
district, could keep its football program in operation.
Have another example of generosity or fair play at the high school or college level? Send it to me at
[email protected]
This Week's "Battlestar Galactica" Complaint: Premise of "Galactica," Season 9: Finally
arriving at Earth, Starbuck and Apollo buy a Los Angeles townhouse, only to have a bunch of
Cylons move in next door. The Cylons are coming and going at all hours, holding loud parties and
engaging in promiscuous relationships with gasoline pumps. In the season opener, Starbuck applies
for a green card in order to work at a Starbucks, but is informed she must return to her planet of
origin and enter the solar system legally.
The Football Gods Chortled: Carolina receivers dropped numerous passes, including a killer
Keyshawn Johnson drop of a touchdown that would have given the Panthers a 21-10 lead. Two of
Drew Brees' interceptions were well-thrown passes that bounced off his receives' hands, while the
Todd Heap touchdown pass that gave Baltimore a 28-7 lead bounced off the hands of a Saints'
defender who should have intercepted. Sage Rosenfels would have finished with three touchdowns,
no interceptions and perhaps the Houston starting job had not one perfectly thrown pass caromed
off a receiver's hands for a pick. And the Jersey/A-Bucs game might have ended differently had not
Tampa receivers dropped two Bruce Gradkowski touchdown passes. Note: Can you prove to me
that Tiki Barber was the one playing running back for the Giants while Ronde Barber was the one
playing corner for Tampa? C'mon, I dare you, prove it!
From Romo to Zero to Hero: Tony Romo sure looked good for Dallas. Just as good blocking
instantly causes quarterbacks to become more talented, a mobile quarterback instantly causes
offensive linemen to become better blockers. Strange playcalling by both teams' coaches hung over
this game, however. Drew Bledsoe's interception disaster against the Giants came when Dallas
coaches called a short square-out at the goal line, one of football's riskiest calls -- and did so mere
weeks after Bledsoe had an interception disaster against the Eagles when Dallas coaches called a
short square-out at the goal line. What did Dallas coaches call Sunday night at the goal line against
the Panthers? Two short square-outs, one for a touchdown, one for an incompletion that forced a
field goal. Dallas coaches: If you keep calling the short square-out at the goal line, you will pay the
price again.
As for Carolina, here is the Cats' next possession after Dallas recovered the fumble and jumped to a
21-14 lead: incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, punt. There was 9:43 remaining when
Carolina got the ball, why go into pass-wacky panic? Entering the fourth quarter with a 14-10 lead
at home, Carolina proceeded to run the ball zero times: every play was a pass, resulting in an
interception and a lost fumble on a sack. Bad enough that Carolina receivers dropped the ball
multiple times. If you've got the lead and are at home and every fourth quarter snap is a heave-ho,
you deserve defeat.
Wacky Liqueur of the Week: Jason Overby of Charleston, S.C., notes the Sicilian liqueur Cynar is
an artichoke-based bitter. The bottle even has a picture of an artichoke on it. "Maybe this is the new
way to get your daily serving of vegetables," Overby suggests.
Adventures in Officiating: "Get on the ground!" Twice TMQ yelled this toward Kansas City
players. Chiefs leading 27-14, Kansas City lined up to attempt a field goal; the snap was bad; holder
Dustin Colquitt should simply have gone to the ground, but instead scrambled and lost the ball,
returned for a touchdown by Seattle. Later it's Kansas City 35, Seattle 28 at the two-minute
warning. Defensive end Jared Allen intercepted a pass, and had he simply gone to the ground, the
game for all intent and purpose would have ended. Instead he tried for a runback and Deion Branch
of the Seahawks tomahawked the ball away from him. Get on the ground!
Now the officiating points. As Branch yanked the ball from Allen at the sidelines, he was in contact
with Allen's out-of-bounds body. Didn't Branch touching an out of bounds Allen make the ball out
of bounds and hence still Kansas City's? Rule 3, 20(b) says, "The ball is out of bounds when while
in player possession, it touches a boundary line or anything other than a player or an official on or
outside such a line." So you can be in contact with an out player and still be inbounds yourself. On
the botched field goal, officials ruled that Colquitt fumbled. Watch the replay: This was one of
human history's worst forward pass attempts, and thus should have been ruled an incompletion,
giving the Blue Men Group possession on the Seattle 39, rather than a touchdown.
Parking-Lot Theory of Officiating: In the waning seconds of the Jets at Browns' collision,
Jersey/B trailed by a touchdown; tight end Chris Baker caught the fourth-down pass but his feet hit
outside the end zone; officials said he was not pushed out. The push-out rule says the receiver gets
the catch if he would have come down in bounds, were it not for a push. True, nobody can know
what might have happened. But that sure looked to me like Baker might have landed inbounds if he
hadn't been pushed! Maybe this is parking-lot thinking at work, since the game was at Cleveland.
TMQ has long believed that officials at all levels of football are inclined to give the very last call to
the home team -- because they are worried about being accosted in the parking lot on their way to
their cars.
After the ruling ended the game, New England coaching alums Romeo Crennel and Eric "I Was a
Teenaged Coach" Mangini hugged. There was enough weight in that hug to distort the local spacetime continuum. Looks like they served the scrod fried, not baked, at the Patriots' training table!
Note to Mangini: Going all-no-huddle worked a week ago because Detroit wasn't expecting it. On
Sunday, Cleveland was expecting it.
Obscure College Score of the Week No. 1: Colby 10, Bates 7 in four overtimes. Located in
Waterville, Maine, Colby "gives students a broad acquaintance with human knowledge." What
about Klingon knowledge? What about the insights of the Cylon lesser poets? Sounds to me like
Colby is guilty of anthropocentrism.
Obscure College Score of the Week No. 2: Black Hills State 17, Valley City State 0. Seven years
into doing Obscure College Score of the Week, I still encounter colleges I've never heard of, and
this week Valley City State is it. Located in Valley City, N.D., Valley City State says its campus is
"one of the most attractive in North Dakota." The school offers three different majors in Exercise
Science and Leisure Studies, one of which has a required course in Walking and Jogging.
Running Up the Score Watch No. 1: TMQ's Law of the Obvious holds: Sometimes all a team
needs to do is run up the middle for no gain, and things will be fine. At the start of the second
quarter on Saturday, Texas Tech led Texas 21-0. For the remainder of the contest, Texas Tech threw
43 passes and ran nine rushes -- endlessly stopping the clock with incompletions and leaving time
for Texas to win 35-31 in the fourth quarter. Yes, Tech has a pass-oriented philosophy. But Texas
Tech coach Mike Leach also has a well-known obsession with running up the score. You can't help
thinking that leading 21-0, Leach was more concerned with attempting to compile a spectacular
final score, about which he could boast, than with simply winning the game. And the football gods
come down hard on that sort of hubris.
Running Up the Score Watch No. 2: Reader Joe Bittner of San Jose, Calif., notes that over the
past two seasons, Bowling Green relentlessly ran up the score on humble Temple, winning by a
combined 140-23. Saturday, the football gods exacted vengeance as Temple snapped its 20-game
losing streak by defeating Bowling Green.
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at
[email protected] Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I may
quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Note: giving your hometown improves your
odds of being quoted.
Next Week: Don't go pass-wacky with the political football -- get out and vote!
Monday, November 6, 2006
Updated: November 10, 12:20 PM ET
Dump injured reserve, please?
By Gregg Easterbrook
At the halfway mark, injuries are clobbering NFL teams as usual. Mike Brown of Chicago, Dan
Morgan of Carolina, Mike Peterson of Jax, Chris Simms of Tampa and other important players
already have sustained injuries that sent them to injured reserve. Daunte Culpepper and other bigname players also soon might go on the IR list. The annoying thing is that even if the wounds to any
players on injured reserve heal -- Simms might recover in as little as a few weeks -- they can't
return, because being placed on injured reserve means you're done for the season. Those on injured
reserve receive full pay for the season, but are forbidden to dress again that season regardless of
whether they recover. Which raises the musical question: Why does injured reserve exist at all?
Injured reserve seems to have two functions: to force owners to pay players to do nothing, and to
prevent fans from seeing players who sustained injuries, then recovered. Gentlemen on injured
reserve still count against the salary cap, so teams get no financial benefit from moving them to the
IR list. From the team's perspective, players are placed on injured reserve solely in order to open a
roster spot for a healthy player. But why should there be any limit on roster spots? The salary cap
governs how much NFL teams spend on players, and is imperative to keep high-revenue teams on a
roughly even footing with low-revenue franchises. But limiting roster spots is unnecessary to ensure
competitiveness. Right now the NFL roster limit is 53, and players with injuries get shunted to
injured reserve so their precious spots can be assigned to someone else. But if a team wants to have
55 or 58 or 62 or 371 players on its roster, what difference does it make so long as the team
observes the salary cap? (Note: 371 is how many players you could have, under the 2006 cap, if all
were rookie free agents earning the league minimum salary.) The injured reserve system means that
every season by Thanksgiving there are healthy NFL players who are paid in full but not allowed to
play. It is hard to see how this benefits anyone: player, club or spectators.
Doing away with the roster limit -- but still enforcing the salary cap -- would permit the abolition of
injured reserve. Hurt players would remain on the roster. If they recovered they would tape their
ankles again, and if they did not they would keep sitting. Houston put running back Domanick
Davis on IR just before the season started, unsure if he could play this season and feeling his roster
spot was needed for someone else; Davis' health has improved, but he's forbidden to come back.
When Indianapolis defensive tackle Monte Reagor got into an auto crash in mid-October, the Colts
faced the dilemma of whether to place him on injured reserve, freeing a roster spot for someone
else, or to keep him on the roster for a month or so while he recovers. The Colts chose to keep the
hospitalized Reagor on the roster, meaning the team's defense has been shorthanded in practice
since then. What possible good is accomplished by the existence of an injured reserve in such
situations? So long as the Colts or Texans have salary cap space, why couldn't they keep Reagor or
Davis on the roster while also signing extra free agents at their positions, to let the new guys
practice and see if any of them have what it takes?
To understand why injured reserve exists, it is important to understand that the roster limit itself is a
presalary-cap concept that has outlived its usefulness. Before the cap, which began in 1993, roster
limits were essential -- otherwise the New York teams, Dallas, Washington and other rich
franchises would have stockpiled huge rosters while Green Bay and Indianapolis had trouble
fielding a team at all. As recently as 1992, the league front office held an investigation of whether
high-revenue teams essentially were redshirting young players by claiming they were injured when
they weren't, then placing them on IR, circumventing the roster limit. The fear that rich teams were
using injured reserve to beat the roster limit was one of the reasons the salary cap came into effect.
But now that the salary cap is here and working well, leveling the field regarding player spending,
roster limits no longer are needed. There's no reason the Jets can't have 60 on the roster while the
Packers have 56 and the Chargers have 63 and the Eagles have 54 and so on. Eliminating the roster
limit would not result in big disparities, such as the Giants with 100 players and the Bills with 30,
which might have happened if there were no roster limit and no salary cap. The salary cap prevents
high-revenue teams from parking players on a bloated roster at the expense of low-revenue teams;
this mechanism being in place, the roster limit has become a fossil.
College football has no roster limit, and the sun continues to rise while the Earth continues in its
proper orbit. Because colleges don't pay players, in effect they have what TMQ advocates for the
NFL -- no roster limit but equalized spending on players' salaries. (Equalized at zero in this case,
but you get the idea.) The lack of a roster limit in college does not appear to have any impact on the
competitive equation, but does insure that a player who is injured and then recovers can return.
Brian Brohm is back for Louisville, for example, and college football fans are glad. If college had a
roster limit, Brohm would have gone on injured reserve and would now be compelled to sit even
though he's recovered.
That the rules force players on injured reserve to be paid for doing nothing is the larger version of
the Free the Inactive Eight! problem TMQ writes about annually. Though 53 players are on the
roster, before each NFL game seven or eight, depending on whether the team has a third
quarterback, must be declared inactive. The inactives get full pay but watch from the sidelines.
What does this accomplish other than forcing owners to pay players to twiddle their thumbs? The
Inactive Eight actually make NFL play slightly lower in quality, by keeping off the field eight
gentlemen who might contribute on special teams, and exiling to the bench the third quarterback,
who might otherwise come in for trick plays. NFL coaches generally feel they can't risk the backup
quarterback's health on trick plays, but the third quarterback would be another matter -- if he was
allowed to come in.
Rosters limits and the inactive list are vestiges of the 1950s, when pro football was barely scraping
by financially, many owners were tightwads and player relations were viewed in terms of oldfashioned labor-management confrontation. In the old system, some owners wanted to shaft players
out of every last farthing, and fought for low roster limits in order to reduce salary outlays. An 11man roster with everyone playing hurt both ways would have been the dream of some 1950s
owners. Until 1973, the roster limit was 40, and antediluvian owners pressured to keep the limit low
to hold down player costs. As the league became affluent and the limit gradually rose to 53, the
antediluvian owner faction seemed to insist on injured reserve, the inactive list and the old "moves"
system -- allowing a limited number of annual exchanges between the active roster and a temporary
injury list -- as a way of preventing those uppity players from gaining increased employment.
Today the NFL is rolling in money, labor relations are constructive and all but two or three owners
are happy to pay pretty much any amount to win a game. Still the inactive list and injured reserve,
artifacts of a bygone era of money scarcity in pro sports, remain. Free the Inactive Eight! Abolish
injured reserve! As of Friday there were 153 gentlemen on injured reserve across the league, an
average of five players per club. Some of these men will be healthy again before the season ends,
yet none will be allowed to don pads again until next season. Free the Injured Reserves! Let NFL
teams have as many people on the roster as they please, so long as the salary cap is not violated.
In other football news, trailing 17-10, with 4:47 remaining, the Packers reached first-and-goal at the
Bills' 1. Green Bay had rushed for an average of 4.9 yards per carry, against one of the league's
weakest rush defenses. Thus if the Packers simply slammed the ball forward once or twice, the
tying touchdown was nearly certain. Instead pass, interception run 76 yards the other way and the
Bills scored the game-icing touchdown a few snaps later. What was going on? Brett Favre at that
point needed 14 touchdown passes to take the NFL career record away from Dan Marino. Rather
than make the high-percentage call to tie the game, the Packers' coaches seemingly made a call
calculated to help Favre get the record. Shouldn't team needs come first? The complication is that in
this disappointing Green Bay season, the Packers' faithful likely would rather see Favre get the
career touchdown-pass record than win any particular contest.
In still more football news, everyone's asking whether Ben Roethlisberger bears all the blame for
the defending champion Steelers' 2-6 start. For the second straight week, Roethlisberger launched a
crazy interception in the red zone, heave-hoeing toward Champ Bailey when it was only Denver 14,
Pittsburgh 7 with the ball on the Broncos' 14. Simply throwing the ball away would likely have led
to a Steelers field goal. But perhaps the video game company Electronic Arts, not Roethlisberger,
deserves the blame! Last August, I received this e-mail from reader Joe Bittner of San Jose, Calif.:
"Just picked up the EA Sports game 'Coach.' On the cover is Bill Cowher. In recent history there
has been a curse on the cover-boy players for the EA product, 'Madden NFL Football.' I am
wondering if this curse will also be passed on to the game 'Coach' and if Cowher should be worried
about having a terrible season."
In more football news, the guy who keeps making the spectacular plays for New Orleans, rookie
receiver Marques Colston, was the 252nd pick in the draft, barely avoiding being Mr. Irrelevant.
Reggie Bush was the second pick in the draft. To this point, Colston is hands-down New Orleans'
Rookie of the Year.
In national news, it's Election Day. Stop reading Tuesday Morning Quarterback now, get out and
vote, and finish reading later.
Stat of the Week No. 1: Since winning four consecutive postseason road games to clinch the Super
Bowl, Pittsburgh has lost four consecutive road games.
Stat of the Week No. 2: Jacksonville has won three of its past four games, by a combined score of
91-13. In the other game, Jacksonville lost to Houston.
Stat of the Week No. 3: After going 0-7 against New England, Peyton Manning is now on a 2-0
run.
Stat of the Week No. 4: Chicago and Denver gave up a combined 42 points in their first seven
home games and a combined 62 points in their next two.
Stat of the Week No. 5: There were three field-goal attempts to win -- two by Washington, one by
Dallas -- in the final 35 seconds of the Cowboys-Redskins game.
Stat of the Week No. 6: J.P. Losman was sacked once every four times he dropped back, and
Buffalo won.
Stat of the Week No. 7: Buffalo and San Francisco combined for 317 offensive yards, and both
won.
Stat of the Week No. 8: Jon Kitna had a better passer rating this week than Brett Favre, Carson
Palmer, Eli Manning and Tom Brady.
Stat of the Week No. 9: Since the moment he jogged out to be introduced at the Super Bowl last
February, Ben Roethlisberger has thrown seven touchdown passes and 16 interceptions.
Stat of the Week No. 10: All teams in the NFC West, including 5-3 division leader Seattle, have
been outscored.
Cheerleader of the Week: Shamea of the Atlanta Falcons is majoring in psychology, which means
your lines will not work on her. According to her team bio, Shamea was a child actress in television
commercials and danced in the movie "Drumline." Her favorite sport to participate in is flag
football. Also, according to her team bio, her current reading list includes geology textbooks, and
her favorite Atlanta player is T.J. Duckett -- um, who was traded.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 1: Ravens leading 7-0 after the first possession of the game,
Cincinnati faced a third-and-12. Carson Palmer threw deep; Samari Rolle intercepted and returned
24 yards; under tackle, Rolle handed off to teammate Ed Reed, who ran 25 more yards for a
touchdown. That made it Ravens 14, Bengals 0 with less than five minutes gone, and the visitors
never recovered. Occasionally you see a lateral between defenders after a turnover -- in this case,
Rolle executed a regular handoff.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 2: Denver leading Pittsburgh 14-10 at the start of the second half, the
Broncos had a second-and-8 on their 28. Many NFL and college teams run an action in which a
receiver fakes the end-around, but first the quarterback actually has handed off up the middle -meaning when the quarterback fakes a handoff to the end-around, the quarterback's hands are
already empty. Denver set this action -- then instead faked up the middle and gave the ball to Javon
Walker coming around. Walker ran 72 yards for a touchdown, an unusually long rush by a receiver.
As he was starting up the field, two-thirds of the Steelers' defense was still chasing the fake man in
the middle.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 3: A while back TMQ asked who devised the play on which the
quarterback fakes up the middle then backhand flips to the tailback running full speed outside.
Reader Derek Falb of St. Louis reports this play was drawn up by Mike Martz for Marshall Faulk,
and called Flip 90. The Redskins ran Flip 90 to Clinton Portis for a sweet looking 38-yard
touchdown run. But what was up with Portis waving the ball for the final 10 yards? When you're 25, you should not be waving the ball.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 4: On Eli Manning's game-winning touchdown pass to Jeremy
Shockey, the play-fake was so good that a Houston defender tackled running back Brandon Jacobs
after Manning had cocked his arm to throw to Shockey.
Sour Play of the Week No. 1: Game scoreless, Indianapolis faced a second-and-goal on the New
England 5. The Colts ran up to the line without a huddle; Marvin Harrison went in motion right;
Harrison, who had already caught two touchdowns on quick slant passes on close-in downs this
season, ran a quick slant; all New England's defenders totally ignored Harrison; touchdown. The
Flying Elvii's Ellis Hobbs was near Harrison and simply stared at him. Endlessly TMQ marvels at
how often the key aspect of a football play is that someone on the field does nothing at all. Hobbs
did nothing as Harrison ran exactly the pattern any scout would expect him to run, and that was
sour. "Man, they make that look easy," TMQ mumbled under his breath after the first two
Indianapolis touchdowns.
Sour Play of the Week No. 2: Tampa might have fallen on hard times, but at least it still has the
Tampa 2, the philosophy that two safeties deep makes long gainers rare. The United States Saints
leading 7-0 and facing a second-and-14 on their 48, Devery Henderson ran the deep post and got
behind everyone -- including the deepest Tampa safety, Will Allen -- for a touchdown that looked
so easy, Henderson jogged the final yards. And the Bucs weren't blitzing on the play, they were in
their standard set. When Tampa's own Tampa 2 is giving up easy deep passes, you know the season
is lost.
Sour Play of the Week No. 3: Game tied at 10 in the fourth, Buffalo faced a second-and-20 on the
Green Bay 43. Lee Evans went deep against Packers corner Al Harris -- who made no attempt at all
to cover his man, but rather stood there committing the high school mistake of "looking into the
backfield" to guess the play. Evans caught the touchdown pass that proved to be the game's winning
points. This play was double sour because not only was Harris taking the lazy man's way out by
looking into the backfield, Buffalo quarterback J. P. Losman was staring at Evans the entire time.
Sweet 'N' Sour Play: Leading 7-0, Kansas City had a first-and-goal on the St. Louis 3. Damon
Huard dropped back, no one covered tight end Tony Gonzalez on the quick turn-out, easy
touchdown. That was sweet. But the play wasn't a play-fake, just a regular drop-back pass -- yet the
entire Les Mouflons defense totally ignored the opponent's best red-zone receiver. That was sour.
TMQ's Immutable Law Not Observed: Tuesday Morning Quarterback's immutable law, Take
One Till the Fourth, holds that unless a team is way behind, the 99 percent chance of a single PAT
is better than the 40 percent chance of a deuce. Forget those "coach's cards" that say when to
attempt one and when to go for two; Take One Till the Fourth, as the endgame scoring situation
becomes clear. In the second quarter, Dallas scored a touchdown to make it Cowboys 6, Redskins 5;
the "coach's card" says go for two when ahead by one, so Bill Parcells went for two. No joy, and oh
how Parcells later wished for that point back. At the endgame, the score was tied at 19, and Dallas
gained possession with 31 seconds remaining with Washington down to two timeouts. Had the
Cowboys taken the single PAT earlier, they would have knelt twice, then jogged off the field
victorious. Instead they had to gamble and perhaps you've heard the rest.
Monday Night Football Professionalism Watch: It was not exactly clairvoyance to predict Seattle
would defeat Oakland. Nevertheless as the teams trotted onto the field for the coin toss, TMQ said
aloud, "This game's over." The kickoff temperature was 62 degrees with rain and wind, and Raiders
coach Art Shell came out enswathed in a ridiculous North Sea oil-rig worker's survival suit, while
the high-aesthetic appeal Seattle Sea Gals came out in miniskirts and bare midriffs. Game over! Just
in case there had been any doubt, it's the second quarter, Seattle leading 13-0. Oakland faces fourthand-1 on the Blue Men Group 49. In trots the punt unit. I think, "This has got to be a fake." Boom
goes the punt, and TMQ wrote the words "game over" in the notebook. You're 2-5, trailing by two
touchdowns, have fourth-and-1 in opposition territory. Seventy-four percent of rushes on fourthand-1 are successful. Why are you punting on fourth-and-1 in opposition territory? And now you
are 2-6. Note: Just to prove it was no fluke, still trailing 13-0, Oakland punted again near midfield
on fourth-and-1 in the third quarter, and still trailing 13-0 in the fourth quarter, punted from the
Seattle 39.
Nineteen People Steering 191,000 Tons: If you've driven by a port recently, you know the
shipping business has been taken over by container vessels whose holds and decks are stacked high
with rectangular crates known in the trade as TEUs. In August the Danish shipping company A.P.
Moller-Maersk christened the largest container vessel ever, the Emma Maersk. She is 1,300 feet
long and displaces 191,000 tons. By way of comparison, the last of the Nimitz-class supercarriers,
the George H. W. Bush, launched this fall, is 1,100 feet long and displaces 97,000 tons. Container
vessels bigger than aircraft carriers drive down the price of shipping, keeping stores full of
affordable goods. They also pose a challenge to the nation's bridges and dock facilities, as the
dimensions of the largest commercial vessels are set to the width of canals and bridge-support
spacing on their expected routes of service.
Here's what creeps me out about the enormous Emma Maersk -- her crew complement is 14. That's
almost 14,000 tons of responsibility per crewmember. Shipping lines have been reducing crew
complements relentlessly, to cut costs, and that does mean lower prices for consumer goods. It also
means the 191,000-ton Emma Maersk, churning through the water at 25 knots and requiring miles
to stop, has a couple people on the bridge, a couple people in the engine maintenance area and a
couple people in the galley. Crews of newly built merchant vessels are supposed to do little more
than monitor instruments, fight fires and send out a mayday if pirates attack, increasingly a threat in
Asian seas. No matter how good the automated systems of modern ships might be, it seems
inevitable there will come a time when a small crew is overworked or fatigued and someone makes
a colossal error that results in a 191,000-ton boat slamming into something. Bear in mind
Germany's max-tech, cost-no-object magnetic train prototype, which was designed to save money
via automated operation, just slammed into something, killing 23 people -- and that train operated
on a dedicated line without any other traffic. Giant container ships and oil tankers with minimal
crews operate in busy waters where there are many other ships moving unpredictably, plus bridges
and underwater obstacles. The momentum of the Emma Maersk would be more than sufficient to,
say, bring down the Golden Gate Bridge.
Because merchant ship crews are now usually small, many sailors are expected to be on duty pretty
much round-the-clock, increasing the chance of a fatigue blunder. Merchant vessels increasingly
also are expected to sail straight through the center of storms, to cut delivery time. The situation is
worst for bulk transport ships that carry wheat, potash and so on. Because the cargo of a "bulky" is
worth less pound-for-pound than the cargo of a container ship, shipping companies tend to
understaff bulkies, use marginally trained crews, and demand such ships take risks with rough seas.
Bulkies have sunk in the blue water with disturbing frequency in recent years, and no one seems to
care so long as Wal-Marts are stocked with inexpensive goods. I commend to readers the excellent
2004 book "The Outlaw Sea" by William Langewiesche, which describes in harrowing detail how
the ocean transport industry cuts corners and mistreats sailors.
Chicago Ming Ding Xiong ("Bears Whose Outcomes Are Decided by Fate" in Chinese) Might
Be Facing More Fate Than They Wish: Don't look now, but Chicago has 17 giveaways, one of
the worst figures in the league -- only San Francisco, Cleveland, Oakland and Pittsburgh, all well
south of .500, have more giveaways. Chicago might be 7-1, but it's not going far into January if it
can't hang on to the ball. On Sunday the Bears appeared careless and clumsy against a 1-6 team, and
this just two games after looking careless and clumsy against Arizona, then 1-4. Carelessness was
epitomized by the Jason Taylor interception return. Miami had just scored to go ahead 7-3 in the
second quarter; the Bears had a first-and-10 on their 23, and Rex Grossman threw it right into
Taylor's hands. Sure Grossman was under pressure -- so take the sack! Meanwhile Taylor did not
trick Grossman by dropping into coverage on the play, as sports-yak types said. Taylor lined up at
defensive end and rushed. As the pocket collapsed, Bears tight end Desmond Clark ran into the
right flat for the safety-valve pass. Taylor noticed, chased Clark and cut in front.
Savage Negative Ads Distort Record of "None of the Above": Every recent election season has
seen negative political advertising sink to a new low, and this fall, once again, new lows were
reached. This nonpartisan Web site, sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania, washes the mud
off both party's ads. Here National Public Radio offers video of some of the worst ads of the
election season. Bad enough that negative advertising diminishes the quality of political debate; it
also turns people off to voting, as Diana Mutz of the University of Pennsylvania has argued.
This year some negative ads seem to make no attempt at all to characterize politicians' positions
accurately. For instance, the Michael J. Fox ad attacking Republican Maryland senatorial candidate
Michael Steele makes it seem Steele opposes all stem cell research. Steele opposes research on
embryonic stem cells, not on other types of stem cells; there's a big difference, and surely Fox
knows that well. Here Jacob Weisberg of Slate argues that on balance, Republican attack ads are
more irresponsible than Democratic attack ads. Weisberg notes, for example, that one Republican
ad attacking the Democratic contender in an Arizona congressional contest said she had been
"president of the ACLU." She had never been any kind of ACLU officer -- rather, she had once
taken a legal case involving the organization.
The most offensive attack ad of the season is the "Harold, Call Me" spot run by the Republican
National Committee against Democratic Senate candidate Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee. The
woman who declares in the spot, "I met Harold at a Playboy party" has, in fact, never met Harold -she's an actress reading lines. All the people who give opinions about Ford in the commercial,
presented as men and women on the street, are actors. That is to say, the commercial consists
exclusively of lies. You can't go any lower. The ending lie is especially repellant on the part of the
Republican National Committee, as viewers are not warned that the person presented as knowing
the candidate personally actually has never met him. Ken Mehlman, the hack who runs the
Republican National Committee, appears beyond shame. But there are lots of responsible,
admirable people in Republican politics. Why have they allowed the Republican National
Committee to descend so low?
Attacks ads have been heated on both sides in the Virginia senatorial race, where sitting Republican
senator George Allen, son of the football coach, is struggling to hold off Democratic challenger
James Webb, former secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan. Here, based on this race, is
Tuesday Morning Quarterback's quadrennial take on the state of political advertising:
REPUBLICAN ATTACK AD
Soft, lilting female voice. Because voters worry that Republicans are too right-wing, the voice-over
in Republican attack ads is always a sweet, reasonable-sounding woman.
"Did you know that Jim Webb reads novels? That he thinks about sex? Jim Webb has never denied
thinking about sex! Jim Webb has been known to receive money. The exact amount of money he
has received has never been disclosed! Many drug dealers drive their cars on highways, and Jim
Webb drives his car on highways. So what's the difference between Jim Webb and a drug dealer?
While serving in the Vietnam War, Webb frequently used profanity, and is rumored to have thought
about sex. When five brave firefighters died trying to stop the California wildfire, Jim Webb did
nothing to rescue them -- nothing! As a Democrat, Jim Webb advocates mandatory homosexuality,
tax-funded Cadillacs for welfare recipients, the abolition of religion, surrendering our country to the
United Nations and letting Saddam Hussein out of jail on a technicality. If Jim Webb is elected,
Osama bin Laden will be placed in control of the United States military. Why won't Jim Webb
release the details of his thoughts?"
DEMOCRATIC ATTACK AD
Booming, macho voice. Because voters worry that Democrats are too squishy, the voice-over in
Democratic attack ads always sounds like a steroid-swilling bodybuilder.
"Maybe George Allen is no longer a Satan-worshipper, but many Satan-worshippers are skilled at
hiding their true allegiance. The postman, the school principal -- can you be sure they are not Satan
worshippers? Can you be sure George Allen is not? As a Republican, George Allen favors
mandatory pregnancy, nuclear war against Canada, and the resumption of the Atlantic slave trade.
George Allen never has explained adequately where he was on May 23, 1983. Investigators have
found many documents related to George Allen. George Allen has been observed leaving meetings.
Some of these meetings occurred in private! If George Allen is re-elected, major oil companies will
charge for gasoline. George Allen has never denied that George W. Bush is President of the United
States. George Allen, George Bush. Powerful insiders don't want you to know that both have the
same first name!"
Jags' Fan's Dream Battery -- Garrard to Wilford: David Garrard is 6-1 as the Jacksonville
starter. Jacksonville is 7-1 in games in which Ernest Wilford catches a touchdown pass.
Why Tactics Matter No. 1: All football commentators, including TMQ, have praised Bill
Belichick so much, praising him further seems repetitious. But on Sunday, the Patriots actually had
a bad game plan. The Colts arrived at Next One Will Have Seven Moisture-Sensitive Vibrating
Heated Titanium Blades, Make Espresso, Raise Llamas, Monitor Atmospheric Pressure on the
Moons of Meepzor, Improve Your Love Life and Play a Constructive Role in the Middle East Peace
Process Field with the worst rushing defense in the league, while the Pats arrived with red-hot
tailback Laurence Maroney. Yet New England called 35 passing plays and 33 rushes. Going passwacky led Tom Brady to suffer a four-pick night.
One interception was not Brady's fault, bouncing off the hands of the receiver. But the others were,
including a nutty heave-ho into triple coverage around Ben Watson. The Watson pass seemed
especially odd because New England had a first-and-10 on the Indianapolis 40 with 28 seconds
remaining in the first half, trailing by a field goal. Given the clock, two Colts safeties were lined up
25 yards deep when the play started. How could Brady have seen how deep the safeties were and
thought he could throw deep? Anyway, if New England had rushed more, Brady might not have
been trying to heave-ho into coverage.
Why Tactics Matter No. 2: Detroit led 10-7, but Atlanta had just stopped a Lions' fourth-and-1
attempt from the Falcons' 2, and you figured that would swing the momentum back to the favorite.
Michael Vick dropped back from his own 4, danced around in the pocket, saw a rusher approaching
and zinged the ball directly into the hands of Detroit's Dre Bly. Interception, the Lions score a
touchdown on the next snap, and the upset was on in earnest. But why was Vick standing there in
the pocket in his own end zone? In recent weeks Vick has been a hot passer, and part of the reason
is the Falcons have been using a high-school-inspired offense in which they run, run, run and then
play-fake and have Vick sprint out. Please don't tell me a few weeks of success with this back-tobasics approach has convinced the Falcons' coaches that Vick is now a refined, classic passer. On
Sunday at Ford Field, Vick did too much standing up straight in the pocket, and the result was more
interceptions than touchdown passes.
News from the Edge of the Universe: The Infrared Space Observatory satellite, operational from
1995 to 1998, sent back so much data that some is only now being analyzed. Recently, researchers
studying ISO data logs said they had detected, in very deep space, the formation of stars with
100,000 times the luminosity of our sun. The discovery is a serendipitous result of a clever idea by a
German researcher named Dietrich Lemke. Operators had programmed the ISO satellite to "slew"
its instruments from one point in the heavens to another, in order to collect data on locations that
various scientists had deemed promising. Lemke realized that ISO was doing nothing while
repointing itself, and asked that the cameras simply be left on during that process; the resulting
incomprehensible streams of data were dumped in his and some colleagues' laps. Looking at
countless blurry images, Lemke and others had a eureka moment when they came across this. Now
it may turn out these ultra luminous suns are ISO's major discovery -- extremely bright stars have
been seen before, but these are the first images of such stars forming.
Cosmologists have begun using other telescopes to study the region, trying to imagine what
conditions could lead to the formation of objects so big and so bright they defy standard theories of
stellar creation. Of course, everyone's assuming the objects Lemke discovered are natural. Readers
of TMQ know what when astronomers produce evidence of puzzling events in deep space, such as
very powerful gamma-ray bursts, and then astronomers say they are at a loss to explain what natural
process could cause the phenomena, TMQ wonders if what we are really seeing is the muzzle
flashes of cataclysmic weapons built by advanced civilizations. What if, in these new images from
the ISO satellite, we are witnessing the engineering shakedown trials of an extremely advanced
artificial power source?
News From the Edge of the Solar System: In September, the Cassini spacecraft in orbit around
Saturn took this magnificent photograph of Saturn eclipsing Sol. The camera was facing back
toward the inner solar system, so the sun is behind the ringed planet. Look closely at the 10 o'clock
position relative to Saturn's disk, and just inside the outermost ring. The little dot you see is -- Earth.
Wacky Food of the Week: At Soleil in Palo Alto, Calif., TMQ was confronted by a dish
containing "xerez infused crimini mushrooms." I went to Google and typed in "define xerez."
Nothing! And it took Google 0.44 seconds to find no definition, which is practically slow at this
point.
Freeze! Keep Those Press Releases Where I Can See Them! The sole item of bipartisan
consensus in the current Congress has been the stern insistence of both Republican and Democratic
leadership that the FBI was wrong to raid the office of Rep. William Jefferson, seeking evidence of
bribes. Since the Constitution confers special status on the legislative papers of members of
Congress, there was a legal issue. But what do you suppose the real reason was that Democratic and
Republican members of Congress united in opposition to the FBI raid -- concern over separation-ofpowers doctrine? Republican and Democratic members of Congress alike agree they don't want the
Justice Department investigating bribes to members of Congress.
Related point: Jodi Rudoren and Aron Philhofer of the New York Times recently reported that
1,421 state and local governments have hired Washington lobbyists, who in 2004 spent $110
million on lobbying in order get more than $60 billion designated as "earmarks," or special budget
favors to specific places or programs. That is to say, $110 million in state and local tax money was
expended to divert $60 billion in federal tax money -- most of which came from people who live in
states and cities, state and local taxpayers being the sources of most federal taxes. To get these
favors, state and local governments hire as lobbyists former members of Congress or former
congressional staffers, who then use their insider status to fleece the taxpayer. This is a classic
"sliver strategy" -- Congress hands out $60 billion in favors so that cronies of members of Congress
can rake in $110 million in lobbying fees. Because what goes directly into the cronies' pockets is
only a small sliver of the overall waste, the sliver goes unnoted. I bet there is bipartisan consensus
that Republicans and Democrats alike both don't want this investigated, either!
Wouldn't taxpayers come out way ahead if the salaries of members of Congress were raised to, say,
$1 million per year, but in return all forms of outside income were banned for senators and
representatives while retired members were permanently banned from lobbying? Raising
congressional salaries to $1 million per year would cost the federal taxpayer $535 million -- a
bargain compared to $60 billion in earmarks and other wasteful spending that Congress approves
for reasons of cronyism.
Washington, D.C. -- Nov. 7: Former president Jimmy Carter leads a team of international
observers that will monitor elections in the United States today. Observers from Nicaragua,
Guatemala, North Korea, Mexico, Congo, Nigeria, Pakistan and the West Bank will watch polling
places for signs of fraud or suppression of the vote. In recent years, Carter has led many
international teams to monitor elections in fledgling democracies plagued by voting scandals. This
is Carter's first election-monitoring mission to the United States itself. International observers
wearing blue armbands will be stationed at polling places across Florida, Ohio, Illinois and Nevada.
"We hope to help the American people vote freely and see their votes counted," Nicaraguan team
member Daniel Ortega told the Associated Press. Observation team member Olusegun Obasanjo of
Nigeria said, "Once America learns to hold elections without irregularities, further intervention by
the international community should no longer be necessary."
Best Blocks: Only one defender touched LaDainian Tomlinson on his 41-yard touchdown run, and
no defender touched Tomlinson on his 7-yard, off-tackle touchdown rush that put the pretty-inpowder-blue Chargers ahead for good against Cleveland. It's pretty fun to run for touchdowns in
powder blue when everyone ahead of you has already been knocked to the ground. On Larry
Johnson's early run for 45 yards against St. Louis, no defender touched the Kansas City tailback
until he had gained 40 yards. And that run came on third-and-9 from the Kansas City 2 -- a passing
down, meaning there were plenty of extra secondary types on the field for the Rams, and all were
blocked. Pulling guard Brian Waters and tight end Tony Gonzalez got the monster blocks on the
play. And Deuce McAllister walked in standing up for the 3-yard touchdown that put the game
away for New Orleans against City of Tampa. Whenever a running back goes in standing up at the
goal line, the blocking was fine.
"Peace on Earth," Copyright United Nations: The United Nations now has a marketing slogan
and claims copyright control over its materials. Wait, wasn't the whole point of the United Nations
that it belonged to everyone?
At Happy Hour in Hell's Sports Bar, Well Drinks Are 99 Cents and Top Shelf Is Only $2 -But the Line Takes an Eternity: Hell's sports bar has 28 wide-screen plasma TVs, and on Sunday
all were showing San Francisco 9, Minnesota 3 in a game without any touchdowns. For the
highlight program, all 28 screens in Hell's Sports Bar showed nothing but, over and over, Terrell
Owens dropping the winning pass and then, after the game, being interviewed about his complaints
about not getting the ball enough.
The Dogs Have Their Day: The four bye teams of Week 8 -- Buffalo, Detroit, Miami and
Washington -- were 6-22 coming into Sunday. All won.
We're All Professionals Here No. 1: Minnesota's possession results against San Francisco: field
goal, fumble, punt, punt, punt, interception, punt, fumble, downs.
We're All Professionals Here No. 2: Reaching first down in Seattle territory in the first quarter,
Oakland surrendered sacks on three consecutive downs.
Huh? What? Scoring to make it San Francisco 6, Minnesota 3 in the second quarter, the Niners
onside-kicked and recovered. Three snaps later, the Squared Sevens faced fourth-and-1 on the
Minnesota 47 -- and punted. So Nolan the Younger was willing to take a relatively long-shot
gamble with a surprise onside kickoff, but then, on the same possession, not willing to take a likelyto-succeed gamble on fourth down in opposition territory.
Wacky Beer of the Week: The tastefully named Gregg Liddick of Athens, Ga., notes a Georgia
brewery is offering a coffee-and-stout drink intended to be consumed at breakfast. Note that the
beer is 8.1 percent alcohol, roughly double the usual content of beer. Have one of these for
breakfast and your plan better be to go straight back to bed.
Dear, the Garage Enhancement Truck Is Here: Recently TMQ included an item about fancy
garage appliances as the new frontier in suburban acquisitiveness. How soon, I asked, until garage
renovation strikes? Answer: not long! Many readers, including Jayne Mulholland of Charleston,
S.C., alerted me to this new company, Premiere Garage, which calls itself "The Leader in Garage
Enhancement." Let's hope that's natural garage enhancement! Check the company's photos, which
showcase spotless garages unlike any that have ever existed in human history. These garages
remind you of car ads that feature a guy in a convertible roaring down the open road with not one
single other vehicle anywhere for miles around. The Premiere Garage FAQs page has this
exchange:
"Q. My garage is full of stuff. What do we do with it while the floor is being coated?"
"A. It is the homeowners' responsibility to remove all possessions from the garage."
Worst Crowd Reaction: The New England crowd lustily booed Adam Vinatieri when he returned
to Foxborough as a member of the Colts. All Vinatieri did was win three Super Bowls for New
England! All three were decided by a field goal, remember. And Vinatieri left after receiving only a
perfunctory offer from Patriots management, which didn't want the kicker back. Booing your former
homeboy when departure was not his idea was pretty classless, New England fans. And speaking of
class ...
"Class" and "Cheapskate" Both Begin with "C": Drew Bledsoe may have taken a seat for good,
but recall that when he was traded by New England in 2002, Bledsoe bought a full-page ad in the
Boston Globe to thank the team's fans for cheering for him. When Daunte Culpepper was traded by
Minnesota in 2006, he sent the team's fans an e-mail.
Obscure College Score of the Week: La Verne 21, Clarement-Mudd-Scripps 14. The defeated
team is a consortium of Clarement McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College and Scripps College.
Three schools combined and they still couldn't beat La Verne! Located in La Verne, Calif., the
University of La Verne offers a College of Education and Organizational Leadership that confers a
doctorate in education. Read this page that describes the doctorate in education program and see
how many grammatical errors you can find.
Bonus Obscure College Score: Worchester Polytechnic Institute 46, Mount Ida 20. Located in
Newton, Mass., Mount Ida College lists a Top 10 reasons to attend. One is "the college is easily
accessible from major highways."
Obscure College Basketball Score: California of Pennsylvania, a Division II team booked by
powerhouse University of Maryland for an easy rout, instead came within a point of upsetting the
Terrapins. The California of Pennsylvania is known as the Vulcans, University of Maryland
basketball is the program that's allergic to education -- a miserable 18 percent graduation rate for the
men's team. Perhaps Maryland simply couldn't handle a basketball offense based on pure logic! In
football, next Saturday is TMQ's Obscure College Game of the Year -- Indiana of Pennsylvania at
California of Pennsylvania.
Running Up the Score Watch: Two weeks ago TMQ took another shot at Pittsburg of Kansas,
college football's worst offender at running up the score -- in 2004, on the way to the highestscoring season in college football history, the Gorillas faked a punt when leading 63-7. I noted that
Pittsburg of Kansas had relentlessly run up the score on its weakest opponents this season, winning
one game 87-0 and another 63-20. I pointed out that not only is running up the score bad
sportsmanship, but also such little-bully behavior makes you psychologically weak, and you fold
when confronted with an equal opponent. Following its record 2004 regular season, the Gorillas lost
the Division II championship to Valdosta State of Georgia. "Presumably when Pittsburg of Kansas
meets a real opponent it will collapse as usual," TMQ wrote of this year's iteration. As noted by
many readers, including Ian Carlson of Maryville, Mo., Pittsburg of Kansas met Northwest
Missouri State on Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium and collapsed as usual, losing 41-14.
November's Biggest Jerk in Sports: Once your columnist lived in Chicago, and besides the pizza
and theater scene, what was great about the Windy City was that just when you thought that every
conceivable form of civic corruption imaginable to the human mind had already been tried, you
would pick up the morning newspaper and learn on the front-page news of a new, entirely original
type of graft. Similarly, one might think every type of bad sportsmanship has already been tried.
You might think that until you read this. In a front-page story in the Washington Post, Timothy
Dwyer reports on a youth football league commissioner who fired a team's coach, on the eve the
playoffs, because the coach failed to play the commissioner's son exactly as the commissioner
demanded. How could the commissioner get away with this firing? Many youth leagues are not
affiliated with any county, school system or accrediting body, and are essentially the private
fiefdoms of their commissioners. Reader Darren Rusakiewicz of Odenton, Md., wrote, "I had to
read this article twice before I really believed what this guy did. Are there any words stronger than
'reprehensible' to describe this chump?" The bad sport's name is Dan Hinkle, and reading this story I
thought, first, Dan Hinkle is an astonishing jerk; second, imagine being his son, exposed to general
ridicule because of a jerk father. The son's team's seemed ruined, but nobly so. All the other players
refused to participate in the playoff game after their coach was fired. So ESPN salutes the middleschool boys of the South County Raptors: boys, you showed admirable good sportsmanship, while
the adults around you were letting you down. As for the commissioner of the South County
Association of Fairfax County, Va., there's no need to wait until the end of the month -- Dan Hinkle
is TMQ's Biggest Jerk in Sports for November. Good sportsmanship footnote: The Fairfax County
Youth Football League, also private, just arranged for the South County Raptors to play a "bowl
game" against its champion, and the fired coaches will be the ones to coach.
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at
[email protected] Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I may
quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Note: Giving your hometown improves your
odds of being quoted.
Next Week: The United Nations sues YouTube for copyright infringement.
Wednesday, November 8, 2006
TMQ Nation fires back
By Gregg Easterbrook
An item Tuesday expressed dismay that the new Emma Maersk, the world's largest container ship -nearly twice the displacement of a Nimitz-class supercarrier -- has a crew complement of just 14.
Many English readers, including Dorothy Wickersham of Windsor, pointed out that the Emma
Maersk just made port of call at Felixstowe, in the United Kingdom, on her maiden voyage -- and
arrived with a crew of 13. It's only her first voyage and already this mega-gigantic vessel is
understaffed!
Tom Herman of Louisville, Ky., writes, "I am a University of Kentucky fan and was invited by a
friend to see them play Georgia. Saturday was cool in Lexington -- about mid-40s, but sunny. As an
avid TMQ reader, I made sure to notice the dress of both cheerleading squads to see whether they
displayed their courage -- and skin -- by braving the elements. At the start, cheerleader
professionalism was equal. The female cheerleaders of both squads wore traditional fall outdoor
cheerleading outfits with short skirts, while the men wore short-sleeved shirts and long pants.
Georgia, a touchdown favorite, led 14-10 at the half. During the second half, clouds rolled in,
blocking the sun and making the stadium chillier. Sometime during the third quarter, the female
Bulldog cheerleaders donned track suits. I quickly looked down the sidelines to the opposite end of
the field and noted approvingly that the Wildcat cheerleaders had no need of a costume change and
were continuing to cheer in miniskirts. I pointed this out to my friend and noted that it was a good
omen. Sure enough, the Blue and White promptly came back, beating Georgia 24-20 -- their first
victory in the series in nine years. Some will say that this was due to Georgia having a down year,
but thanks to TMQ, I know the real reason was the professionalism shown by our cheerleaders."
TMQ worried when encountering "xerex-infused mushrooms" on a
trendy restaurant menu and being able to find no definition of
"xerex." Laura Barbero-Buffa of Panama City, Panama, writes,
"Don't panic, Xerez is another way of spelling Jerez, which is
Spanish for sherry. So the trendy restaurant was just trying to find a
more expensive-sounding way to say their mushrooms are soaked in
sherry!" Ankoor Biswas of Chicago adds, "Xerez is a former name
of Jerez de la Frontera, a city in southern Spain. Sherry wine was
originally produced in this town, and got its name from the city -which the Persian founder named after the Shiraz wine of Iran. So
xerez is essentially the name for sherry produced near the Jerez de la
Frontera region in Spain, and I suppose you're allowed to infuse
your champignon with xerez, although that doesn't sound so
appetizing to me. I knew all this because there's a Spanish second
division soccer club named Xerez CD. Every once in a while it pays
to be an American following international soccer."
Kentucky's cheerleaders
clearly made the difference
against Georgia.
TMQ noted that La Verne University had beaten Claremont-MuddScripps, a consortium of three schools unable to defeat just one.
Bryan Quevedo of Astoria countered, "Thank you for featuring my alma mater, Claremont
McKenna College, and its sports team on the Obscure College Score of the Week. But at the contest
it was the combined force of two schools, not three, that lost to La Verne. You see, one member of
the consortium, Scripps, is a college for women. While the three schools fall under one umbrella for
sports, the men's and women's teams have different mascots. Men's teams (with no Scripps students)
play as the Stags, while the women's teams (which include Scripps) compete as the Athenas."
Alejandro Gonzalez , another Claremont McKenna alum, added, "Our cross country team have
shirts that say Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, Nerd Is Our Middle Name." Wait, Mudd is your middle
name!
Sarah Myksin of Middletown, Conn., reports, "New England fans did cheer for Adam Vinatieri
when the Colts first ran on the field. He came out before the rest of the team, and he was applauded.
It was only when he came onto the field to kick that he got booed." Mary Kay of New Orleans
protests, "I was surprised you didn't mention Sean Payton's good sportsmanship by not scoring on
Tampa late in the fourth after a turnover deep in Tampa territory. A final of 38-14 would have
looked more impressive on the scoreboard but what Payton did is more impressive because it was
the right thing to do." New Orleans got the ball at the Tampa 4 with 2:03 remaining and knelt four
times, though this gave possession back to the Bucs with 30 seconds left; Jon "Once I Was A
Teenage Coach" Gruden repaid the gesture by calling two off-tackle runs. Congratulations on
sportsmanship all around! Meanwhile Matthew Freitas of Modesto, Calif., maintains the football
gods punished Chicago for keeping starters on the field in the second half when leading San
Francisco 41-0 by sending the Bears down to defeat against Miami.
Sean Sutton of Ypsilanti, Mich., writes, "In response to the reader who asserted the BCS system
requires a team to run up the score, I would direct your attention to the number-two team in the
nation, the University of Michigan. Michigan has compiled its ranking by simply playing top-notch,
fundamental football while beating opponents by reasonable margins. The coaches frequently put in
substitutes late in games they're winning, most frequently replacing their Heisman-contender Mike
Hart who would benefit from the added stats, and run late in the game to kill the clock without
embarrassing their opponents. Michigan exemplifies many TMQ tenants in general: the coaches
have called 347 rushes to only 247 passes (including sacks and quarterback scrambles as called
passing plays), they do not blitz heavily, they go for it on fourth-and-short in the Maroon Zone, and
they are content to burn the clock late in the game."
Wayne Croston of Victorville, Calif.,, an engineer with GE Aviation, reports that the impressive
but weirdly named new GEnx jet engine is pronounced by saying each individual letter: "GEEEEE-EN-X". As in, "Hey Ralph, did you check the pressure in that GEE-EEE-EN-X?" Jerry Noble
of Portland, Ore., countered, "Is it just me that when trying to pronounce the new jet engine named
GEnx that it comes out JINX? Methinks this is not a very good name for a jet engine."
Of sleep and aircraft cabins, Dr. Tonya Wren of Greenville, S.C.,
writes, "As part of my residency training, I spent a month at Copper
Mountain, Colorado. Since the base of the mountain is nearly 10,000
feet above sea level, we saw plenty of acute mountain sickness or
AMS, in addition to ski and snowboard injuries, of course. One key
symptom of AMS is insomnia. People may be drowsier due to thin
air, but do not sleep well. When a person sleeps, he or she doesn't
breathe as deeply or as often. If there isn't as much oxygen around,
such as at high altitude, blood oxygen levels drop during sleep. This
triggers numerous wakening episodes times throughout the night,
resulting in poor sleep. From my experience, I sleep on airplanes
because I have gotten up early after staying up late packing the night
before, and sitting on a plane is the first moment of real rest I've had
in a while."
TMQ's proposed law of Fair Play on Points held that a team should
stop trying to score if ahead by 40 points in the third quarter and 30 We could do without AMS
right now.
points in the fourth quarter. Many readers, including Melissa
Manchester of Huntington Beach, Calif., asked: Since Northwestern blew a 38-3 lead, and the old
Houston Oilers once blew a 35-3 lead, and the Seahawks were recently ahead 42-3 only to have the
game end 42-30, why ever stop trying to score? Here's why. Hundreds of thousands of majorcollege games have been played in the last half-century (that is, since the forward pass became
popular), and only once has a team with a lead of 35 points or more failed to win. Tens of thousands
of NFL games have been played in the same period, and only once has a team with a lead of 32
points or more failed to win. Maybe it would be possible to lose a 40-point third-quarter lead, and a
comet might strike the field, too. My proposed leads are insurmountable, so long as the leading
team plays the percentages and grinds the clock.
TMQ wondered if PC forces would insist the military
stop referring to universal time as "Zulu time," after the
radio-traffic phonetic word for the letter Z. Lieutenant
Commander Keland Regan of the United States
Navy, who has taught navigation at the Naval
Academy, writes, "If they will ever do away with Zulu
time, this would throw the phonetic alphabet into a
tailspin. Next Oscar the Grouch would be demanding a
change for the letter O and bourbon makers would
demand the Bravo for B be changed to Bourbon to
offset having W called Whiskey." Then I complained
about good old GMT being replaced by universal time. Our technology has improved
If Greenwich Mean Time was good enough for Admiral considerably from the days of the
Nelson it should be good enough for the space shuttle! astrolabe.
Greg Hatten, a GPS specialist at Schriever Air Force
Base in Colorado, counters, "Universal Time Coordinated, or UTC, has replaced Greenwich Mean
Time because atomic frequency standards [i.e. atomic clocks] have supplanted astronomical
measurements. Once, astronomers at the Greenwich Observatory measured the time of local noon -that is, when the sun was at its zenith. Since sailors relied on longitude calculations from this
observatory, it was natural to call the reference Greenwich Mean Time. Precise time is no longer
calculated from solar observations. The new UTC has inputs from 58 timing laboratories all over
the world, ranging from Warsaw to Bangkok. Each laboratory contributes a percentage of the
master clock interpretation according to its sophistication and stability [read: price tag]. The United
States, including the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder and the U.S. Naval
Observatory, is the biggest contributor to the computation, at 36 percent. UTC in turn is calculated
by the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Toulouse. So UTC has a historical
connection to Greenwich, but is calculated in France with contributions from all over the world, and
the biggest contributor is America." Should we call it Toulouse Mean Time? Boulder Mean Time?
Here is a backgrounder on the new time calculation system. And here is a haiku:
GMT is dead.
Astrolabes, sextants replaced.
Need UTC now!
Finally Kapena Pflum of Hilo, Hawaii, asks a question I am often asked: "Ever write 'game over'
in your notebook and then turn out to be wrong?" Actually, no. But if I did, I wouldn't tell you!
Monday, November 13, 2006
Updated: November 14, 4:31 PM ET
NFL's an equal opportunity league
By Gregg Easterbrook
Last week New York State made a worm-can-opening decision to let adults change the gender
designations on their birth certificates. The New York Times ran an article speculating on what
might happen once people are free to choose their legal genders, and posed several hypotheticals,
including, "Would a woman who legally becomes a man be able to play in the National Football
League?" The paper mused that such questions "have yet to be explored." Actually TMQ can
answer that one right now -- women already are allowed to play in the NFL!
I checked with league spokesman Greg Aiello, who said, "The NFL has no male-only rule. All
human beings are eligible, as long as they are three years out of high school and have a usable
football skill set." Prep and college football have experienced huge controversies about whether
girls and women can play. There's never going to be huge controversy in the NFL, because the
decision is already made -- women are welcome.
Of course, today it seems extremely improbable there will ever be a woman, even a kicker, who
could win an NFL roster spot on her merits, considering what importance biceps, quads and pecs
hold in football. But a generation ago you would have said it was extremely improbable there would
ever be female professional basketball players, let alone ones who dunk. Most likely as women in
sports become stronger, taller and fitter, men will grow stronger, taller and fitter to the same degree,
always leaving the XYs in the dominant position over the XXs. But one never knows. TMQ has
said this before: It's only a matter of time until a woman plays in the NFL, and I hope never to meet
that woman.
In other football news, San Diego at Cincinnati turned out to be one of the best and most exciting
NFL games ever: see analysis below. Looking at the day's schedule and knowing there were two
broadcasts scheduled for the Washington, D.C., area for Sunday's 1 p.m. ET slot -- Fox showing
Redskins at Philadelphia and CBS having the rights to Chargers at Bengals -- I eagerly expected to
see this marquee contest. Imagine my dismay when instead Baltimore at Tennessee was beamed to
our nation's capital. What's going on here? The NFL's maddening "secondary markets" rule required
that the Ravens' game air in Washington. In league-network contracts, some cities are designated
"secondary markets" for nearby franchises. Because Washington is designated a secondary market
for Baltimore, and Baltimore a secondary market for Washington, our nation's capital sees all the
Ravens' road games, while Charm City sees all the Redskins' road games.
The secondary market rule can be nutty -- for instance, Erie, Pa., usually sees Bills' games rather
than Steelers' games, and Erie is, after all, in Pennsylvania, not New York. Oakland and San
Francisco see each other's road games, which in recent seasons should be forbidden for
humanitarian reasons. And the rule applies only to road games, not sold-out home dates, for no
logical reason TMQ can figure out. But what's really maddening about the secondary-markets rule
is that it often forbids local affiliates from showing the day's best matchup.
As this column notes ad infinitum (Latin for "by using my AutoText"), the NFL spares no expense
to stage fabulous games, then often makes it impossible for viewers to watch the games. It's
understandable that local affiliates always would show the home team, even if this means passing
on a headliner matchup to air a losing local team's contest. But the idea that local affiliates also must
show a nearby out-of-town team, even if a great game is available on the same network, is
ridiculous -- to say nothing of bad economics, since it would seem that broadcasters would
maximize ratings by airing the best possible pairings. Dan Masonson of NFL headquarters told
TMQ, "A secondary market is a TV market in the team's home territory with stations having signal
penetration back to within 75 miles of that team's stadium." Since Fed Ex Field and M&T Bank
Stadium are within 75 miles of each other, the cities must see each other's road games. OK, that's
the rule. But why is it the rule? Why does the NFL impose a broadcast directive that often has the
effect of forbidding large blocks of viewers from watching marquee contests?
This independent Web site, noted by many readers including Valerie Rutledge of Aspen, Colo.,
maps out what parts of the country get which game. On Sunday only the Ohio Valley, Pacific
Northwest, southern California, Nevada, Alaska and parts of Texas, North Carolina and Illinois saw
Bolts at Bengals. Hawaii and most of Texas saw Jersey/B at New England, the farm belt saw
Kansas City at Miami, New Orleans and Michigan's Upper Peninsula inexplicably saw Bills at
Colts. Please, National Football League -- junk the secondary markets rule, which is a vestige of the
days when television jammed things down viewers' throats and viewers were supposed to accept it
without protest. The secondary markets rule is especially offensive because the NFL continues to
grant a monopoly over its Sunday Ticket package -- a fabulous product that allows viewers to pay to
see any game -- to DirecTV, the satellite provider. DirecTV is great, but since millions of American
households cannot receive DirecTV, this monopoly effectively bars viewer choice, even to viewers
who happily would pay extra.
Today the Senate Judiciary Committee holds a hearing on whether the DirecTV monopoly on
Sunday Ticket is anti-consumer and constitutes restraint of trade. Finally, Congress has noticed this
issue! TMQ's prediction: The NFL, which seriously does not want Congress rethinking the antitrust
exemption granted to the league in 1961 over its television contracts, better move pronto to make
Sunday Ticket available to all cable carriers. The 1961 agreement with Congress specifies that in
exchange for an antitrust exemption, the NFL will make its broadcasts available to everyone.
Instead, the Sunday Ticket broadcast operates under a monopoly structure. Congress is already in a
foul mood about the NCAA's tax-exempt status for profitable D-I football. The new Congress will
want to differentiate itself from the last by being pro-consumer. The NFL's television contracts are
worth nearly $4 billion a year; the league would be foolish to run any risk with that sum. Roger
Goodell, change your deal with DirecTV before Congress changes it for you.
In other NFL television news, we sure hope you like the 2-7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who were on
"Monday Night Football" last night and will be telecast nationally at Dallas on Thanksgiving Day.
Maybe you'll want to plan a family touch-football game for early afternoon on T-Day, since the
early nationally televised contest is Miami at Detroit, teams with a current combined record of 5-13.
But the interesting thing about Thanksgiving will be the first NFL Network live game broadcast that
night.
There's a quiet conspiracy theory holding that the NFL Network, which wants cable carriers to place
its product on basic cable, not on a premium-pay digital tier, manipulated the Thanksgiving
schedule. Being on basic cable is far more attractive financially than being on premium, because
basic goes to most of the country's households and thus is very appealing to advertisers. Time
Warner and Comcast are resisting putting the NFL Network on basic cable -- they think the monthly
fee the NFL Network is asking is too high. Time Warner has even established a Web site that
aggressively denounces NFL Network's money demands. But can any cable carrier resist offering
all customers the best access to the most important sport? Now consider the conspiracy angle.
Check the Thanksgiving lineup -- a crummy game on CBS (Miami at Detroit), a crummy game on
Fox (Tampa at Dallas), and a fantastic game on NFL Network (Denver at Kansas City). Technically
the NFL Network bid for television rights to NFL games as an independent firm receiving no
special treatment, and technically Harvard doesn't favor the children of big donors, either. The
conspiracy theory holds that the league manipulated the Thanksgiving schedule so that when
millions of Americans look in their newspaper listings next week and realize Thanksgiving's hot
game is on a channel their cable carriers do not provide, they will call Comcast, Time Warner and
others to demand that the NFL Network be added to basic cable. Don't be surprised if this happens
across the country on the day before Thanksgiving.
And in other football news, years ago TMQ called the franchise that plays in the desert the Arizona
(Caution: May Contain Football-Like Substance) Cardinals. Consumers should be warned! With
Arizona at this point almost comically bad -- see details below -- TMQ once again rolls out that
cognomen. Plus a new, well-known gentleman dons the mantle of TMQ's Single Worst Play of the
Season So Far. And it's not Terrell Owens!
Stat of the Week No. 1: Carson Palmer threw for 440 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions -and Cincinnati lost.
Stat of the Week No. 2: Drew Brees threw for 398 yards, a touchdown, no interceptions -- and
New Orleans lost.
Stat of the Week No. 3: Denver, at 7-2, has scored just 12 points more than Tennessee, at 2-7.
Stat of the Week No. 4: Houston has 21 wins in its franchise history; six are against Jacksonville.
Stat of the Week No. 5: Cincinnati is 1-5 since center Rich Braham went out injured.
Stat of the Week No. 6: Three different players named Johnson scored for Cincinnati in the same
quarter, as noted by reader Renfei Tu of Ocala, Fla.
Stat of the Week No. 7: Buffalo's Terrence McGee had 233 return yards, more than the 162 yards
recorded by the team's entire offense.
Stat of the Week No. 8: Seattle is 6-3 despite being outscored.
Stat of the Week No. 9: In the Tampa-Carolina "Monday Night Football" game, there were three
interceptions in 77 seconds.
Stat of the Week No. 10: Discounting meaningless contests played after the Colts locked their best
postseason seeding, Indianapolis has won 30 consecutive regular-season games.
Cheerleader of the Week: For nearly a decade the Eagles Cheerleaders have owned the cutting
edge of cheesecake technology. It was the Eagles Cheerleaders who went beyond the swimsuit
calendar to the lingerie calendar; who pioneered the sideline bikini look, with Vera Wang designed
outfits that are little more than Riviera swimsuits plus athletic support for hip-hopping; who placed
the first age-appropriateness warning on an NFL Web site; whose lingerie pictures caused Tuesday
Morning Quarterback to declare that some images could not be shown "for thong-based reasons."
Nobody's got it goin' on and puts it out there like the Eagles Cheerleaders.
Then a few weeks ago something went horribly, horribly wrong. For the Jax at Eagles game,
Philadelphia's cheerleaders wore track suits. The Eagles proceeded to lose, their high-scoring
offense held to six points. OK, so kickoff temperature was 53 degrees with a 24-mph wind gusting
to 57 mph. But still! How are the Eagles supposed to win if their cheerleaders are fully clothed?
Reader Beth Youells of West Melbourne, Fla., wrote to TMQ at the time, "Though I'm a pretty freethinking kind of girl, you can imagine my husband's amusement when we saw the Eagles'
cheerleaders take the field against the Jaguars. The first thought that came to my mind was: 'Uh-oh.
They're wearing pants. This isn't good.'" Beth offers a haiku:
Even chick fans know:
When cheerleaders are covered,
the home team is doomed.
This week as Washington visited Philadelphia, the Eagles' cheer-babes were back on their feet.
Kickoff temperature: 61 degrees with rain and gusting wind, yet they came out in two-piece
numbers barely more than bikinis -- outstanding professionalism! Needless to say, Philadelphia won
handily. In recognition, this week's Cheerleader of the Week is Janette of the Eagles. According to
her team bio, Janette is a gymnastics instructor with a nursing degree. A nurse and a cheerleader -male fantasy overload! On her team bio, Janette answered the question, "How does a guy get your
attention?" thusly: "It's intriguing to me when he has total confidence and a sense of humor." So
Janette, I am completely, utterly, absolutely certain you will find TMQ hilarious.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 1: Twice this season, TMQ has done items on NFL defensive linemen
who are so overweight and out of shape, they can't run all the way to the end zone after picking up
fumbles. No such problem for St. Louis defensive end Victor Adeyanju, who sprinted at full speed
the length of the field for an 89-yard touchdown against Seattle.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 2: Under tackle, Vince Young flipped a sweet lateral to tight end Bo
Scaife, who ran for the touchdown. Young also ran one in himself on the QB sweep. Quarterback
rushes are especially effective at the goal line because when the quarterback runs the offense is
playing 11-on-11, versus playing 10-on-11 when the quarterback hands off.
Sweet Series of Plays: Miami called three trick plays against Kansas City: one worked, one
backfired and one simply led to an incompletion. That's about par for the course for trick plays. The
one that worked was the "flea flicker" -- Ronnie Brown took a hand off up the middle, then turned
and pitched the ball back to Joey Harrington, who threw for 46 yards to Chris Chambers, and the
Dolphins got their only touchdown on the next snap. At that point, Harrington had heaved six
consecutive incompletions toward Chambers, so the Dolphins really needed a spark. (Over the years
I have wondered why this action is called a "flea flicker," and never heard a convincing
explanation.) The one that backfired was an attempted reverse; fumble, recovered by Kansas City
and the Chiefs got their only touchdown a few snaps later. The incompletion came as Brown,
running to his left, tossed a halfback pass left-handed. The Dolphins also ran an end around, but that
doesn't really count as a trick play. Note that Kansas City was flat and Damon Huard unimpressive
on the Sunday after the little-known Huard received lots of publicity, prominently a big profile in
the New York Times.
Sour Play of the Week: Last week TMQ singled out
cornerback Al Harris of Green Bay for a sour play on
which he covered no one, standing around making the
high school mistake of "looking into the backfield" as
Lee Evans streaked past him for a long touchdown
catch. This week Harris did exactly the same thing,
simply standing there looking into the backfield as Billy
McMullen of Minnesota streaked past him for a long
touchdown catch.
Sour Tactics of the Week No. 1: Against Cleveland,
Atlanta rushed 29 times for an average of 5.1 yards per
play, and passed 41 times for an average of 4.6 yards
It's been a rough couple of weeks for Al
per play. Michael Vick's throwing success of a month
Harris 'round these parts.
ago is a distant memory -- but what's worse is that
Falcons' coaches seem to be operating under the illusion that Vick is suddenly a polished drop-back
passer. A month ago when things were working for Atlanta, the Falcons were running a highschool-inspired offense -- rush, rush, rush, then play-fake and sprint out. Losing each of the past
two weeks, Atlanta coaches have kept Vick standing in the pocket as if he were Peyton Manning,
and it's not working, resulting in both poor passing stats and overlooking the good stats of the
Atlanta run game. Trailing 17-13, the Falcons took possession with 5:27 remaining and went
incompletion, run for 4 yards, incompletion, punt. Your running game works -- so run the ball!
Note: was that an optical illusion, or did both Charlie Frye and Kellen Winslow look fabulous?
Vick's tendency to wave the ball around when scrambling also has gotten out of hand. A careless
Vick fumble was a key play in the team's loss at Detroit last week; Sunday, Vick carelessly fumbled
in Cleveland territory just before the two-minute warning. A beginner's mistake is to "use the ball
for balance," waving the football on one side of your body while you cut the other way. Vick does
this far too often, and it's the kind of fundamental error that should not be tolerated from a Pro Bowl
quarterback.
Sour Tactics of the Week No. 2: Trailing San Francisco 19-13 with 2:41 remaining, the Lions
faced fourth-and-13 on the Squared Sevens' 19, holding two timeouts. A fourth-and-13 conversion
is unlikely; a short field goal closes the margin to three points and means Detroit, between timeouts
and the two-minute warning, can get the ball back with plenty of time if staging a successful stop.
Instead interception, game over.
Best Play Ere the Clock Struck Midnight: Carolina tried various sideline fly routes all night
against City of Tampa and they didn't particularly work, but then nothing else was working either.
Leading 17-10 with 3:18 remaining, the Cats sent Steve Smith on an out-and-up along the left
sideline and it finally worked, game-icing touchdown as Smith beat either Ronde Barber or Tiki
Barber. That final Carolina drive must have made the football gods wince. Taking possession with a
touchdown lead and 8:26 left, a classic clock-killer situation, the Panthers called as many passes as
rushes. Can't anybody just run up the middle to seal a game anymore?
Proofreaders Shocked by "Consumer Reports" Article Praising American Cars: The Ford
Fusion, Mercury Milan, Lincoln Zephyr and Chevy Tahoe all were near the top of the latest
Consumer Reports auto quality survey. American-marque cars have not topped that survey since
Lyndon Johnson was president. There's a theory in the car world that Detroit auto executives and
United Auto Workers members do their best work when their companies are losing money, and thus
are desperate to please customers. If so, this seems a fine time to buy an American-marque car.
Recently I drove a rented Mercury Milan and loved it. The car felt good, handled well and seemed
tightly finished. If the rental clerk had handed me the key but "Honda" had been written across all
the car's badges, I would have said, "Hey, so this is the new Honda."
Social Justice Goes Six-for-Six: In the hoopla over last week's historic elections, it is important
this detail not be missed: Six states held referenda on raising their minimum wage, and in all six the
measures passed by big margins. Success margins ranged up to 76 percent yes in Missouri.
The six-for-six success of higher minimum wage proposals tells us four things. First, Americans are
a fundamentally generous people. The majority of voters who said yes to raising the minimum wage
are above that wage themselves, and know higher minimums will result in higher prices for their
goods and services. Second, concern with social justice is a rising trend among Christian voters.
The 76 percent yes in Missouri is especially revealing because evangelical turnout was high in that
state, owing to a referendum about embryonic stem cell research on the same ballot. Jesus taught
that the first concern of social policy should be the needy, and in recent years, evangelical
Christianity has been waking up to that teaching. (On that topic I recommend to readers the new
book "Tempting Faith" by former George W. Bush aide David Kuo, an evangelical; also it's
important that Rick Warren, America's most prominent Christian pastor, has recently been talking
more about obligations to the needy than any other topic.) Third, the referenda results are another
indicator of how far out of touch the House and Senate were, since in 2006 the Republican
leadership in both chambers worked to sabotage a higher federal minimum wage. Finally and most
importantly, the vote tells us the federal minimum wage must go up.
Today the federal minimum is just $5.15 an hour. Some states have higher minimums -- that's what
the votes were about -- but others do not, and in all states local actual wages tend to shadow the
federal minimum, rising when the federal number rises. It is shocking, and an indictment of
Washington, that today's federal minimum wage is barely worth half the minimum of the 1960s.
Expressed in today's dollars, the minimum wage would need to be $10.20 an hour to have the same
value as the federal minimum of 1968. Through the 1960s, full-time work at the federal minimum
wage kept a family of three above the poverty trend; today a family of three headed by a full-time
minimum wage worker is 24 percent below the poverty line. Yes, teenagers from affluent families
working summer jobs don't need $10 an hour -- a teen-wage exception to the minimum seems fine.
But our social contract should ensure that any adult who works full time receives basic financial
security, and a $10-an-hour federal minimum wage would achieve that end. A $10 federal minimum
wage would increase the cost of pizza delivery. It would also increase social justice: and all
Americans ought to vote for that.
San Diego-Cincinnati Analysis: Trailing 28-7 at intermission, here are the results of San Diego
possessions in the second half: touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, punt,
touchdown, victory formation. What was striking about the Bolts' comeback is that it was not
triggered by turnovers, as comebacks usually are: Cincinnati coughed up the ball only once in the
second half. What was striking as well is that the Bengals never let up: when Cincinnati scored to
take a 38-28 lead at the end of the third quarter, I thought the Chargers' comeback might expire.
Next, what was striking is that even after collapsing from a 28-7 advantage to a 49-41 deficit,
Cincinnati did not fold, reaching first down at the San Diego 15 before four consecutive
incompletions ended the game. And of course it was striking that a Marvin Lewis-coached club
could not hold a 21-point lead at home.
But here's what was really great about the San Diego comeback -- the Chargers did it with a
balanced attack, not by going pass-wacky. In the first half, San Diego coaches called 16 passes and
10 rushes; in the second half, 23 passes and 14 rushes. TMQ preaches: Unless it's late, when you're
behind do not start throwing on every down, because this hands the game to the defense. Call from
the regular playbook, mix the pass and run, get a touchdown and then see what the world looks like.
Fourteen times during an historic 42-point second half, San Diego coaches simply handed the ball
to LaDainian Tomlinson -- and it worked because Cincinnati was in a soft nickel or dime look for
the entire second half. Running backs love to rush against a soft nickel. There was exciting play
after exciting play in this contest: Tomlinson running for 14 yards on a key third-and-2; Philip
Rivers twice at the goal line faking to star tight end Antonio Gates then throwing touchdown passes
to his backup Brandon Manumaleuna; a 74-yard touchdown pass to Chad Johnson; three single-play
touchdown drives. But what meant most in the end is that San Diego didn't panic, rather it kept
mixing plays. And now you know what I am going to say about TMQ's Law of the Obvious:
Sometimes all a team needs to do is run up the middle for no gain, and things will be fine. From the
point it was the home team leading 28-7 in the third quarter, to the Bengals' final possession when
they were forced to throw on every down, Cincinnati coaches called 12 passes and 11 runs. Five of
the passes fell incomplete, stopping the clock. When you're playing with a big second-half lead,
don't call more passes than runs.
Terminology note: Last week TMQ said the short-yardage action on which the quarterback fakes up
the middle then backhand-flips to the tailback sprinting outside was dubbed Flip 90 by its designer,
Mike Martz. Scouts Inc.'s K.C. Joyner points out that in Martz's system, "90" meant outside left;
many teams use odd numbers for offensive left gaps, even numbers for right gaps. On his key thirdand-2 run, Tomlinson took this odd-looking action to the right against a seven-man Cincinnati blitz.
Hence, he ran Flip 80.
NFL Prejudiced Against Space Aliens: So "human beings" are allowed in the NFL, but not
Klingons? Obviously pro football is prejudiced against Klingons, Vorlons, Cylons and Taelons!
And why do the names of sci-fi aliens always end in "-on?" The Vorlons were one of the sinister
aliens of the old show "Babylon 5." Sci-fi fans continue to lament that its planned follow-on series
folded after a few episodes. What I liked about the "Babylon 5" follow-on series was that the key
spaceship was modeled on the Starduster, starship in the old "Space Angel" cartoon series of the
early 1960s. If you go here and click on "Space Angel," you can see a grainy image of the
glamorous Starduster, plus series heroes Scott McCloud, Taurus and Crystal Mace. Airing from
1962 to 1964, "Space Angel" plowed the ground that "Star Trek" would walk beginning in 1966,
especially boundless optimism that a handful of wisecracking people aboard a snazzy starship
would be able to accomplish more good than harm in the cosmos. For many Boomers, "Space
Angel," not "Star Trek," was their first exposure to the notion of gallivanting around the galaxy -and "Star Trek" bore more debt to "Space Angel" than its creators liked to admit. There have been
so many fads involving back-in-the-day shows from the morning age of television. Why hasn't there
been a "Space Angel" nostalgia fad?
For This Reason Alone, Kwan Will Be the First American Diplomat in a Generation Who Is
Popular in France: Skater Michelle Kwan has been named a "public diplomatic envoy" -- goodwill ambassador -- by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Surely this makes Kwan the first
American diplomat ever to have done swimsuit modeling!
Adventures in Officiating: Facing second-and-goal on the Pittsburgh 4, the Saints appeared to
execute a bouncing direct-snap to tailback Deuce McAllister, who ran for the touchdown.
Announcers debated whether it was a trick play or a botched snap. It was the latter, and the official
Game Book lists the play as a fumble by center Jeff Faine. Overlooked -- there should have been a
penalty! Direct-snapping to a running back is legal only if the quarterback never places his hands
under center; once someone places his hands under center, only that person can receive the snap.
Drew Brees was under center when this happened. Rule 7-3-4 states, "Any extension of hands by a
player under center as if to receive the snap is a false start unless, while under center, he receives
the snap."
Best Blocks: As Willie Parker sprinted 72 yards, Pittsburgh's Marvel Smith, Alan Faneca, Dan
Kreider and Cedrick Wilson got perfect blocks. The play was a simple off-tackle -- but because it
was second-and-18, New Orleans was in a nickel with only six men inside the "box," where they
were overwhelmed by seven blockers. Faneca initially double-teamed a Saints' defensive lineman,
then sprinted upfield to paste someone else too, executing the "secondary block" that so many pro
linemen can't be bothered with. Parker ended the possession with a 3-yard touchdown run that put
the Steelers ahead for good. On that snap, New Orleans lined up with all three linebackers inside the
offensive tackles, and Pittsburgh simply sent Parker outside. It appeared the Hypocycloids' game
plan was keyed on Ben Roethlisberger checking whether the Saints' linebackers lined up -- and this
worked to the tune of 217 yards rushing for the victors.
We're All Professionals Here: Trailing undefeated Indianapolis 17-16 with 7:38 remaining,
Buffalo had second-and-3 on the Colts' 15 and a great chance for the colossal upset. The Bills went
loss of yardage, loss of yardage, missed field goal, and TMQ wrote the words "game over" in his
notebook. Note: In the past two weeks, J.P. Losman has completed 17 passes and been sacked nine
times.
Religious Leaders Also Endorse Tap Beer Over
Bottled Beer: The United Church of Canada, the
country's largest Protestant denomination, has asked
members to stop buying bottled water, saying that
because "water is a sacred gift that connects all life,"
therefore "the privatization of water must be avoided."
It isn't clear why water privately held in small bottles is
offensive whereas water privately held in, say, the
baptismal pools of United Church of Canada sanctuaries
is fine. Bottled water has no known health benefits
versus tap water in the United States, where municipal
water purity standards are high. Sometimes bottled
You take this for granted. The world's
water is a convenience, other times simply a status
poor do not.
marker; churches are supposed to oppose the use, for
status, of money that might go to the poor, so at least in that sense of United Church of Canada
campaign can be defended theologically. If the members of the United Church of Canada saved
whatever they would spend on bottled water and donated that sum to the impoverished of the
developing world, that would be admirable. If the same people refuse to buy bottled water, then
spend the savings on faux-granite countertops for their kitchens, this accomplishes nothing.
Especially considering that Canada is the Saudi Arabia of water -- no nation has a greater surplus of
freshwater resources, compared to population needs. The rivers of Quebec roar with so much
pristine freshwater from the Laurentide ice sheet, which has been melting for 18,000 years and still
is far from thawed, that Canadians have more water than they or their descendants will ever need.
The situation is very different in the developing world. The United Nations Development
Programme just published its latest Human Development Report, one of the world's most important
annual documents. (Tomorrow your columnist is moderator for the Washington unveiling of the
report -- note the announcement is the first United Nations press release ever to mention
ESPN.com.) This year's report focuses on safe water in the developing world. Roughly 1.1 billion
people lack clean drinking water. The waterborne illnesses they suffer as a result not only cause
human misery -- each year in the developing world there are more deaths from diarrhea diseases
than from cancer in the United States and nations of the European Union combined -- but also hold
back developing nations, as the sick can't look after themselves. Some 2.6 billion worldwide lack
proper sanitary conditions for wastewater treatment.
In the Middle East and in much of China, where aquifers are being depleted at an alarming rate to
support rice cultivation, freshwater scarcity is the core problem. But the new Human Development
Report argues that poverty, government corruption and lack of infrastructure, not water availability,
are the biggest malefactors overall. The situation is especially painful in the poor parts of many
developing world cities, where there is no reliable municipal water service, and the poor spend as
much as a third of their meager incomes to buy safe water. Even an American or Canadian who's
chugging all the Dasani he or she can hold spends far less than 1 percent of his or her income on
safe water.
As the United States looks outward to the world for good deeds our nation can do, helping
impoverished nations improve their drinking water supplies and water sanitation stands near the top
of the list. The United Nations report estimates $10 billion in capital investment could provide 500
million poor people with safe drinking water. That's roughly one month of United States military
expenditures in Iraq. Suppose we accelerated our inevitable withdrawal from Iraq by a single month
-- and remember, withdrawal always has been inevitable. Suppose the $10 billion in savings was
invested in developing-world water purity. Such United States action literally could be a lifesaver
for millions and improve America's image in the world, rather than diminish it.
At Happy Hour in Hell's Sports Bar, the Margaritas Are Boiling, Not Frozen: Hell's sports bar
has 28 wide-screen plasma TVs, and on Sunday all were showing Houston 13, Jacksonville 10. For
the highlight program, all 28 screens in Hell's Sports Bar showed nothing but, over and over, highly
paid first-round draft choice Matt Jones of Jax letting two perfectly thrown passes bounce off his
hands for interceptions.
Hoist on His Own Petard: Since Gillette Field opened, there have been rumors Bill Belichick
deliberately keeps the playing surface in bad condition so his players but not visitors will know
where the sweet spots are. The new stadium itself is gleaming and magnificently well thought-out,
yet the playing surface is dumpy. Coincidence? Belichick's grounds keeping plot came back to
haunt him as Eric "I Was a Teenaged Coach" Mangini brought the Jets to visit during a rainstorm.
Twice with Jersey/B leading 10-6, Tom Brady auto-sacked himself when he slipped in mud;
overall, New England players seemed to fall more often than Jets.
I don't know about you, but at this point I am sick of all the Belichick-Parcells-Mangini-Curtis
Martin byplay between the Patriots and the Jets. They compete with each other. Why do they
constantly have to be angry at each other? Perplexing Belichick moment: Leading 17-14 with 1:15
remaining, the Jets faced fourth-and-10 on the New England 40 and deliberately let the clock run
out. Belichick declined the penalty, which would have marched Jersey/B backward five yards; Troy
Brown ended up fair-catching on the New England 11, effectively ending the game. Most punters
would rather kick from the 45 than the 40 in perfect conditions, but given the driving rain and 1:15
remaining, New England needed to push the Jets back. I couldn't help wondering if Belichick
declined the penalty solely because he knew Mangini did it deliberately, the master wanting to
frustrate his former student.
Norwegians Complained About Their Government Complaining About the Complaining: The
new Human Development Report ranks Norway as the world's best place to live and Niger as the
world's worst; the United States ranked eighth. The report praised Norway for modernism, personal
and sexual freedom, affluence, little crime, a clean environment and generous benefits funded by
the country's oil wealth. It was Norway's sixth consecutive first-place finish in the report, and the
news prompted Norwegian government minister Erik Solheim to protest a "culture of whining" in
which Norwegians spend too much time complaining. But Erik, that's a complaint too! Finishing
fourth on the United Nations ranking of best places to live was Ireland, and talk about a comeback
story. Just a generation ago, the young left Ireland and you couldn't give away an Irish country
house. Now Ireland's economy, culture and real-estate market are running at Gold Rush levels.
Single Worst Play of the Season So Far: Tennessee leading 26-20, Baltimore had second-and-6
on the Flaming Thumbtacks' 11 late in the fourth quarter. Very highly paid cornerback Adam
"Pacman" Jones lined up across from Derrick Mason, the Ravens' best receiver. Jones was in man
coverage. Mason ran a down-and-in. Jones simply stood there watching him, making no attempt to
interfere, as Mason caught the winning touchdown. Check the replay: Jones jogs a few steps, then
just comes to a halt and watches. This is the Single Worst Play of the Season So Far.
Best Crowd Reaction: When the Eagles launched a mincing fraidy-cat punt on fourth-and-3 from
the Washington 40 -- never punt in the Maroon Zone! -- the Lincoln Field crowd booed lustily.
Pelosi Also Promised to "Avoid Clichés Like the Plague": The night she learned she would
become Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi promised to "take this country in a new direction." If
the United States had a "new direction," wouldn't California face Europe and the Carolinas face
Asia? Politicians often pledge to "turn the country around," which sounds like an exceptionally bad
idea, or to "get this country moving," which would only cause earthquakes.
Madam Speaker note: Pelosi announced she would back
Rep. John Murtha for House Majority Leader because,
by declaring opposition to the Iraq War, Murtha "spoke
truth to power." Murtha is not a penniless wandering
sage, he is himself among the most powerful people in
the United States! Back when Republicans were
impeaching Bill Clinton, Rep. Henry Hyde declared
what they were doing was "speaking truth to power."
Hyde, at the time chairman of the House Judiciary
Committee, was himself among the most powerful
people in the United States. The phrase "speaking truth
to power" is apt when a disenfranchised person follows his or her conscience at some personal risk.
When rich people living in sinecure and privilege, such as members of the House of
Representatives, pat themselves on the back for supposedly "speaking truth to power" -- especially
when all they've done is criticize the opposition party! -- it is more proof of how spoiled and out-oftouch Washington lawmakers are.
Samkon Gado Play of the Week: Leading 13-10 on the road at Jacksonville, Houston faced
fourth-and-1 on its 41 with 1:40 remaining, Jax out of timeouts. Rather than punt, the Texans ran
Gado up the middle, first down, and the rest was kneeling. Jacksonville has a longstanding habit of
honking important games at home, including a 2004 late-December home loss to Houston that
knocked the Jags out of the playoffs. As this column has noted, the Jags do an awful lot of talking;
it's time they did some playing.
Tasty, Nutritious Dishes Designed to Be Left Under a Park Bench at 2 a.m.: The death last
week of former East German spymaster Markus Wolf brings the news that in retirement Wolf was
the author of a cookbook, a recipe collection called "The Secrets of Russian Cooking." Hmmm. And
if you take the third letter of each ingredient, multiply by the number of pages in the book, divide by
the number of words in the recipe ...
The Raiders Had Randy Moss, Jerry Porter and Doug Gabriel -- and There's a Reason the
One New England Traded for Was the One You'd Never Heard Of: A couple weeks ago, TMQ
noted that New England Patriots' receivers helmets are stamped INSERT HEAD, BECOME STAR.
Reche Caldwell, Doug Gabriel -- nobody else in the league even wanted them, at New England this
season both are playing swell. The flip side of this issue is that when receivers remove the Flying
Elvii helmet, they turn back into pumpkins. In the winter of 2005, David Patten, who played like a
star in New England, signed a big-money, free-agent contract with Washington; in the season and a
half since, Patten has 23 receptions and no touchdowns, and often does not get into games even
when healthy. This winter David Givens, who played like a star in New England, signed a bigmoney contract with Tennessee; he missed a month with injuries, and otherwise has eight receptions
and no touchdowns. Let's see, coming to New England makes a mediocre receiver look good,
leaving New England makes a good receiver look mediocre. What do these propositions have in
common? A part-time male model named Tom Brady.
Sweet 'N' Sour Play: Every few years Tuesday Morning Quarterback is stunned that some NFL
team -- despite dozens of coaching-staff and scouting-department people who do nothing but
football all year long and are collectively paid millions of dollars -- seems unaware that a missed
field goal can be returned. Usually field goal attempts go out of the end zone, so this doesn't come
up much. But on the long try, the defense should have a return man ready, and the kicking team
should be prepared to play defense. Chicago leading 24-20 early in the fourth quarter, Jersey/A
lined up to attempt a 52-yard field goal. The weak-legged Jay Feely (6-of-16 lifetime from beyond
the 50) was the kicker. The Bears put speed merchant Devin Hester in the end zone. Feely's kick
clanged short. Hester fielded it and cleverly began to stroll slowly, as if about the hand the ball to an
official; then took off for a 108-yard touchdown that broke open the game. Not only were the Bears
ready for a short kick, they had a return called -- it was "return right," with coordinated blocking.
That was sweet. The Giants seemed not to know the field goal try could be run back, even though
Chicago did exactly the same thing in the same situation for a 108-yard touchdown return last
season. That was seriously sour. Note: Last year the Bears had six touchdown returns, and this year
already have three. There's nothing more demoralizing than to work, work, work for every yard of
field position, then suddenly see some skinny gentleman racing up the sideline in the other
direction.
I'm Still Waiting for Quiznos to Call About "Tuesday Morning Quarterback Sponsored by
Quiznos:" Newspaper circulation continues to decline, though as Michael Knisley has noted, when
the Web is taken into account, more people are now reading newspapers than ever before. Keeping
newspapers in business requires advertising, so what should newspapers hope for? Bad news for
corporations! Often when there are business scandals, corporations go on a spending spree for ads.
This week most major newspapers have full-page advertisements purchased by the manufacturer of
Tylenol, alerting consumers that its brand of acetaminophen is not involved in the recent recall.
Remember last winter, when the oil companies were being hammered by complaints about high
prices and profits? According to the ad-monitoring service TNS Media Intelligence, in January and
February 2006, oil companies spent $53 million on image advertising, double their amount from the
same months in 2005. (Hey Exxon Mobil, if you sponsor TMQ, I promise to stop mentioning global
warming.) My favorite recent example involved electricity rates soaring in Maryland because of
deregulation. Consumers have been complaining, then recently Pepco, the state's big utility, bought
full-page newspaper ads asserting it was doing everything possible to hold down prices. The cost of
the ads was billed to ratepayers.
Preposterous Punts Watch No. 1: The Arizona (Caution: May Contain Football-Like Substance)
Cardinals reached fourth-and-2 on the Dallas 49 and punted. Just to prove it was no fluke, later
Arizona reached fourth-and-2 on the Dallas 47 and punted. Not only is it crazy to punt on fourthand-short in opposition territory -- you're 1-7, what have you got to lose? And now you are 1-8.
Note: I don't wish to alarm anyone, but Tony Romo has the NFL's second-best passer rating, trailing
only Peyton Manning.
Preposterous Punt Watch No. 2: Pittsburgh leading 31-24 with 11:00 remaining, the United States
Saints faced fourth-and-6 on the Steelers' 39; when the punt boomed, TMQ wrote the words "game
over" in his notebook. (Two downs later, Willie Parker ran 76 yards and the game was, in fact,
over.) Not only was this yet another example of punting in opposition territory when trailing late.
On the previous down, New Orleans faced third-and-6. Given the scoreboard, clock and field
position, Saints' coaches should have assumed a two-down situation -- calling a run on the
assumption the team would go on fourth. Instead, New Orleans threw for the first and, failing,
punted. If you know you're going on fourth, your third-down call should be calculated to ensure you
get at least some of the required yardage.
And Rumor Says Larry Brown Is Complaining That $43 Million for Two Years Isn't Enough:
The bottom line on Larry Brown is that between his contract buyout to leave the Detroit Pistons and
his contract settlement to leave the New York Knicks, he received a staggering $43 million for two
years of coaching. And bear in mind -- it was two years of doing a terrible job. At Detroit, Brown
walked out on a playoff team, and before walking out was undercutting the team's championship
chances by discussing his desire to leave. The next season at New York he won only 23 games,
while frequently denouncing in public the Knicks' players and management.
So it seems Larry Brown is evidence of two TMQ laws. First, my Iron Law of Modern Cultural
Economics: This holds that the worse something is, the more money it makes. This law does not
apply to the markets for industrial and consumer products. There, competitive forces function as
econ textbooks say they should: High-quality products win, poor-quality products are rejected, and
the market relentlessly pressures for the best price. In culture, textbook economics break down.
Books, movies, music, celebrity-hood -- the worse something is, the more money it makes, while
high-quality products fare poorly or fail outright. Also Brown proves TMQ's law of job-hopping
coaches: When you hire someone who's only in it for himself, you get someone who's only in it for
himself.
Huh? What? Trailing Cleveland 14-3, Atlanta attempt an onside kick -- with eight seconds left in
the first half. What was that supposed to accomplish? Weirdly, the Browns then lined up to attempt
a Hail Mary from the Falcons' 49, and fumbled; Atlanta recovered and lateraled twice, reaching the
Cleveland 17 as time expired.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 1: Philadelphia lead 3-0 and had first down on its 16. The
Redskins big-blitzed. Donte Stallworth ran an out-and-up; highly paid corner Shawn Springs simply
watched him go by, covering no one; highly paid safety Sean Taylor was way out of position if the
coverage was two-deep; as Stallworth completed his 84-yard touchdown, the sole Redskin
bothering to chase him was linebacker Lemar Marshall. This is the first time I've ever seen a Gregg
Williams defense play without pride. And yes, the Philadelphia blitz worked against Washington -twice in the first half, Eagles' blitzers came across untouched by anyone, though the Nanticokes
have one of the league's highest-paid offensive lines. At this point the Washington season is lost, so
it's good that Mark Brunell will sit while we find out what Jason Campbell can do. The aging
Brunell seems to be regressing toward inexperience, lately tossing up crazy heave-hoes under
pressure. Early at Philadelphia he was about to be hit and heave-hoed for intentional grounding -just take the sack! In the second half, about to be hit, Brunell heave-hoed directly to Sheldon
Brown, who ran it back for the touchdown, icing the game. Letting Campbell play makes the
remainder of the Redskins' season interesting.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 2: Jersey/A had the Ming Ding Xiong ("Bears whose outcomes
are decided by fate" in Chinese) on the ropes, leading 13-3 with 42 seconds remaining in the first
half, Chicago on the Giants' 29. How about a big blitz? Easy touchdown pass to Mark Bradley, who
had five receptions coming into the game.
Immutable Law Observed: TMQ's immutable law holds, Kick Early Go For It Late. Trailing
Oakland 13-7, Denver faced fourth-and-goal on the Raiders' 1 with 11:10 remaining. If it had been
the first half, a kick would have been called for. But it was late, and Broncos' coaches wisely went
for it -- play-fake touchdown to blocking back Kyle Johnson in the flat. (Calling a play to Johnson,
who had three receptions entering the game, is an example of the tactic of, on a pressure down,
deliberately throwing it to a guy you never throw to.) Denver note: Just as the Broncos seem to be
able to make anyone into a good running back, they seem to be able to make anyone into a good
tackle. With undrafted free agent tackle Matt Lepsis out injured, undrafted free agent Erik Pears is
playing left tackle for Denver, and playing quite well. This guy is so obscure he's not even listed in
the NFL Players Association player database.
Obscure College Score of the Week: Indiana of Pennsylvania 21, California of Pennsylvania 17 in
the Tuesday Morning Quarterback Obscure College Game of the Year. Anthony Cellitti caught a
28-yard touchdown pass with 50 seconds remaining as the nameless Indiana of Pennsylvania team
defeated the Vulcans of California of Pennsylvania at Hepner-Bailey Field in California,
Pennsylvania. Located in Indiana, Pa., Indiana of Pennsylvania University has a formal school
policy on civility. What it doesn't have is a sports nickname. As noted by IUP alum Brandon
Minich, the school once was the Indiana Indians; then adopted a vague ursine-like logo. This
season, IUP is playing nameless while the student body debates a new nickname.
Obscure College Score of the Week No. 2: Malone 20, Walsh 10. Located in Canton, Ohio,
Malone University boasts of being "among the top colleges and universities in the Midwest" in the
latest U.S. News rankings. Malone was 55th of the 70 Midwestern college and universities the
magazine ranked. So Malone was "among" the top colleges in the Midwest, but only in the sense
that my books are "among" bestsellers at the bookstore. The U.S. News ranking is hardly
omniscient; there's no shame in not being at the top. But why must colleges that aren't at the top
strain to give the impression they are?
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at
[email protected] Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I may
quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Note: giving your hometown improves your
odds of being quoted.
Reader Challenge: In the latest round of contract negotiations, the
four established broadcasting organizations that carry NFL games -CBS, ESPN, Fox and NBC -- agreed to sell some advertising time to
NFL Network. Newspapers, magazines and television stations
generally are free to accept or reject advertising; the First
Amendment forbids censorship by government, but says nothing
about what private businesses decide to do with their ad space. As
part of the build up to Thanksgiving night, during Sunday's CBS and
Fox games, NFL Network ads urged viewers to call their cable
carriers and demand the new channel on basic cable. There's some
consolation in the awareness that even the mighty NFL needs to
rally popular support for its positions. But such ads effectively
recommend you watch a network different from the one you're
watching -- after all, in order to tune in NFL Network you must first
tune out the Columbia Broadcasting System. Challenge to readers:
In coming weeks, count instances of television networks airing ads
for competitors, and report them using the link at Reader
Animadversion. And I mean ads for true competitors, not commonowner channels such as CNN and TBS.
A special treat for those of
you that reached the end
this week.
Let Them Jump Up and Down!!!!!: Please, National Football League, reasonable people are
begging you, do away with the really stupid new celebration rule! On Sunday night, the Giants were
called for celebration because a bunch of guys ran into the end zone and jumped up and down after
a touchdown. (The new rule says only the scoring player can celebrate.) Puh-leez! The purpose of
professional sports is entertainment, and celebrations are entertaining. Or at least do no harm.
Sunday night, Giants coach Tim Coughlin repeatedly screamed and cursed at officials while waving
his arms like he was possessed. That's the sort of thing that really should draw a flag -- the NBA
crackdown on screaming at officials is a great idea. Yet by the rulebook, Coughlin's shows of
disrespect were perfectly fine, while a couple guys slapping hands is treated like a violation of the
Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. This weekend, my son's sixth-grade county flag football team got
called for celebration because 11-year-old boys jumped up and down after a score. Puh-leez, offload
these silly rules!
Next Week: Michelle Kwan wears her bikini at a diplomatic conference, and peace is instantly
achieved in the Middle East.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Updated: November 22, 12:45 PM ET
Stop the INT insanity!
By Gregg Easterbrook
For years, Tuesday Morning Quarterback has blamed "SportsCenter" for the epidemic of poor
tackling in the NFL. Defenders take wild risks, hoping to make a spectacular jacked-up tackle that
will be shown on "SportsCenter." But then they whiff and miss the runner completely, whereas if
they'd just broken down to proper form and wrapped up, the play would have ended. This weekend
there were an unusual number of awful-looking interceptions in the NFL – and I blame that on
"SportsCenter," too.
Trailing 17-13, Oakland reached first-and-goal on the Kansas City 8 with 32 seconds remaining,
holding two timeouts. The timeouts and the four downs meant if a play wasn't there, Aaron Brooks
could simply throw the ball away. Instead on first-and-goal, Brooks heave-hoed a crazy pass into
triple coverage – interception, game over. Sometimes the best play a quarterback makes is to throw
the ball away. But throwing the ball away doesn't get your clip on "SportsCenter," whereas a
dramatic touchdown pass forced into coverage might.
OK, that was Brooks. But Carolina's Jake Delhomme, a Super Bowl starter in 2004, threw a crazy
pass into triple coverage – interception. With the Jets near the Chicago goal line, Chad Pennington,
who for his career has thrown just one interception per 36 pass attempts (that's excellent, Brett
Favre throws a pick every 30 attempts) heave-hoes into triple coverage – interception. After the
game Brian Urlacher, who made the pick, said he thought the Jersey/B quarterback never saw him.
Maybe not. But subtract Urlacher, and the intended receiver was still double covered! Had
Pennington simply tossed the ball away, the Jets would have kicked a field goal for a 3-0 lead. But
tossing the ball away would not have gotten Pennington on "SportsCenter." Ben Roethlisberger,
Donovan McNabb, Drew Brees, Eli Manning and other quarterbacks threw crazy interceptions
forced into coverage this weekend. Coincidence? Tuesday Morning Quarterback thinks not!
In other sports news, don't overlook that on election day, Seattle voters overwhelmingly approved
an ordinance forbidding the use of public funds for NFL, NBA and MLB stadia. The proximate
result might be that the NBA's SuperSonics leave the Emerald City when their current lease to play
at the KeyArena expires. But sports owners beware, this might be the bow wave of an approaching
trend. As recently as the 1980s, a civic-minded person could argue that some public expense was
justified for pro-sports stadium construction in order to create economic activity, especially in
downtown areas. Now there's so much money pouring into pro sports, and many owners are so rich,
that it has become obscene to expect taxpayers to fund facilities that generate private profit for the
wealthy. It's troubling, too, that with the majority of today's pro sports facilities being partially or
wholly publicly funded, the owners claim proprietary rights regarding images of what happens
inside. If, say, Indiana taxpayers are going to pay for the Colts' new stadium – as they are – why
shouldn't anyone film or broadcast what happens within this public venue, ending the NFL's
exclusive network agreements? TMQ expects this view to gain legal traction in the coming years.
Pro sports commissioners: Better start planning now to pay your own stadium costs on a freemarket basis.
In other NFL news, at 7:18 p.m. ET on Sunday, as the Colts left Stonehenge Field in Irving, Texas,
mumbling "#@%*!" under their breaths, corks popped. In one of the sweetest traditions in sports
lore, on opening day of every NFL season, each surviving member of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, the
sole perfect team in modern pro football history, sets aside a bottle of champagne to cool. And it's
genuine champagne from the French province of Champagne, not the boysenberry-infused
sparkling-Gewurztraminer wine-like substance that passes for bubbly these days. At the moment the
stadium clock hits all-naughts for the vanquishing of the season's last undefeated team, the 1972
Dolphins pull the corks, secure in the knowledge that they will reign as the sole perfect team for at
least one more year. Gentlemen of 1972, enjoy your annual draught. TMQ feels confident you will
continue to sip champagne each autumn until you are called to meet the football gods, and greeted
by song and feasting.
Note: I just reproduced the above item from my AutoText, substituting only the name of the last
undefeated team, the field where it fell and the moment when the clock zeroed out. For every year
TMQ has existed, I have reproduced that item from my AutoText, substituting only the year's
particulars. Gentlemen of 1972, Tuesday Morning Quarterback feels confident I will continue to
reproduce that item from my AutoText on an annual basis for seasons to come. My heirs might be
reproducing it decades or centuries into the future. Note: I also reproduced that comment from
AutoText, and as a reader noted last season at this juncture, my heirs cannot use the same item for
"centuries" unless the 1972 Dolphins become true sports immortals.
And in sad, nauseating news, O.J. Simpson has confessed. There is no way on God's green Earth an
innocent man, falsely accused, could put his name on a book in which he "imagines" what it
"would" have been like to cut a helpless woman's throat. His acquittal might protect Simpson from
jail, but it no longer protects his honor; Simpson himself has voided that by doing something that
only a guilty man would even contemplate. Maybe at this point Simpson belongs in a treatment
facility for the criminally insane -- but he does not belong in the Hall of Fame or on the wall at
Ralph Wilson Stadium. His bust must immediately be removed from Canton and his name pulled
down from that place of respect. Take a crowbar to them today. The fact that Fox and its publishing
subsidiary just canceled the book and associated television show does not create any excuse for the
National Football League. Any other course other than the removal of Simpson's bust from the Hall
and his name from the stadium wall will put the NFL in a state of disgrace. Once the bust and the
name are gone, sandblast the areas to get the filth off.
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/print?id=2669830&type=Page2Story&imagesPrint=off
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/print?id=2669830&type=Page2Story&imagesPrint=off
Stat of the Week No. 1: New Orleans gained 595 yards, and lost.
Stat of the Week No. 2: Chicago and Indianapolis are a combined 4-0 at the Meadowlands; the
Giants and Jets are a combined 5-5 there.
Stat of the Week No. 3: Cleveland has lost every home game to Pittsburgh in this century.
Stat of the Week No. 4: Trent Green and Rex Grossman combined for seven yards passing in the
first half. Both their teams went on to win.
Stat of the Week No. 5: Minnesota lost despite holding Miami to minus-three yards rushing.
Stat of the Week No. 6: The Cincinnati defense has given up 1,025 yards in its past two outings.
Stat of the Week No. 7: In the Seattle-San Francisco game, the ball changed hands three times in
22 seconds.
Stat of the Week No. 8: LaDainian Tomlinson has 22 touchdowns in 10 games, putting him on a
pace for a record-setting 35 touchdowns on the season.
Stat of the Week No. 9: In its past two games, San Diego has fallen behind by a combined 52-14,
then outscored its opponents by a combined 70-16.
Stat of the Week No. 10: The Jacksonville defense has allowed five points per game on "Monday
Night Football" and 16 points per game in all other games.
Cheerleader of the Week Reader Michael Rodriguez, an attorney
from Lake Worth, Fla., nominates Heather of the Carolina Top Cats
– who is also an attorney. According to her team bio, Heather has
passed the state bar and is also training to run in the New York City
Marathon. This is one focused, goal-oriented cheerleader! Rodriguez
writes, "Can you imagine being her client, turning on the game and
realizing your counselor is dancing at midfield on national
television? Do you think she'd get continuances for hearings
scheduled for Mondays on account of having to perform on 'Monday
Night Football'? There are just so many questions I need answered."
Your Honor, my lawyer will be here as soon as she finishes posing
for the swimsuit calendar. Here are lawyer cheers:
Sway to the left, sway to the right, res judicata keeps me up at night!
Briefcase, deposition, hearing, sidebar – call us if you're ever hit by
an uninsured car!
CLASS action, CLASS action!
Yes, Your Honor, my outfit
is a bit devilish. But then,
replevin can wait.
Sweet Play of the Week: TMQ has tackled items this season
suggesting that when teams reach the goal line, they should spread the field with multiple wideouts,
then simply run up the middle. Trailing Atlanta 7-3, Baltimore had third-and-goal on the Falcons' 2.
The Ravens lined up four wide. Atlanta pulled five defenders way wide, and left no one between the
center and tackle on the offensive left. Jamal Lewis then went straight ahead over left guard for the
touchdown.
Sweet Plays of the Week (Sweet Pair for the Trick or Treats): Game tied at 10 early in the
fourth quarter at New Orleans, the Bengals faced third-and-2 on their 40. Chad Johnson was
supposed to run an "out." Carson Palmer was flushed from the pocket and scrambling. Johnson saw
it, cut up the sidelines and waved his hand – touchdown – and Drew Brees' fantastic passing
yardage was on its way to being irrelevant. Later, Cincinnati leading 24-10 and the Saints at
midfield, rookie seventh-round draft pick Ethan Kilmer, pressed into duty, cut in front of a Saints
receiver, intercepted the pass and returned it for the icing touchdown. After the score, as the
hyperventilating Kilmer stood on the sideline in delirium, Johnson ran to get him a water bottle and
sprayed water directly into Kilmer's mouth. Say what you will about Ocho Cinco – as of that
sideline act, I like Chad Johnson.
Sweet Defensive Stop of the Week: Dallas led 21-14, but Indianapolis had second-and-3 on the
Cowboys' 9 with three minutes remaining. "Let's eat dinner, you know the Colts will pull it out," I
said to my boys. Run stuffed for one yard. Third-and-2, a rare Indianapolis total screw up – two
receivers in the same place in the end zone practically collide as the pass approaches. Fourth-and-2,
maybe there was defensive holding, but Dallas' coverage was so tight Peyton Manning couldn't find
anyone. And I don't wish to alarm you, but Tony Romo now trails Manning by a half point, 100.5 to
100, for the best passer rating in the league this season.
Sour Play of the Week: Baltimore leading 17-10, Atlanta faced third-and-4 on the Nevermores' 19
at the start of the fourth quarter. Michael Vick takes the snap, and – never run backward! – Vick
retreated, spun, ran backward and finally stumbled under a horde of defenders at the Baltimore 36,
for loss of 17. The Falcons knocked themselves out of field-goal range in the process, and had to
punt. Sometimes the best play a quarterback can make is to throw the ball away! On its possession
following the punt, Baltimore scored a touchdown to ice the game. Had Vick simply thrown the ball
away, the next snap likely would have made the game 17-13.
Sour Sequence of the Week: The St. Louis at Carolina game was scoreless and tense until the Cats
kicked a field goal late in the first half and everything then collapsed for Les Mouflons. On its
possession after the kickoff, St. Louis surrendered two sacks, punted, then saw Carolina hit a 62yard touchdown pass to Steve Smith shortly before intermission. The rest of the same was filler.
Note: Once 4-1, the Rams have quietly lost five straight, despite Marc Bulger having thrown for 10
more touchdowns than interceptions.
Sweet 'N' Sour Play No. 1: Game scoreless, Indianapolis faced third-and-10 on the Dallas 23 with
16 seconds remaining in the first half. The Colts lined up with two wide receivers left. At the snap,
both faked positioning themselves for screen blocks, while a tailback ran into the left flat. Then
Reggie Wayne, the real intended receiver, shot up the left sideline, touchdown. That was a sweet
play design. But all the Cowboys' defenders came up on the screen fake, leaving Wayne unguarded
– even though there were only 16 seconds remaining in the half. When the half is almost over,
where, oh where might the pass go? Maybe up the field! Failing to guard the end zone when the
play was nearly certain to go to the end zone was sour.
Sweet 'N' Sour Play No. 2: Earlier this season, Jason
Taylor, who has been playing like a linebacker in
Miami's hybrid 3-4, saw a tight end sneaking into the
flat, followed him, intercepted a short pass and returned
it for a touchdown. Now it's Miami 17, Minnesota 13
with 3:39 remaining and the Vikings have the ball on
the Marine Mammals' 47. Minnesota calls screen left;
Taylor rushes left against very highly paid
Hyperboreans tackle Bryant McKinnie; when McKinnie
super-backpeddles as if he wants the Miami rusher to
follow, Taylor senses a trick and turns around, seeing
the screen man. Interception returned for a touchdown, Miami's cheer-babes were all worked up
icing the contest. That was sweet. From the point Taylor about Jason Taylor's play.
sensed the screen, the very highly paid McKinnie
stopped trying to block him. After the interception McKinnie just stood there, making no attempt to
chase the play. That was seriously sour.
Sweet 'N' Sour Play No. 3: Early in his 510-yard passing day against Cincinnati, Brees threw a 72yard touchdown strike off the flea-flicker. But the play was a sweet 'n' sour foreshadowing: Brees
heave-hoed into triple coverage, and it was only luck that the result was a touchdown rather than an
interception. Later, twice near the Bengals' goal line Brees would force the ball into coverage for
interceptions, though both times settling for a field goal was attractive.
Jax, Giants -- Are Either for Real? Last night on "Monday Night Football," the Jaguars played no
fewer than four first-round draft choice receivers: Kyle Brady, Matt Jones, Mercedes Lewis and
Reggie Williams. The Jags also played two fourth-round draft choice receivers, George Wrighster
and TMQ favorite Ernest Wilford, plus undrafted free agent receiver Cortez Hankton. Bottom line?
The four first-round big-bonus glamour boys combined for three receptions for 63 yards; the three
little-known nonglamour receivers combined for 11 catches for 154 yards. And this wasn't because
the Giants defense was choking up on the first-round guys, that's for sure. Last night's "Monday
Night Football" game was a great object lesson in the reality that high-drafted players often expend
much of their energy sulking, complaining and demanding the ball, while low-drafted and undrafted
players expend their energy working to earn the ball.
Otherwise the "Monday Night Football" game seemed a study in mood swings. Jax can obviously
play when it wants to, having steam-cleaned Pittsburgh and Jersey/A in prime time on national
television. But the Jaguars have also lost twice to Houston, which makes them difficult to take
seriously, and are a listless 1-3 away from Alltel Stadium. The Giants looked hot a month ago, but
now have delivered two straight lethargic performances, and Eli Manning seems to be reverting to
being a true freshman at Mississippi. TMQ loves Tiki Barber, TTNY ("The Toast of New York"),
but at this point it's clear his announcement of a year-end retirement has become a distraction. For
the last few weeks, the national media have been all over Tiki and his twin Ronde. For Ronde that's
OK, distractions don't matter much when your club is 3-7 and rebuilding. But Jersey/A is in a
playoff push. Here's my proposal: Tiki, stop doing media for the rest of the year. Concentrate on the
game. Prove that you're all about the team, not yourself. It will help the Giants, and further burnish
your reputation.
Play of the game: Maurice Jones-Drew walking into the end zone standing up for an untouched
touchdown, making it Jaguars 23, Giants 10 in the fourth quarter and causing your columnist to
close the light for bed. At the point of attack, guard Chris Naeole trap-pulled and pancaked Antonio
Pierce, who's a good player. One of the problems with the Pro Bowl is that offensive linemen make
it almost exclusively on rep, not performance. In the last two years, Naeole has been one of the
league's best guards. Ticket to Hawaii for him, please.
Dumbest Browns Play Since Dwayne Rudd Threw His Helmet: Cleveland leading 10-0 with 54
seconds remaining until intermission, the Browns' Daven Holly intercepted a Ben Roethlisberger
pass and returned the ball inside the Steelers' 5. Back up the field behind the action, Cleveland
reserve defensive end Simon Fraser slammed into Roethlisberger trying to hurt him, then slammed
him again. Then after Roethlisberger fell and tried to stand up, Fraser slammed him a third time.
The roughing penalty spotted the ball way back at the Steelers' 44, and Cleveland did not score.
Pittsburgh ultimately rallied to win by four points in the closing seconds, meaning basically this
mindless attempt to injure the opposing quarterbacl cost Cleveland the game – and ought to cost
Fraser his spot on the Browns' roster. First, there's a highly specific rule that says that during a
turnover, defenders who become blockers may not hit the quarterback unless he is trying to make
the tackle. Second, it's hard to believe Romeo Crennel coaches his players to attempt to injure.
Third, Fraser is a nobody who has never started a game in his career – what makes him think his
own petty belligerence is more important than the team? If Cleveland doesn't cut Fraser, at least the
NFL should suspend him.
TMQ Was So Ahead of the Maori War Dance Fad: Last week the Wall Street Journal ran a Page
1 article about the football team of Trinity High School of Texas, archrival of Permian High
(subject of the book "Friday Night Lights"). Topic of the article? Trinity High is now doing the
haka, a Maori war dance, before games. (This is the fourth or fifth time this fall that some aspect of
high school football has been on the front page of the New York Times, Washington Post or Wall
Street Journal!) The story explained that Trinity got the idea in 2004 by seeing, in an Internet
football column, an item about the New Zealand rugby team that does the haka before games; the
Internet column included a link to a video of the dance, the newspaper noted. Hey Wall Street
Journal, next time spell out that the haka item and video link appeared in Tuesday Morning
Quarterback. Here, watch the New Zealand All Blacks perform a haka taparahi prior to a 2004
rugby match against the French national team.
Since the Bikini Is Now Routine and Topless Is Oh-Hum on European Beaches What, Exactly,
Is Left to Shock With? Tuesday Morning Quarterback would show misplaced priorities if I let
2006 pass without noting this year is the 60th anniversary of the bikini, designed to celebrate the
end of World War II and putting the atomic bomb into bombshell. (The suit's name comes from
Bikini Atoll, site of a heavily publicized atomic bomb test in the summer of 1946, just as bikinis
were hitting French beaches.) Fashion writer Kelly Bensimon supposes in her new "The Bikini
Book" that the bikini is popular not in spite of being scandalous but because it is scandalous –
bikinis allow a woman to broadcast a lewd and bawdy image without actually doing anything lewd
or bawdy. Today, when some young actresses won't take a movie role unless the script specifies
their clothes hit the floor, it is charming to remember that the 1956 film "And God Created Woman"
was marketed on the fact that Brigitte Bardot briefly strutted around in a bikini. Today Bardot
would be expected to play volleyball in her bikini! I hope you didn't miss this Mary Buckheit article
on Page 2, in which she asks whether bikini beach volleyball has become too sexy to be taken
seriously as a sport. Mary – bikini beach volleyball is a sport? Gosh, that never even occurred to
me.
Maroon Zone Play of the Week: Leading 7-0, New England faced fourth-and-1 on the Green Bay
39, went for it, converted and scored a touchdown on the possession. Eight different Flying Elvii
players caught, carried or were thrown to on the drive, including linebacker Mike Vrabel on a trickplay attempt.
Best 99-Yard Drive: San Diego went 99 yards in 11 plays, six of them rushes. LaDainian
Tomlinson ended the drive going in standing up for an untouched touchdown. (The Chargers
actually gained 104 yards on the drive, overcoming a penalty.)
Future Medical Researchers Lament: If Only People of 2006 Had Known the Benefits of
Coffee and Twinkies: That researchers have been studying the health effects of coffee for decades
and still can't figure out whether it is good or bad for you is an indicator of the limits of certainty in
medical knowledge. Some studies suggest coffee reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes and
cirrhosis; some studies say coffee increases the risk of stress, high blood pressure and sleep
disorders; other studies say coffee in moderation has no discernible health impact. Comes now this
Norwegian study suggesting coffee is a better antioxidant than blueberries, raspberries and similarly
touted fruits and veggies. Study subjects who consumed "high intake of a variety of antioxidant-rich
plant products such as walnuts, pomegranates, blueberries, blackberries, ginger, fruit and berry
juices, green tea, kiwi fruits, tomatoes, spices, blue potatoes, blue broccoli and red cabbage" turned
out to receive about the same antioxidant benefits as those who simply drank a few cups of coffee
daily.
Best Blocks: Tennessee leading 10-6 on the Flaming Thumbtacks' opening possession of the
second half, Philadelphia's defense was taking the field for its first series since learning, in the
locker room, that Donovan McNabb was out for the season. Travis Henry went 70 yards up the
middle for the touchdown on the first play, breaking open the game. And yes, they'd just heard
McNabb was out, but the Eagles' defenders had stacked eight in the box on this down – and still
allowed themselves to be blown backward by the Titans' offensive line. Cheer-babe note: Last week
TMQ detailed the almost one-to-one relationship between how much the Philadelphia Cheerleaders
wear and whether the home team wins. Kickoff temperature 50 degrees, the Eagles cheer-babes
danced in the first half in miniskirts, and the game was close despite the injury to McNabb. When
the cheerleaders came out to start the second half in loose-fitting track suits – not the sprayed-on
leotards they've worn in recent years in similar weather – TMQ knew that even the Philadelphia pep
squad had given up on the game.
Worst Blocks: The Rams' offensive line not only allowed seven sacks, including a safety – on
every sack, TMQ spied at least one offensive lineman who was doing nothing, simply standing
there watching as Marc Bulger went down. I am constantly amazed by how many NFL plays there
is at least one man standing around doing nothing whatsoever. Sloth on snap after snap was
displayed by the Rams' offensive line at Carolina.
I Hate Julie! For Northeast dwellers like me, holiday travel season brings calls to Amtrak, and that
means talking to "Julie," the infuriating, sickly sweet automated voice of the nation's tax-subsidized
rail carrier. "Julie" pretends to be your friend, but you must listen to her read long stretches of
boilerplate before she'll let you speak to a real human being – and Amtrak insults your intelligence
by making you say "agent, agent, agent, agent, agent, agent, agent," over and over before "Julie"
finally intones, "Would you like to speak to an agent?" Has even one single traveler ever actually
used "Julie" to book a train ticket? Here is TMQ's 2006 desultory conversation with "Julie" –
bearing in mind that Congress expropriates money from your pocket to pay for her:
JULIE: I'll be able to help you. Let's get started.
ME: Ontologically, I cannot start unless I know where I must end.
JULIE: Sorry. I didn't understand.
ME: Obviously you didn't go to college.
JULIE: Are you interested in a one-way or round trip?
ME: We are all on a one-way trip.
JULIE: Sorry. Could you repeat that?
ME: Julie, I would like you to take me places I have never been.
JULIE: No problem. If you decide you want to return, we can take care of that later.
ME. I'd like two tickets to paradise.
JULIE: What city would you like to start from?
ME: Sumer. That is where human civilization started.
JULIE: I think you said, "Seattle train station."
Later
JULIE: You need to say what kind of people will be traveling.
ME: It's me -- the passenger is worldly, debonair, irresistible to women, vaguely noir-ish in an
impermanent, contingent sort of way.
JULIE: I'm having trouble understanding you.
ME: Why don't we meet for a drink in the lounge car and I'll explain.
JULIE: I'd better connect you to an agent.
NFL Network Update: Honchos of startup NFL Network must have been sweating bullets as
Oakland came within seconds of upsetting Kansas City, which would have reduced the allure of
NFLN's first-ever live game, Kansas City-Denver on Thanksgiving night. So many NFL Network
ads ran during the Fox and CBS football broadcasts on Sunday that viewers must have thought
Budweiser, Coors and Miller all went out of business on the same day. Honchos on Park Avenue
must have been steaming when the Washington Post television section for this week did not list the
Denver-Kansas City game under its "football" heading, because the broadcast will be available in
the nation's capital only to DirecTV and premium-digital subscribers. One of the NFL Network ads
showed Denver owner Pat Bowlen in his office, seemingly preparing for the game. Perhaps you
thought: Hmm, an owner participating in an advertisement, that's unusual. Bowlen, more than any
NFL owner, wants the league to take over its own broadcasting, cutting out the established networks
when the current contracts expire. Bowlen has wagered a lot of his corridor reputation on the idea
that NFL Network will work. You bet he's helping out with the ads. But did he get an appearance
fee?
They Never Punt on Fourth-and-1 in the CFL: Congratulations to
the British Columbia Lions, winner of the CFL's 94th Grey Cup.
Lions players broke the Grey Cup itself while waving it around after
the game – but after 94 years, they needed a new one anyway. And
you'd think it would be too cold in Vancouver for triangle top
swimsuits, but you'd think wrong: Here is cheerleader Kelsey of the
Felions , who is honest enough to admit her favorite sport is hockey.
(Excuse me, favourite sport.) All British Columbia Lions
cheerleaders' team bio pages include a declaration of their favorite
things to do "in the lower mainland," which in frostback talk means
the area south of Horseshoe Bay, at the base of the Sea to Sky
Highway. If you haven't been to Vancouver, B.C., you've missed
one of the most beautiful cities-amidst-nature settings on our Earth.
Preposterous Punt Watch: Game tied at 7 in the first quarter, New
Orleans faced fourth-and-2 on the Cincinnati 40. Last week the
Their Grey Cup runneth
Saints went buck-buck-brawckkkkkkk on fourth-and-6 on the
over. Note to female and
nontraditional male readers
Steelers' 39 in the fourth quarter, and this turned out the deciding
play in their loss. Surely they won't repeat the mistake! Drew Brees -- two beefcake photos in
one week.
brought his team to the line, yelled "hut hut" numerous times, and
then took the penalty when no Trick or Treats jumped offside. The punt that followed officially
might have been on fourth-and-7, but to my mind it was a Preposterous Punt on fourth-and-2, since
the Saints were never going for it. Plus I haven't seen the fourth-down hut-hut draw-them-off
nonsense work in the NFL in about 10 seasons.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 1: Joey Galloway's 34-yard touchdown reception, which broke
open the Washington-City of Tampa game, came against an eight-man Redskins' blitz. Column after
column, TMQ documents that seven- and eight-man blitzes are like handing out engraved
invitations to score touchdowns. When the Bucs ran a complex reverse for a five-yard gain early in
the first quarter, the Fox announcers grumbled mightily about how there's no point in a reverse that
only gains five yards. Yes there is! TMQ's law of reverses holds that any reverse that gets back to
the line of scrimmage is a positive play – because it spooks the defense, slowing the rush.
Washington recorded no sacks in the game, despite facing a rookie quarterback with two rookies on
his offensive line.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 2: The Ming Ding
Xiong ("Bears whose outcomes are decided by fate" in
Chinese) leading 3-0 on the first play of the fourth
quarter, Jersey/B blitzed seven – easy 43-yard
touchdown pass to Mark Bradley for the game's icing
points. Blitzing once in a while can be devastating;
blitzing a lot, as the Jets did Sunday, nearly guarantees
the opponent an easy touchdown at some point. The
Jets' constant no-huddle, which seemed clever when
Eric "I Was a Teenaged Coach" Mangini rolled it out in
October, now seems stale. Watching the game I
regularly thought, a la Monty Python, "I felt that was a
bit predictable." Note: According to the NFL, on
Sunday the Jets played at Giants Stadium.
Spamalot is playing on Broadway, which
is in New York not New Jersey, and
anyway the cast felt the Jets'
performance was a bit predictable.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 3: Lee Evans' first
83-yard touchdown catch came against a seven-man
blitz; his second 83-yard touchdown catch, against a five-man blitz. On the second Evans' bomb,
Houston had its free safety lined up 25 yards off the line at the snap – it looked like he was
expecting to field a punt – yet still couldn't catch the deep man.
Cheerleader Professionalism Watch: Reader Kevin of Rochester, N.Y., notes that for Buffalo at
Houston, the Texans' cheerleaders wore conservative outfits, and the home team lost. Not far away
in the same weather, Cowboys cheerleaders wore hardly anything for Indianapolis at Dallas, and the
home team won. Reader Will Woods of New York City notes that Yale's cheerleaders stayed in
miniskirts throughout the Harvard-Yale game, while Harvard cheerleaders changed to track suits at
halftime. Needless to say, Yale won, sharing the Ivy League title with Princeton, which had its
biggest season since 1964. Saturday night at Princeton, they lit The Bonfire on Cannon Green for
the first time in 12 years, signifying Princeton had swept Harvard and Yale.
Redundancy Watch: Reader Will Gray of Tennessee notes that FedEx, official name of the
company that originally was named Federal Express, now has a FedEx express division. That is,
Federal Express express.
At Happy Hour in Hell's Sports Bar, There Are No Nachos – But Unlimited Free Celery:
Hell's sports bar has 28 wide-screen plasma TVs, and on Sunday all were showing Detroit at
Arizona, especially the Lions reaching first-and-goal on the Cardinals' 1, then losing yardage on
three consecutive snaps. For the highlight program, all 28 screens in Hell's Sports Bar showed
nothing but, over and over, Green Bay punting on fourth-and-1 in the fourth quarter when down 280.
We're All Professionals Here: Having rallied to pull within 20-14 at San Francisco, defending
NFC champion Seattle faced fourth-and-1 on its 37 at the two-minute warning, holding all three
timeouts. Electronic Arts-cover-cursed Shaun Alexander was stopped for a loss, Niners ball. On the
first San Francisco snap, Frank Gore fumbled, Seattle ball. On the first Seattle snap, sack. On the
second Seattle snap, interception.
Darling, You Look Lovely in That Strapless Miami Dolphins Evening Gown: The NFL granted
permission to coaches Nolan the Younger of San Francisco and Jack of the River of Jacksonville to
wear business suits on the sideline. For years, coaching staffs have been required to wear NFLlicensed apparel, which means golf shirts, varsity sweaters and so on. Last year on NFL.com, I
proposed a solution – NFL-licensed business suits. I wrote, "Imagine walking into your next
business meeting nattily attired in a three-piece Denver Broncos business suit with a bright orange
stripe up the side. Imagine a tuxedo with tiny Philadelphia Eagles' logos as trim, or a women's
power suit in the colors of the New England Patriots. Of course this idea is completely ridiculous,
Americans aren't so crazy about the NFL that they would actually wear suits with team logos on
them – 'Sweetheart, get me NFL Properties on the phone fast.' If only I'd been sharp enough to sign
with the NFL for a commission on this idea! Because now there are NFL-licensed men's dress
blazers in team colors. Reebok note: The NFL-approved apparel that Marty Schottenheimer and
other San Diego coaches wore on the Denver sideline Sunday night was not San Diego colors.
Bolts' coaches were adorned in gray and off-white. Huh?
Another Way In Which Dogs in America Live Better Than People in Parts of the Developing
World: One breakthrough in antibiotics is a class of chemicals called cephalexins, which kill both
gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria, yet have minimal side effects. Discovered in 1948 by an
Italian chemist, cephalexins – most common trade name Keflex – were not widely available until
the 1970s. By the 1980s, word was out on this drug's combination of effectiveness and minimal
risk. Parents began saying, "Doctor, please give my child Keflex." Why do I mention all this? First,
this is Tuesday Morning Quarterback: I don't have to have a reason. Second, recently I took Geneva,
the brainless Official Dog of TMQ, to the vet. And they gave her – Keflex. From miracle drug for
people to pills for the dog! The problem is that in many parts of the developing world, parents still
plead, "Doctor, please give my child Keflex." American parents might soon plead, "Doctor, please
give my child Claforan or Cefcatacol," these being advanced cephalexins that work against the
antibiotic-resistant germ strains found in hospitals. How long before American dogs get Cefcatacol
while developing-world patients still plead for Keflex?
Best Purist Drive: Trailing Oakland 13-10, Kansas City took possession on its 20 with 4:53
remaining – and rather than go pass-wacky, ran on six of 11 plays, scoring the winning touchdown
at 1:54. On fourth-and-1 at their 29 with 3:28 remaining, the Chiefs didn't punt, they didn't panic
and throw. They ran the ball up the middle.
Huh? What? TMQ's Law of the Obvious holds: Sometimes all a team needs to do is run the ball
for no gain, and everything will be fine. Leading 21-17, Houston faced third-and-2 on its 19 on the
first play following the two-minute warning, with Buffalo down to its last timeout. The Texans
threw incomplete, stopping the clock, then punted; the Bills scored the winning touchdown with
nine seconds remaining. Had Houston simply run for no gain, victory was likely. Instead the Moo
Cows stopped the clock, keeping Buffalo alive. Every week there is one play TMQ watches over
and over in rapt fascination, and this week this one was it. To top it off, with 2:25 remaining,
Buffalo had punted on fourth-and-4 from midfield. "It's like the coaches are competing to see who
can make the stupidest call," my 11-year-old, Spenser, commented. Houston won that competition.
Missing Universe Watch: As TMQ regularly notes,
physicists remain unable to locate the bulk of the
cosmos, which is believed locked up in undetectable
dark energy and dark matter. As the academic
cosmologist Lee Smolin notes in his important new
book "The Trouble with Physics," only about 4 percent
of the universe is confirmed as ordinary matter and
energy, and "of the other 96 percent, we know
absolutely nothing." We can't find 96 percent of the
universe – but trust us, we're experts! Last week NASA
said Hubble Telescope images of the movements of the
galaxies suggested that dark energy did not become
significant until the cosmos was about five billion years
old. This sort-a makes sense. Gravity grows more
Ten years ago no one even knew dark
powerful as distance decreases, dark energy appears to energy existed, and already NASA
be an antigravity force that grows more powerful as
thinks it can explain the origin of the
universe in a PowerPoint.
distance increases – so the expanding universe had to
fly apart for a few eons until the galaxies achieved
enough distance from each other for dark energy to come into play. If this thinking is correct, with
each passing epoch the galaxies will be still farther apart, and thus dark energy more powerful. But,
um, we still have no idea what dark energy is or how it operates. Last week NASA also estimated
that the firmament is 70 percent dark energy, 25 percent dark matter, and 5 percent everything else.
So we can't even agree on whether 95 percent or 96 percent of the entire universe is missing. But
trust us, we're experts!
Meanwhile this new study appears to rule out speculation that much of the missing matter is present
in deep space as MACHOS, or massive compact halo objects. The hypothesized MACHOS were
thought to be extremely large numbers of ancient, dead stars on the boundaries of galaxies. It was
assumed by some cosmologists that MACHOS eventually would be shown to be the most common
objects in the universe, just hard to find because they long ago stopped producing light. But an
international collaboration of astronomers, working under the project title Eros – acronym of the
French name Expérience de Recherche d'Objets Sombres – failed to detect any sign of ancient,
burned-out stars in the Magellanic Clouds, the "dwarf galaxies" close to our Milky Way. So for the
moment, MACHOS seem out as an explanation for the missing mass. And yes, in this case Eros
defeated MACHO.
Beyond Platform Shoes: Watch closely when NBC shows its booth stand-up view of John Madden
and Al Michaels during Sunday night contests. Though their heads are even, Michaels' belt appears
far higher than Madden's, as if Michaels had an NBA-style physique with super-long legs and high
waist. What's going on is that Madden is quite a bit taller than Michaels – who is standing on a riser,
to make them appear the same height. Michaels is also closest to the camera, which aids the
illusion.
Are You Dissatisfied With Your Auto Insurance If You Don't Have a Crash: Recently I saw a
television ad for life insurance from a company called People's Benefit Life. The pitchman
promised, "Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back!" Presumably the only way to ensure
satisfaction for a life insurance policy is if your heirs receive the due payment in a timely manner.
That only happens when you die. So if you fail to die, claim dissatisfaction and demand your money
back! Note: The ideal outcome for all insurance premiums is that they are wasted. Ideally every
dime you spend on car and health insurance should be waste, if you never have a problem about
which to file a claim. If only all life insurance costs could be wasted.
Local Affiliate Asleep at the Switch: WUSA, the CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C, aired
Cincinnati at New Orleans, an excellent matchup, in the 1 p.m. ET slot. By late fourth quarter when
it was Bengals 31, Saints 16, the contest was over. Yet the local affiliate stayed with every last
sleep-inducing snap even as Pittsburgh at Cleveland, with WUSA also had rights to, became a redhot fantastic finish.
Pittsburgh Comeback Analysis: So Ben Roethlisberger had thrown three interceptions in the
game, though two bounced off receivers' hands. So one was run back for Roethlisberger's third
interception-return touchdown of the season, which is embarrassing. So Roethlisberger has thrown a
league-worst 17 interceptions, and trails Jon Kitna and J.P. Losman in passer rating. So the
defending champions are 3-6 and down 13-3 in the fourth quarter. Still, these are the Pittsburgh
Steelers. Taking possession with 13:42 remaining, Roethlisberger led the Steelers on an 87-yard
touchdown drive that including converting a third-and-20. Now the score is only 13-10, but
Cleveland returns the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown. Still, these are the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Taking over again, Roethlisberger led the Steelers on a 17-play, 79-yard touchdown drive. Getting
the ball back, Cleveland went three-and-out and politely threw incomplete, stopping the clock.
Roethlisberger leads the Steelers on a 77-yard touchdown drive that won the game with 39 seconds
remaining. Counting penalties and excluding kick returns, in the fourth quarter Pittsburgh ran 38
plays for 243 yards, while Cleveland ran 10 plays for 35 yards. And the Browns were playing at
home before the NFL's most energetic crowd!
Tactics note: Game scoreless in the first half, Cleveland faced fourth-and-1 on the Pittsburgh 26,
attempted a field goal and missed. Normally TMQ's immutable law Kick Early Go For It Late
would say this is the right call, though rain and a gusty wind made the kick problematic. Anyway
you can't dance with the champ, you've got to knock him down! Pittsburgh is the Super Bowl
champion; Cleveland had lost six straight at home to the Steelers; victories don't come in the mail,
they must be seized.
Wacky Concierge of the Week: Last week on a business trip, TMQ stayed at the swank Sofitel
near the Water Tower in Chicago. Its directory offered a Sofitel Romance Concierge. Guests were
urged to order a "customized romantic experience" arranged "with the assistance of our Emily Post
Institute-trained Romance Concierges" who are "specially qualified to help you plan any kind of
romantic occasion." I've always longed for a customized romantic experience! The hotel's romance
packages included champagne, scented lotions and "chocolate body paint and whipped cream" sent
up to the room. At the Emily Post Institute, they teach you how to advise couples on ways to use
whipped cream in hotel rooms? But then Sofitel is a French hotel company.
Swank hotel note: With the advent of cell phones, people don't use hotel long-distance that much
anymore. At the Sofitel, I made four two-minute weekend phone calls from Chicago to Maryland –
and they were billed at $8.99 each. Good grief! If you ever stay at a Sofitel, for goodness sake do
not pick up the telephone. Chicago note: On Saturday night, November 18th, the city's Christmas
parade marched up Michigan Avenue.
ESPN Name Too Long, Marketers Fret: Washington state adopted "Experience Wa" as its
tourism slogan, apparently assuming that with current trends in literacy, people can no longer
remember entire words. Washington has two state songs, a state fossil, a state dance, a state tartan
and a state grass.
San Diego at Denver Comeback Analysis: "The Chargers have them right where they want them,"
Spenser said as he went to bed with the Broncos leading 24-7. And it was so true. When the Bolts
left the field 35-27 victors, I thought, "Six weeks to go, this is the team to beat in the NFL."
TMQ Law of Comebacks holds: Defense starts comebacks, offense stops them. From midway in
the third quarter when the home team took its 24-7 lead, the visitors held Denver to one field goal
and five first downs. This was at Denver, where oxygen depletion is supposed to confer on the
Broncos an incredible second-half advantage. After San Diego scored to make it 24-14, Denver
went incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, punt – the kind of series that would never make a
highlight reel, but is integral to the comeback. After San Diego scored to make it 24-21, Denver
reached first-and-10 on the Chargers' 18. A touchdown for the home team, and "offense stops
comebacks" takes over. Instead Denver went incompletion, three-yard run, fumbled snap, field goal.
As the field goal split the uprights for a 27-21 Denver lead, TMQ wrote the words "game over" in
his notebook – "over" meaning San Diego would win – and went to bed.
Most Fun Play: Denver leading 24-14, San Diego faced third-and-2 at midfield at the end of the
third. The Bolts lined up in what seemed like a flag football formation, quarterback Philip Rivers in
the shotgun with a back on either side exactly at his depth. Denver zone-blitzed six, defensive end
Ebenezer Ekuban dropping into coverage in the defensive left flat to compensate for a blitzing
corner on that side. LaDainian Tomlinson ran a down-and-in – what traditionalists call a "replace
route" – against Ekuban. Tomlinson easily shot past the defensive end, catching a 51-yard
touchdown pass. Think about what happened on this play. To this point, Tomlinson has scored 20
touchdowns, almost twice as many as the next best player in the league. Yet the man who has to this
point scored 20 touchdowns is covered deep by a defensive end. There was no safety help in sight –
John Lynch had to cover a wide receiver because of the blitz, and had his back to Tomlinson the
entire time.
Three San Diego-Denver comeback notes: First, Denver came into the game with the fewest
points allowed, and surrendered 35 points at home. Until Sunday night, the Broncos had been
playing a very disciplined, conventional 4-3; against San Diego they blitzed, stunted and jumped
around like mad, and you can see what good it did them. (I don't wish to alarm anyone, but New
England just passed Denver and now rivals Chicago for fewest points allowed.) Second, the game
offered numerous examples of how Denver has adjusted its dive-at-the-legs chop-block scheme to
achieve quasi-legality. Between the tackles in the NFL, a blocker can dive at legs so long as the
defender is not already "engaged" with another blocker. Example: Second quarter, unknown
interchangeable Broncos running back Damien Nash goes up the middle for 26 yards. On the play,
Denver center Tom Nalen first hits San Diego nose tackle Jamal Williams, then slides off him to the
right just as left guard Ben Hamilton dives low at Williams' legs. Legal play: Nalen released
Williams the instant before Hamilton chopped his legs. Sportsmanlike? That's another matter.
Third note: In the fourth quarter, Rivers heave-hoed a crazy pass attempt under tackle, and it
fluttered in the air for a likely interception. Little-known Bolts receiver Vincent Jackson sprinted
like mad toward the ball and leapt to knock it away from a defender. All too few NFL receivers
seem to care that when the pass is bad, it is their responsibility to become instant defensive backs.
Jackson cared – and in the fourth quarter, the football gods rewarded him with a touchdown
reception.
Actual Staples Advertisement: Free shredder with your next purchase.
A Miracle of Engineering: The gigantic new Hummer H3 weighs hundreds of pounds more than a
Lincoln Town Car and is a foot taller, yet nonetheless manages to be cramped inside. "The cabin
seems too small for a vehicle with such a hulking interior," the Wall Street Journal reported.
"Headroom is poor and narrow windows limit visibility." The back seat is especially cramped, with
five inches less leg room than a Town Car. Plus the EPA rates the new Hummer as one of the worst
air-pollution offenders on the road. Absurdly big on the outside, uncomfortably small on the inside:
only in America!
Obscure College Score of the Week: Delta State 17, Elizabeth City State 10 (Division II playoffs).
Located in Elizabeth City, N.C., Elizabeth City State's sports teams are the Vikings – missing their
chance to be the Betties. Not even the women's teams are the Betties, rather, the Lady Vikings.
Since Vikings rape and pillage how, exactly, is this done in a ladylike fashion?
Obscure College Score of the Week No. 2: Capital 32, Wittenberg 14 (Division III playoffs).
Located in Columbus, Ohio, Capital University forbids burning incense in dorm rooms. The school
runs freshman blogs on its official Web site. Here is April Haviland's blog.
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at
[email protected] Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I may
quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Note: giving your hometown improves your
odds of being quoted.
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
TMQ Nation fires back
By Gregg Easterbrook
What color was Jax wearing on "Monday Night Football?" It may have looked black, but as noted
by several readers including Doreen Kenworth of Harrisburg, Pa. the color was Brunswick
Green. The old Pennsylvania Railroad painted locomotives a color that sure looked black, but the
company insisted on calling it Brunswick Green. Marklin still makes authentic toy Pennsylvania
Railroad locomotives in Brunswick Green, and they sure look black.
Martin Möller of Bonn, Germany writes of the EA Sports cover curse plaguing Shaun Alexander:
"EA produces a series of Futbol (the sport you call soccer) video games. There is a manager version
and a player version. The coach on the cover of the manager version is Thomas Doll of HSV
Hamburg. In the previous year HSV played its best season in a decade. In the 12 games of this
season since the video game was released, HSV had only one win. That's what I call a curse." Here
is the link to EA Germany.
TMQ mused on how a crew of 14 could handle a container ship as
large as the 191,000-ton Emma Maersk. Mike McBride of
København, Denmark writes, "I work in København, which is
Copenhagen in Danish, for Maerskline, the top container shipping
company in the world. We are already building seven sister vessels
for the Emma Maersk -- the next, the Estelle Maersk, is now leaving
Denmark to join Emma on the high seas. Anyway you wondered if
the day would come when Emma might crash into the Golden Gate
Bridge. This particular nightmare scenario is unlikely, since the
Emma is dedicated to the Asia-Europe trade. She is so big, she can't
call at most ports in the United States, or fit through the Panama
Canal. Today, at least. The world is preparing for mega-ships:
American ports are beginning to dredge their channels, and Panama
has begun their canal expansion program to accommodate outsized
vessels." Doug Marshak of Duluth, Minn.adds, "At least in the
United States, most ports employ ship pilots who are brought aboard Yes, Mr. Doll doesn't look
like a happy man.
freighters once they approach ports to guide the vessels through the
dredged channels. The entire Great Lakes must be navigated by a Great Lakes pilot -- foreign ship
captains are not allowed to drive their ships upon entering the Great Lakes. So while the crew may
be a bunch of undertrained exhausted low-bidder non-unionized workers, once they hit American
waters the guy (or, increasingly, the woman) driving the ship is a specialist on local waters and
subject to good-old OSHA regulations on consecutive hours worked without rest. Furthermore, a
vessel as huge as the Emma Maersk would run aground if it left its dredged shipping lane, running
aground long before it could smash into most structures. I suppose it is possible that a runaway
container ship could take out the Golden Gate Bridge, but with the pilot system in place and vessels
confined to dredged lanes the public can't see, at least in the United States the risk of such an
accident is low."
Jaimie Muehlhausen of Vista, Calif. asks an excellent question: Since even the victors agree that
officials blew their calls at the end of the Oklahoma-Oregon game, why isn't this game treated as a
victory for Oklahoma in BCS calculations?
Apparently I should not have turned off Denver-San
Diego after the Bolts' win became obvious. First, TMQ
had noted the sort of play on which Denver skirts the
anti-chop-block rule and hides the intent-to-injure
tactics of its offensive line. Sarath Krishnaswamy of
Dunstable, Mass. was among many readers to point
out, "I was surprised you did not mention the hit Denver
center Tom Nalen put on Igor Olshansky of San Diego,
for which the latter retaliated with fists, drawing an
ejection. Nalen dove low and hit Olshansky's knees
when Denver was spiking the ball. That is -- on a play
Nalen knew was meaningless and where the defense
Don't worry, the Golden Gate is not in
posed no threat, he deliberately went after an opposing danger.
player with intent to cause injury. And yet, for this
Olshansky is ejected while Nalen skates." Now I've seen the tape, and the reason only Olshansky
was flagged is the classic second-swing problem -- the official doesn't notice the first swing, he
notices the second. Of course Olshansky was wrong to take a swing, and deserves the $10,000 fine
the league meted out. But Nalen's move was an obvious attempt to injure. Why even bother when
the game is almost over? The Broncos play the Chargers again in December. Nalen was fined
$25,000, but should have been suspended. Right now Denver team officials are complaining that the
larger fine against Nalen was unfair. Mike Shanahan: Your offensive line plays dirty, and you're
complaining about being caught?!
Arthur Bergmann of Newport Beach, Calif. adds that leading 28-27 with second-and-goal at the
Denver 1 at the two-minute warning, Marty Schottenheimer had Philip Rivers kneel on the ball!
Denver was out of timeouts, and the Bolts wanted to run as much clock as possible before scoring.
LaDainian Tomlinson went over for the icing touchdown at 1:17, and the PAT kick made it 35-27.
The Broncos were still alive to tie and force overtime, but because of the kneel-down, ran out of
time, reaching only the San Diego 32 as the clock expired.
TMQ complained that it's tired of the "hut hut hut hut" attempt to draw the defense offside on
fourth-and-1, plus it never works anyway. Amish Patel of Dallas suggested, "A team should try the
fourth-down hut-hut draw-them-off nonsense on fourth down and short -- then, after several listless
huts, suddenly snap the ball as the defense starts to relax." Or quick-snap while the defense is
waiting for "hut hut hut hut" to commence, which is what New England did, successfully, against
the Packers on fourth-and-1 on Sunday.
Lots of errors this week, all my fault. I called Eros a goddess. Helen Wasiakowski of Sweet
Valley, Pa. was among many to correct that: "Eros was a god, usually associated with Aphrodite,
the goddess of love. He's better known as Cupid through Roman mythology. And on an Eros-related
note, thanks for yesterday's beefcake pictures!" I called cephalexins a "class" of antibiotics. Sachin
Kapur, an M.D. in Chicago writes, "Cephalexin is actually the generic name for the antibiotic
Keflex, not the name of the class. That class of medications, which would also include Cefcatacol,
is called the cephalosporins. Other drugs in this class include Ceclor and Rocephin. Great column,
and Go Bears!"
Caitlin Peale of Portland, Maine was among the surprisingly large number of readers who knew
the details of haka dancing in New Zealand rugby: "You mention the All Blacks, New Zealand's
national rugby union team, but the accompanying photo pictures the Kiwis, New Zealand's national
rugby league team. Rugby union and rugby league are different codes of rugby with different rules
that split from one another in England, Australia, and New Zealand around the turn of the 20th
century. Yesterday you linked to a Kiwis' haka. Here is a picture of the All Blacks performing a
haka."
Kevin Lehde of N.C., a high school football official, suggests the reason the Giants seemed
shocked when Devin Hester of the Bears ran a missed field goal back for a touchdown against them
is that they thought they were playing a high school game! Under high school rules, any kick into
the end zone is a touchback; you can never run the ball out. Lehde notes, "The fact that kicks can be
run out of the end zone in the pros and college often translates into undeserved booing of officials in
high school. The bedlam starts when a kick is touched, then rolls into the end zone, and a touchback
is called. Fans want the ball to be live if it's been touched, but in high school, it's not. Example from
an October game in which I was the back judge. A punt is going to be fielded at the 35-yard line,
but the return man muffs it and the ball is loose. The coverage men try to recover, but end up
kicking the ball backwards, toward the goal line. A melee ensues, during which the ball inches
closer and closer, and finally bounces into the air and breaks the plane of the goal line. I
immediately blow my whistle and signal touchback, while the kicking team falls on the ball in the
end zone and the fans start screaming because they think it's a touchdown. The kicking team's coach
was completely befuddled by the explanation: A kick remains a kick until it is possessed, not
touched. Since the ball was batted around for 30 seconds without ever coming into possession, it
was still a kick that crossed the goal line, and therefore a touchback."
Obscure College Score of the Week mentioned Capital University. Marcia McGinley of
Clearwater, Fla. read the TMQ link to its FAQs page, and found that for dorm rooms, irons were
both prohibited and recommended. "The youth of America, or at least of Columbus, Ohio, is
wrinkled," she supposes. I complained that the Washington CBS affiliate, WUSA, stayed with the
meaningless end of the Bengals-Saints game rather than switch to the red-hot Pittsburgh-Cleveland
conclusion. Erik Mooney of Jersey City, N.J. wrote, "The problem is that the NFL does not allow
local affiliates to switch away from regionally aired games until a team leads by at least 18 points."
OK, that's the rule. But why is it the rule? Recently TMQ noted that some buildings now have Web
sites. As Steven Austin points out, so do some mountains. These mountains even have a help desk - click on "live help." And here's a traffic intersection with its own Web site.
Readers including Jolene Jasper of Bozeman, Mont. asked how
my off-price ultra-generic prediction, Home Team Wins, is faring.
Not too well -- it's 88-72, which trails everyone but Chris Mortensen
on the ESPN prediction board. Three points: First, hey NFL page
editors, how come the TMQ off-price ultra-generic prediction isn't
on this page? Afraid I'll show you up? Second, Mort, just switch to
predicting Home Team Wins, you don't need exclusive insider
information and you don't even need to know who's playing. Third,
note the computer formula, Accuscore, is doing better than all the
experts. As I understand Accuscore, it simply endlessly predicts that
the team with the best statistics will win.
Finally, coaches in suits went 2-for-2 this week, moving a reader to
observe:
San Fran and Jax wear
suits. Much nicer than Pats' sweats.
Sharp-dress man? Success.
-- Tammy Kelly, Independence, Mo.
Jack Del Rio is dressed for
success.
Monday, November 27, 2006
Updated: November 28, 2:14 PM ET
Hey coach, take responsibility!
By Gregg Easterbrook
Outcoached! It's been the buzz phrase of the past few weeks, and this week several NFL coaches
were significantly outcoached. None, however, admitted as much. Bear Bryant maintained that after
a victory the players deserve the credit, and after a loss the coach deserves the blame. Today every
NFL coach praises the Bear, then conveniently overlooks his maxim. At the least we should hold to
the axiom "win as a team, lose as a team," and assume that in a loss the coaches must have coached
poorly. There's no shame in this, since coaches have good games and bad games just as players do.
But you'd never know that from NFL coaches. For them, somebody else is always to blame.
Lovie Smith made a critical bad call late in the Chicago at New England contest -- then, after the
game, he blamed Rex Grossman, because Grossman threw interceptions. Jack Del Rio made two
critical busted calls in the fourth quarter in the Jacksonville at Buffalo contest, then afterward
blamed the loss on his players lacking fire. Andy Reid called a nutty play that backfired while the
Eagles at Colts contest was close, and afterward did not blame his players, but also didn't say, "Boy,
did I make a nutty call." Jim Mora of Atlanta made a succession of bad decisions, just days after his
father blamed the Atlanta players! (Details on all these points to follow.) No one was more
outcoached than Tom Coughlin of the Giants, who a week ago bristled when charged by Tiki
Barber with being outcoached. At that time, Coughlin declared that members of the Giants'
organization should not air their disputes in public. Then immediately after the loss to Tennessee,
Coughlin blamed Eli Manning for throwing an interception.
Let's ponder the coaching aspect of the Giants' epic collapse. Jersey/A led 21-0 and had possession
of the ball with 13 minutes remaining at Long Playing Field. Then Eli Manning threw an
interception -- but why were the Giants throwing with a 21-point lead in the fourth quarter?
Manning didn't decide on his own to throw, the coaches radioed that call directly into Eli's helmet.
Leading by 21 points in the fourth quarter, do nothing but run up the middle for no gain for the rest
of the game, and victory seems likely. Tennessee scores to make it 21-7; the Giants go three-andout, throwing an incomplete pass to stop the clock. Tennessee scores to make it 21-14; the Giants
punt with 3:13 remaining, after throwing an incomplete pass to stop the clock. Tennessee scores to
make it 21-21; Jersey/A has the ball on its own 28 with 32 seconds remaining and throws another
interception. From the point at which the Giants had a 21-0 lead and possession of the ball with 13
minutes remaining, Coughlin and his staff called seven passing plays -- which is seven too many.
The result was both interceptions and incompletions that stopped the clock in a game Tennessee
won with a field goal with six ticks left. Maybe when you're ahead 21-0 in the fourth quarter you
shouldn't be tossing the ball into the air? The final interception was particularly bad coaching
because at that point Tennessee had just rallied to tie, and momentum had shifted. All the emotion
and crowd noise was on the Titans' side; the field position and clock situation dictated kneeling and
going to overtime, with the ensuing intermission creating some space for Tennessee to cool off.
Instead Jersey/A's coaches put the ball in the air, offering the Titans victory. Manning didn't make
that call. The Giants were seriously outcoached -- and afterward, the coach blamed his players.
In news about a team that isn't being outcoached, the Ravens are 5-0 and scoring an average of 10
more points per game since head coach Brian Billick fired offensive coordinator Jim Fassel and
took over playcalling duties. Playcalling is more important than commonly understood. Coaches
have good performances and bad performances at playcalling just as players have good games and
bad games executing the plays -- and there's no doubt Billick is on a hot streak as a coach. But can
playcalling make that much difference? TMQ wonders if Billick, many years removed from being
considered an offensive mastermind, realized the Ravens' offense was about to jell under Steve
McNair and fired an underling in order to ensure that he, Billick, got all the credit.
In other football news, 91,800 crazed screaming enthusiasts, including your columnist and one of
his sons, attended the Notre Dame-USC contest Saturday night -- see college bonus coverage
below. Attendance exceeded the 91,704 that sells out FedEx Field, the NFL's largest venue. But
then, college football always has drawn the biggest crowds. Some 94,000 people attended the
Stanford-Cal game in 1935, while only 33,000 attended the 1933 Bears-Giants pro football
championship. (Before turnstile tickers, house figures were approximate.) The last time Michigan
Stadium failed to draw at least 100,000 to a Wolverines' game was 1975. Even some high school
games have in the past outdrawn the pros. The 1928 San Francisco city championship matching San
Francisco Polytechnic and Lowell High was attended by at least 50,000 people, compared to the
1950 Rams-Browns NFL championship, which was attended by 29,751. What's really striking about
the old numbers for college and high school attendance is that they occurred at a time of much
lower population. Assume almost everyone attending the 1935 Stanford-Cal game came from
California. In that year, 3.4 million people lived in the Golden State, meaning one Californian in 37
was at the game. Today 35 million people live in California, and maybe two-thirds of Saturday
night's Notre Dame-USC crowd were state residents. (A rough estimate based on green in the stands
and the relative ease of contemporary travel.) That suggests one Californian in 600 was in the Los
Angeles Coliseum that night -- a far lower attendance share than for monster college games of the
1930s. Then again, for the next Stanford-Cal game to draw the same percentage of the California
population as it did in 1935, the contest would need to be played in a stadium seating 959,000
people.
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/print?id=2677597&type=Page2Story&imagesPrint=off
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/print?id=2677597&type=Page2Story&imagesPrint=off
And in other football news, not only did the Giants stage an epic collapse -- they donned the mantle
of the Tuesday Morning Quarterback's Single Worst Play of the Season So Far. See below.
Stat of the Week No. 1: Arizona had two 99-yard touchdowns -- and lost.
Stat of the Week No. 2: Atlanta rushed for 281 yards, committed no turnovers -- and not only lost
but got clobbered.
Stat of the Week No. 3: Carolina, Jersey/B and Seattle have winning records despite being
outscored.
Stat of the Week No. 4: LaDainian Tomlinson, a running back, has six career touchdown passes.
Stat of the Week No. 5: The Browns had as many turnovers and punts (nine) as first downs.
Stat of the Week No. 6: Arizona passed for 395 yards and rushed for 17 yards.
Stat of the Week No. 7: Damon Huard has 11 touchdown passes and one interception -- and has
been benched.
Stat of the Week No. 8: In 2005, Atlanta opened 6-2, then went 2-6. This season Atlanta opened 52 and has since gone 0-4.
Stat of the Week No. 9: On "Monday Night Football," four of the first 17 pass attempts were
intercepted.
Stat of the Week No. 10: Tony Romo has the No. 1 passer rating in the NFL.
Cheerleader of the Week: Bobby Schmidt of Bellevue, Wash., nominates Ashleigh vanGerven of
the New England Patriots, commending what he calls her "not safe for viewing at work" swimsuit
calendar photo. According to her team bio, vanGerven's career goal is to work for the Error!
Hyperlink reference not valid. in New York. Asked on her team bio, "Do you have any hidden
talents?" a couple weeks ago, vanGerven honestly answered, "No." Now the team bio says on that
question, "I write poetry." Obviously Ashleigh has learned that truthfulness regarding talent is not a
career asset in the celebrity PR profession! Question: Why do all New England cheerleaders tilt to
the right?
Sweet Play of the Week No. 1: Oakland leading San Diego 14-7 in the fourth quarter, LaDainian
Tomlinson took the trendy "flip" play right -- Philip Rivers faked up the middle, then backhand
flipped to Tomlinson running wide. There have been a lot of flip plays this autumn, including two in
the Notre Dame-USC game. In fact, this play should now be designated, "Trendy flip run right, on
two, break!" Because there have been a lot of flips, defenses are aware of the play. When
Tomlinson took the flip, the Raiders converged on him -- then he straightened up and threw a
touchdown pass to the uncovered Antonio Gates. The play was perfectly designed, as Tomlinson
had only to look directly in front of him, and would throw only if no one at all was on Gates.
Contrast below to a poor trick-pass design by Philadelphia.
Sweet Play of the Week No. 2: As Buffalo's Roscoe Parrish broke into the clear on a wild punt
return, he began to stumble and seemed about to fall. Kiwaukee Thomas, running behind Parrish,
reached out and grabbed him by the jersey, steadying his teammate -- then let go and Parrish,
footing regained, continued for an 82-yard touchdown against Jacksonville. Should Thomas have
been flagged for the rarely called "helping the runner" rule? (Rule 12, 1, 1: "No offensive player
may assist the runner except by blocking opponents.") Maybe, but the play sure was sweet.
Sour Coaching Decision of the Week No. 1: Trailing 17-10, Chicago faced fourth-and-6 on the
New England 14 with 3:38 remaining. The Bears needed a touchdown; Lovie Smith sent in the field
goal unit. After the kick, the Bears still needed a touchdown. When you're down by seven points
with a couple minutes remaining on the clock, getting a touchdown is imperative -- so try for a
touchdown! Sure fourth-and-6 is risky, but you're close to the goal line, the game is almost over and
you need a touchdown. Needless to say, Chicago never had possession in New England territory
again. There are times when I want to shout, "Coach, can you see the scoreboard?" The scoreboard
dictated going for it; Lovie Smith sent in the kicking team. Had the Bears gone for it and failed
Smith would have been blamed for the decision, whereas this way Smith was able to blame his
players. Which he did after the game, saying, "It's tough to win with four turnovers, it's as simple as
that." This shifts the onus onto the players. Whatever happened to win-as-a-team, lose-as-a-team? If
Bear Bryant had coached this game, afterward he would have said, "The fault was mine for not
going for it at the end."
Sour Coaching Decision of the Week No. 2: With just more than 10 minutes remaining, the
Arizona (Caution: May Contain Football-Like Substance) Cardinals scored to make it Vikings 31,
Cards 19. The end-game scoreboard had come into focus, and Arizona needed a minimum of 12
more points. Take the single PAT and reduce the margin to 11! Coaching theory holds that when a
deuce try is likely during a comeback, always leave the deuce attempt to the final touchdown, when
your guys are pumped and the team that once held the "safe" lead is reeling. If you try for the deuce
and fail on the first of two needed touchdowns, the air goes out of your guys because they know the
comeback just became less likely. Instead of closing to 31-20, Dennis Green went for two and
failed. Then with a minute remaining, the Cards scored again to make it 31-25 and took the single
because the deuce was meaningless here. Had Green taken a single earlier, the score would have
been 31-26 and a deuce attempt pulls the Cardinals within a field goal of overtime! Arizona
proceeded to recover the onside kick; the clock expired with the Cards on the Vikes' 36, from which
strong kicker Neil Rackers could have tried for the tie had Green simply managed the point-after
attempts according to standard coaching theory.
Wacky Martini Watch: Jeff Foerster of San Antonio reports that Aldino's restaurant in his city
makes a wedding cake martini that smells and tastes exactly like vanilla wedding cake. Do you
freeze some and drink it a year later?
Sour Play Design of the Week: Indianapolis leading 14-0, Philadelphia had first-and-10 on the
Colts' 46. Receiver Hank Baskett got the ball on a throwback, and looked downfield to pass.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback has done a number of items, apparently unread by the Eagles'
coaches, showing running backs are far more likely statistically to complete trick-play passes than
wide receivers -- and this week LaDainian Tomlinson threw a trick play pass for a touchdown,
while Baskett's heave-ho, as perhaps you have guessed already, was intercepted. That aside,
everything about the play design was wrong. First, Baskett is a rookie, and thus likely to be a bundle
of nerves and make a wild throw -- which is exactly what happened. Second, Baskett seemed
uncoached in the First Rule of Trick Passes: throw only if the receiver is totally uncovered,
otherwise just run and we don't care if you lose yardage. Third, Baskett took the lateral in the left
flat, and threw to a receiver running deep right. That's a hard completion for a quarterback, let alone
a rookie wide receiver. Finally, the left-to-right play design forced Baskett to look at the entire field.
One reason halfback passes are more likely to work is that the halfback is almost always running
parallel to the line of scrimmage and looking only at what's directly in front of him, less than half
the field. That was the design on Tomlinson's touchdown pass. Note: Following the interception,
Brian Westbrook, the intended receiver, barely bothered to jog after the Colt with the ball.
Sweet 'N' Sour Play: Game tied at 10 in the fourth quarter, New England faced second-and-goal on
the Chicago 2. In came the heavy package with Mike Vrabel as an extra blocker. "This will be a
play-fake either to Vrabel or the tight end on the opposite side from him," TMQ said to his 11-yearold, Spenser. Play-fake to an uncovered tight end, touchdown. Nobody play-fakes at the goal line as
well as the Patriots, and this winning touchdown looked sweet. But because nobody play-fakes at
the goal line as well as the Patriots, the fact that the Bears seemed surprised was sour.
Life imitates art: The key play of the winning drive was a third-and-9 scramble by Tom Brady, on
which Brady juked Brian Urlacher in the open field. After the play, Brady and Urlacher jawed.
TMQ suspects Brady was yelling, "Is that all you got, Urlacher?" That's what a high school kid yells
at the teenaged Urlacher after knocking him down in the long version of Nike's Briscoe High
commercial.
Chicago imitates Chicago: New England stacked the line with eight and even nine defenders, daring
the Bears to throw. The result was three Chicago interceptions. On Sunday the Bears looked awfully
like the traditional offense-less Chicago squads.
The Sleet Bowl: Green Bay at Seattle opened in sleet, snow and freezing rain -- so let's pass the
ball! Mike Holmgren called 23 passes and 22 runs in the first half, and the result was three Matt
Hasselbeck interceptions plus an interception-like fumble plucked from the air and returned for a
touchdown. It's sleeting, so why are you throwing so much? In the second half it was Green Bay's
turn to heave-ho interceptions, and Seattle pulled away to win. For the night, Seattle averaged 4.9
yards per rushing play and four yards per passing play, gaining most of its yards on the ground.
Why wasn't it obvious before kickoff the night would go this way?
Invisible Man Poses for Photographers: "Scientists are flocking to the emerging field of
astrobiology," Science magazine, the world's leading technical journal, reported recently. Wait, how
can there be a professional discipline of astrobiology? No life is known to exist beyond Earth. For
scientists to say they are studying something that has never been observed is quite an ambitious
claim!
I Took Stoll's Ethics Test and Got a Perfect Score! Of Course, I Cheated: Are athletes less
ethical than the population at large? That's the contention of Sharon Stoll, who runs the grandly
named Center for Ethical Theory and Honor in Competition at the University of Idaho. Stoll has
tested thousands of collegiate athletes, and found them to have deficient "moral reasoning" skills
compared to college students as a whole. A sample sort of question: You score a touchdown and
know that you first stepped out of bounds, but the officials didn't notice. Are you honor-bound to
tell the officials? Stoll finds that athletes of the past often said they were honor-bound to tell, but
today rarely say this. TMQ sort of concurs: Enforcing the rules is the officials' job, and since
officiating errors are randomly distributed, if you admit an error in your favor, your opponent will
not admit an error in his favor, leaving you penalized for honesty. (Actual practice: As a county
league flag football coach, I once told officials that my player had stepped out of bounds, unnoticed,
on a play ruled a touchdown.) Stoll further finds that athletes who try to get away with things on the
field are more likely to have bad ethics when it comes to more important issues such as drug use,
lawbreaking and mistreatment of women.
Stoll's studies show a noticeable decline in the ethical standards of NCAA athletes in the past
decade or so, plus a rise in the sense of entitlement, especially athletes feeling they are above the
law. She finds that athletes in NCAA "revenue producing" sports -- football, men's basketball and
ice hockey -- are more likely to have weak ethics than athletes in sports-for-its-own-sake events.
Stoll finds athletes in individual sports such as tennis are more likely to be ethical than athletes in
team sports. And though female athletes score better than males in tests of morality, Stoll finds that
scores for women in sports are dropping so fast they might converge with scores for men. This
conforms to the race-to-the-bottom theory of gender equality: As the sexes equalize, rather than
men becoming more fair and kind like women, women become more aggressive and cold-blooded
like men. Here is a summary of some of Stoll's recent findings.
TMQ Tab-Worthy: Many readers have written asking there be some pathway to Tuesday Morning
Quarterback that is always in the same place in the ESPN.com kingdom. From now on there will be.
When the column posts Tuesday at noonish Eastern, there will be a TMQ tab in the Spotlight area
just below the lead story on the ESPN.com home page. TMQ is also frequently the Page 2 lead
story on Tuesdays, and always somewhere on the top half of Page 2 Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
You can also find Tuesday Morning Quarterback by mousing over the Page 2 tab near the top of
every page of ESPN.com; this opens a list of Page 2 writers, and you click on my name. (And
columns can be found on my archive page shortly after being published.) Anyway, TMQ having its
own tab on the ESPN home page is pretty cool. From now on look there Tuesdays and Wednesdays
if you have any trouble locating the column.
Best Purist Drive: Trailing the Squared Sevens 17-13 with 3:54 remaining, St. Louis took
possession on its 20 and, immediately, Marc Bulger was sacked. Game over? Two snaps later it's
fourth-and-1 and Les Mouflons do not go pass-wacky, sending Stephen Jackson off-tackle for the
first down. Six snaps later it's fourth-and-1 on the San Francisco 13 and Les Mouflons do not go
pass-wacky, sending Stephen Jackson off-tackle for the first down. Winning touchdown on the next
snap, and the football gods smiled.
Oakland Raiders Score "Placebo Touchdowns": The placebo effect is well documented in
medical studies, which often conclude that those taking placebos do as well as those assigned costly
drugs or therapies. Recently a study by Jennifer Otto of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse
found the placebo effect also applies to sports drinks. Otto tested two groups of 5K runners, one
given a bottle of tap water to drink before running, the other given a bottle of "super-oxygenated
sports water." The group receiving the "super-oxygenated sports water" ran the course an average of
83 seconds faster. Except the whole test was a ruse -- the "super-oxygenated sports water" was also
plain tap water, that is to say, a placebo. Believing they had swallowed something technologically
advanced caused the placebo group to perform better. Jennifer Otto's study was sponsored by the
American Council on Exercise, whose calling is to teach proven methods of safe exercise while
opposing fads. ACE says it "protects all segments of society against ineffective fitness products,
programs and trends. An ACE-certified trainer or aerobics instructor must know CPR, the
fundamentals of orthopedics and understand such issues as blood lipid levels.
"Super-oxygenated" water actually exists, sold under brand names
such as Aqua Rush. There is no medical evidence the stuff acts any
differently in the body than regular water. ACE studies have found
that heart rate, blood pressure and other measurables are the same
during exercise with regular water as with "super-oxygenated"
water. Advanced Hydration Technology, the company that markets
Aqua Rush, sells it for about $11 a gallon, about four times the price
of gasoline. When you think about it, the ACE studies suggest that
the ideal situation is for an athlete or someone who is exercising to
drink plain tap water, but believe he or she is drinking "superoxygenated" water.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback has long been on the placebo case. In
2004, I noted studies showing that placebos are efficacious and said
it was unfair that only those who participate in clinical trials enjoy
the benefits of placebos. I asked, "If sugar pills actually work, why What the world needs now
aren't placebos a standard treatment given by doctors and hospitals? is a really expensive
The answer is that placebos aren't expensive enough!" At the risk of prescription placebo.
quoting myself, let me quote what followed: "Therefore I plan to
make my fortune by marketing the incredible new drug Placebon™. A patented, proprietary
formula consisting entirely of sugar, Placebon™ will revolutionize medicine. Elaborately packaged
in individual foil doses, Placebon™ will be obtained only with a doctor's prescription. Placebon™
will be the subject of a multimillion-dollar marketing campaign consisting of costly television
advertising and full-page magazine ads with hundreds of words in disclaimers. In the TV ads,
smiling multicultural people will run through fields of wild flowers laughing and embracing, but the
announcer will never give the slightest hint what the drug is for."
Here was the rest of my plan: "Placebon™ will be extremely expensive, thus increasing demand.
Pharmaceutical companies will treat doctors to lavish dinners, send them on all-expense-paid
cruises and hand out handsome 'consulting' fees to get them to prescribe Placebon™. Controlled
clinical studies will fail to show that Placebon™ is any more effective than breathing, but the
manufacturer will lobby the Food and Drug Administration not to report this. Celebrities will be
hired to have public breakdowns, then make spectacular recoveries by taking Placebon™. A
saccharine version, Diet Placebon™, will be marketed. Initially, many insurers will refuse to pay for
Placebon™. But as senior citizens stream across the Canadian border to buy low-cost governmentsubsidized Placebon™, politicians will demand that insurers pay, and the health care share of the
GDP will rise again. Eventually a generic will be available at discount, while the patent holder
makes a tiny molecular change in order to maintain proprietary pricing of advanced Placebon 24", a
longer-lasting version. By converting the placebo from cheap to extremely expensive, Placebon™
will expand the benefits of the placebo effect from a tiny few who participate in clinical trials to
millions of Americans."
Warning: Do not take Placebon™ if you are pregnant or not pregnant. Product not suitable for
anyone who is tall or short or not tall or not short. Side effects may include pneumonia, cancer,
bubonic plague and amputation. If you had trouble getting dates in high school, Placebon™ may
not be right for you. Do not operate tunnel-boring machinery or artillery after taking Placebon™.
Never take Placebon™ or any prescription drug without first paying a large sum to a doctor.
Jax, Giants -- Are Either for Real? (Part Two): Last week's column asked whether either
Jacksonville or Jersey/A was for real; as Jax lost to the Bills and the G-Persons collapsed in the
fourth quarter at Tennessee, this question becomes more pertinent. In its past six games,
Jacksonville has lost twice to Houston and once to Buffalo, which makes it difficult to take the Jags
seriously. Jacksonville boasts of great defense, but couldn't stop a last-second victory drive by the
low-voltage Buffalo offense.
Tuesday Morning Quarterback has often noted lack of boldness in coaching decisions by Jack of the
River, especially kicking decisions in opposition territory, and this was a factor again Sunday.
Trailing 24-14 on the first snap of the fourth quarter, Jacksonville faced fourth-and-1 on the Bills' 9.
TMQ's immutable law, Kick Early Go For It Late, dictates go for it -- because now it's late and the
endgame scoreboard has come into focus. Plus, on the day Jacksonville rushed for 207 yards and a
5.9 yards-per-rush average against Buffalo's suspect run defense. Run the ball! Instead Jack of the
River sent in the field goal unit, and went on to lose the contest by three points. Another timid Del
Rio call: After scoring to tie the contest with 28 seconds remaining, he had the Jags squib-kick,
resulting in Buffalo getting the ball on its 40. But the Bills held all three timeouts! Twenty-eight
seconds can be enough to score if you have good field position and three timeouts. Note Buffalo's
last-gasp-to-avoid-overtime situation was much more promising than the Giants', as the Bills had
better field position and home-crowd energy.
So Long, Steelers: Maybe it was always folly to think Ben Roethlisberger, coming off a motorcycle
accident and then removal of his appendix, should be playing this season. The quarterback with the
formerly charmed life now has 19 interceptions on the season and a 3-7 starting record. But, ye
gods, everyone on the Steelers' offense played poorly at Baltimore. The Ravens blitzed a lot, and
this normally risky tactic worked in part because Pittsburgh running backs seemed to make no
attempt to blitz-block on key downs. The Steelers' offensive line, normally solid, blocked poorly
even on standard-defense downs when there were more blockers than pass rushers. On the game's
decisive play, Baltimore led 17-0 and Pittsburgh faced third-and-5 on the Nevermores' 30: sack,
fumble returned for a touchdown and TMQ wrote the words "season over" in his notebook
regarding Pittsburgh. On this play Steelers' left tackle Marvel Smith just stands there, making no
attempt to hit anybody, as Corey Ivy blows through Smith's gap for the forced fumble that
concludes the defending champion's season. Because the Pittsburgh offensive line usually has
played with heart, Sunday's sack fest was some combination aberration and great Baltimore
performance. But ay caramba, was the Pittsburgh blocking bad. Roethlisberger can't block for
himself.
This Fulfills My Obligation to Say Something About the Cincinnati-Cleveland Game:
Cincinnati leading Cleveland 30-0 with 10 minutes remaining, what was Carson Palmer doing still
in the game and still heaving passes? Was Marvin Lewis trying to run up the score? The football
gods always punish that. Or was he intent on getting the team's first shutout in neatly two decades?
Shutouts are irrelevant; risking injury to stars is quite relevant. Put Lewis down for a questionable
coaching day, too.
This Fulfills My Obligations to Say Something About Numerous Games: The Thanksgiving
Day contests already seem far in the past. And I watched tape of the Houston-Jersey/B game. Many
people ran around chasing a ball. Coaches were always angry no matter what the officials called.
I'm sure the whole event was very interesting to immediate family members. Otherwise I can't think
of anything to say about that game and I bet you can't either.
Also, though TMQ promises at least one comment about each NFL game, I make no warranty
express or implied regarding the NFL Network's new Thursday night contests -- most will seem far
in the past by the following Tuesday. And only now are commentators noting that the NFL's
broadcast power play did not succeed. The league scheduled NFLN's first live telecast on
Thanksgiving night, in hopes of forcing Comcast and Time Warner to say uncle and put the new
network on basic cable at NFLN's asking price. But in the days before Thanksgiving, callers did not
deluge their cable carriers with complaints about not getting NFLN, as the league had hoped, and
Comcast and Time Warner stood firm in their contention that the price of the new network is too
high. Hearts must have sunk in NFLN offices when Denver-Kansas City, the first telecast, was a
dull game; had it been a thriller, football fans who didn't see it would have complained the
following day. Anyway the power play failed, and presumably NFLN now will cut its asking price
to the market level. It's good to know the National Football League can't get its way in everything!
Optics note: the NFL Network ran full-page ads in major newspapers, asserting its broadcast was "a
huge success." The ads show announcers Bryant Gumbel and Cris Collinsworth seeming to stand in
a stadium tunnel. They've been super imposed into the picture, with lighted faces despite standing in
shadow. Look closely -- Collinsworth is significantly disproportionate to the background.
Plus, "Vanderjagt" Sounds Like a Flavored Schnapps: Speaking of coaches blaming players,
last season Bill "Mr. Personality" Parcells blamed his kickers for the Cowboys failing to make the
playoffs. Dallas spent a lot of money on kicker Mike Vanderjagt, and now he's been cut for missing
a game-winning kick. Where, exactly, is the coach who has a kicker who never misses at the end?
"Win as a team, lose as a team." In individualistic sports such as basketball and baseball, individuals
can play well or poorly regardless of the overall effort. But in football, when you win it's because
everyone played and coached well, and when you lose it's because everyone played and coached
poorly. To shift the blame for an entire game to the kicker over one single play is unsportsmanlike
and petty. Thus, fitting behavior for the NFL coach!
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! Carolina led 13-10 and had the Redskins, quarterbacked by Jason
Campbell in his second career start, facing third-and-8 on their 34 with about four minutes
remaining. Since the average NFL play gains about 5 yards, all the Cats had to do was play straight
defense and the odds favored a stop. Instead, it's a blitz! The result was a 66-yard, game-winning
pass to Chris Cooley.
A Chance to Make Your Fortune: Start a Valet Parking Service for Jet Aircraft Tuesday
Morning Quarterback has been chortling that the profusion of privately owned jets, and of
fractional-share private jet ownership, is causing airfields at chic destinations to become so crowded
the rich can't get in. Airfields near Aspen, Colo., Jackson Hole, Wyo., Nantucket, Mass., and Sea
Island, Ga., are now unable to accommodate all private-jet traffic during holidays. The problem isn't
the fields' ability to handle takeoffs and landings, rather the lack of room for private jets to park
while their passengers frolic. That's right -- you make millions, you buy the private Gulfstream, you
fly to Sun Valley for Christmas in elite luxury and discover that you can't find a parking place!
Recently, the Federal Aviation Administration projected that the advent of relatively affordable
small private jets such as the Adam 700 soon will cause many more airfields to become
overbooked. Today, for example, McCarran International at Las Vegas is close to capacity at 1,600
flights per day. By 2014, the FAA projects, another 400 private jets daily will be asking to land at
McCarran.
A couple summers ago TMQ was in Aspen, talking at the Aspen Institute, a sort of Davos for
people who aren't invited to the actual Davos. Bicycling past Aspen airport, I saw Chainsaw Dan
Snyder's private jet parked there: The plane has the Heap Big Injun symbol of the Redskins on its
tail. I thought: Man, Snyder must have some serious clout to get a parking space for a private jet at
Aspen in August. In some ways the parking space is more difficult to obtain than the jet.
News from Distant Space: Previous TMQs have noted that as telescopes improve, astronomers
find supernovae are more common and more destructive than assumed -- and this is not necessarily
the best possible news. The latest discovery, from a team lead by University of Toronto researcher
Andy Howell, is that the "Chandrasekhar limit" on supernova explosions isn't a limit.
Subramanyan Chandrasekhar, one of the leading 20th-century astronomers, won a Nobel Prize for
his 1930s studies that maintained the most common category of exploding stars, called the Type Ia
supernova, could not exceed about 1.4 times the mass of our sun; this seemed to impose an upper
boundary on the amount of destruction such a supernova explosion could cause. But the Toronto
researchers observed a Type Ia supernova, dubbed SNLS-03D3bb, that reached about two solar
masses before detonating, and thus released far more radiation than was thought possible. There's
another implication. Partly owing to Chandrasekhar's arguments, it was assumed all Type Ia
supernovae explode with about the same luminosity, meaning their light level could be used to
estimate the expanse between the Milky Way and distant galaxies. (If they're all giving off
approximately the same amount of light, relative measurements allow you to estimate how far away
they are.) Current estimates of the size and age of the universe, and its rate of expansion, rely on the
assumption that Type Ia supernovae obey the Chandrasekhar limit. If it turns out this class of
exploding stars varies significantly, all bets might be off about how large and old the universe is, or
its rate of expansion.
Now consider this. Since Edwin Hubble's discovery in 1929 that the
universe was not static but expanding, theorists have debated
whether the expansion would continue forever, gradually slow down
or eventually reverse as gravity overcame the outward momentum of
the Big Bang and pulled the stuff of the firmament back to its
starting point. (The latter conjecture is called the Big Crunch.)
Researchers using Type Ia supernova as measuring sticks declared
in 1998 that cosmic expansion was accelerating, which nobody's
theory predicted. The galaxies could not be speeding up unless
energy were somehow being added to them, which caused
cosmologists to speculate that mysterious "dark energy" permeates
the universe and functions as the mirror image of gravity. No
physicist has offered even the vaguest explanation of where dark
energy originates or what powers it. (General relativity theory does
offer an explanation of how gravity derives its power to pull.) Yet
even though the dark energy concept requires you to believe that
He thought there was a limit
to the destructive power of
most of the energy of the universe is undetectable and so far
nature. Umm, looks like he
inexplicable, physicists rapidly have accepted the idea that dark
thought wrong.
energy exists and even might be the dominant force of the cosmos.
What if it turns out the universe is not accelerating, that the apparent rising rate of expansion is a
data error caused by the false assumption that all Type Ia supernovas have a standard brightness?
Then physicists will have to announce that dark energy never existed in the first place. But trust us,
we're experts!
Adventures in Officiating: Arizona sports-talk radio went nuts when booth officials did not review
a sideline throw to Larry Fitzgerald that could have put the Cards into field-goal position with 18
seconds remaining. Fitzgerald appeared forced out as he made the catch; if I'd been the zebra on the
scene, I would have closed my fists and signaled completion. The trouble is, force-out is a judgment
call that can't be reviewed. Section 9 of the NFL Official Playing Rules, which governs replay
challenges and booth reviews, specifically exempts the force-out call.
Meanwhile everyone's seen the Chargers' Vincent Jackson spike on a key fourth down in the San
Diego-Oakland game. First it was ruled a lost fumble belonging to Oakland, then ruled an illegal
forward pass but Oakland ball because San Diego had failed to make the first down, then ruled San
Diego ball minus 5 yards for illegal forward pass because Jackson did gain first-down yardage. The
CBS announcers went ballistic, Randy Cross declaring, "Art Shell is going to get a formal apology
from the league office about this call." And no matter how you slice it, referee Mike Carey looked
indecisive. But the forward-pass ruling wasn't flat-out wrong as the sports-yak world has been
saying. Many fans and sportscasters falsely believe that whether a flying football is a forward pass
depends on whether it is delivered overhand. Actually this is irrelevant. Any kind of arm motion
that causes the ball to fly forward is a forward pass (either legal if behind the line or illegal if
across) and any arm motion that causes the ball to move parallel to or away from the line of
scrimmage is a backward pass, commonly known as a lateral. Forward passes are dead balls and
backward passes are live balls. Meanwhile, according to Rule 3-2-4, "If a player pretends to fumble
and causes the ball to go forward, it is a forward pass and may be illegal"; and according to Rule 84-2, "If a player intentionally fumbles forward, it is a forward pass." These rules could seem to say
Carey was correct. But was Vincent Jackson either intentionally fumbling or pretending to fumble?
No way! If he thought he had just intentionally fumbled or pretended to fumble, Jackson would not
have strolled back toward the huddle. Now check the definition of a forward pass, which at Rule 3-
21-2 seems to say that a player must intend to pass to another player for the action to be a forward
pass. Clearly Jackson did not intend to pass to another player. So none of these rules, all of which
invoke intent, seem to apply to what happened. What Jackson intended to do was taunt -- "the use of
baiting or taunting acts or words that engender ill will between teams" -- and his action should have
cost San Diego 15 yards, not 5. TMQ suggests that if Carey had called taunting, there would have
been no controversy. At the least a rules clarification is needed, since the rules cited by the league in
supporting the decision have to do with the rare intentional fumble, and that's not what happened
here.
Jim Mora Decried as "Quarterback Killer": Two weeks ago TMQ noted that Atlanta coach
Mora the Younger made a puzzling decision at the end of the first half against Cleveland, ordering
an onside kick with nine seconds remaining and the Falcons holding but one timeout. The Browns
recovered in position for a Hail Mary, but suppose Atlanta had recovered -- what would have been
accomplished? Atlanta went on to lose. Now it's Sunday and the reeling Falcons are at home against
the United States Saints. The Saints lead 14-6 and hold the ball at midfield with seven seconds
remaining in the first half. The clock is stopped owing to an incompletion, but Mora calls timeout,
allowing New Orleans extra time to set up a Hail Mary play. Touchdown, and suddenly the Falcons
are in deep trouble with the score 21-6 at the half. Note: I don't wish to alarm you, but New Orleans
now has the NFL's No. 1 passing attack.
As the Falcons have dropped four straight, everyone's focusing on criticizing Michael Vick. What
about all the odd coaching decisions made by Mora and his assistants? Vick wasn't the one who
ordered himself to take seven-step drops on passes against New Orleans -- something he's never
been good at, and which plays away from his strength, the sprint-out pass. (Sprint-outs keep Vick
closer to the line and also simplify the field, requiring him to look at only half the coverage, not the
entire coverage as in a deep dropback.) Trailing 14-3, Atlanta had third-and-goal on the Saints' 2, on
a day the Falcons would rush for 281 yards and average 6.2 yards per rush. Just run the ball! It
wasn't Vick who not only called a passing play but a seven-step drop play that required him to run
backward to the New Orleans 10; sack, and Atlanta settles for a field goal. You're on the 2, why are
you instructing your quarterback to run backward to the 10? Last season's incident in which Mora
the Younger did not know that a tie would keep Atlanta alive for the playoffs, and was screaming
into a cell phone on the sidelines as he sent in the wrong decisions knocking the Falcons out of the
postseason, is hardly the only weird coaching by Mora. Plus, a good coach focuses the criticism on
himself, away from his players, a la Bear Bryant. Time to look away from Vick and toward the
Atlanta sideline.
Best Blocks: Jamar Nesbit of New Orleans trap-pulled and flattened the Falcon at the point of
attack as Deuce McAllister strolled in for an untouched touchdown. You've never heard the name
Jamar Nesbit, but this guard is having a fine season.
News from Nearby Space: Meanwhile the more researchers learn about asteroid and comet strikes
on Earth, these events seem much more common than previously assumed -- which is definitely not
good news. Last summer, TMQ laid out the disturbing evidence that space-rock strikes powerful
enough to cause mass extinctions were not confined to the primordial mists: Something gigantic
smashed into the Earth about 10,000 years ago, and there might have been a severe comet or
meteorite strike as recently as the year 535. Recently researcher Dallas Abbott of the LamontDoherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University has found indications that a huge comet or
asteroid fell into the Indian Ocean about 4,800 years ago, causing global tsunamis.
Abbott's work is especially important because she is studying the oceans, not land. Most of what's
known about past space-object strikes comes from the study of land craters. But three-quarters of
Earth's surface is water; Abbott reasoned that three-quarters of space objects must crash into the
seas. Her work suggests a lot of comets and large rocks have hit the seas, many recently in geologic
terms. As recently as a decade ago, most scientists assumed that space-rock strikes powerful enough
to cause general devastation happen only every million years or so. Now it looks like they are far
more frequent. If a rock comparable to the one that struck the Indian Ocean 4,800 years ago struck
today in Kansas, half the population of the United States might die. And as TMQ endlessly points
out, what is NASA doing about this? Absolutely nothing.
NASA continues to waste about 10 billion of your tax dollars annually on a space station project
that had no scientific value, existing solely to justify money for aerospace contractors and staff
budgets at NASA manned-flight centers. NASA plans to waste 200-500 billion of your tax dollars
on return-to-the-Moon missions that don't even have a theoretical justification -- the sole purpose of
return-to-the-Moon is money for NASA insiders. Yet if a comet or large meteor was spotted
heading toward our world, NASA could do nothing. And NASA isn't even researching possible
anti-space-rock technology. No agency of your government wastes taxpayers' money more
cynically or systematically than the National Aeronautics and Space Agency. If a big space object
strikes the Earth, sending humanity's survivors back into the Dark Ages, our descendents will
consider the present Washington government history's worst collections of fools for doing nothing
while there was time.
Leftover Point From the Giants' Epic Collapse: Leading 21-0 on the first snap of the fourth
quarter, Jersey/A faced fourth-and-3 on the Flaming Thumbtacks' 31. A field goal here ices the
contest, but Giants' coaches have no confidence in the weak-legged Jay Feely; they go for it, pass
incomplete. At the end game, it's tied and Tennessee moves to the Giants' 31 with 11 ticks
remaining. Rob Bironas kicks true from the exact yard line Tom Coughlin would not allow Jay
Feely to kick from. Wind was light. If you don't have someone on the roster who can make a 48yard field goal, you are not an NFL contender.
Single Worst Play of the Season So Far: You've got to run some mighty bad plays to blow a 21-0
fourth-quarter lead. It's tempting to say the worst occurred with 10:51 remaining. The Giants led 210, Vince Young had just scrambled on fourth-and-9 and been stopped short of the first down; Jersey
ball, and TMQ would have written the words "game over" in his notebook. Except as Young went
out of bounds, Giants defensive back Frank Walker delivered a brainless late hit. First down
Tennessee, and the Titans scored three snaps later. Walker is a nobody, yet thought his own desire
to make the highlight reel by popping a star quarterback was more important than the team.
A worse play was to come, though, because it involved more than one Giant. Now it's Jersey 21,
Tennessee 14, and the Flaming Thumbtacks face fourth-and-10 with 2:44 remaining -- another
chance for the Giants to end the comeback. Young scrambles for the first down, and the vaunted
Giants defense is on its way to surrendering 24 points in the final quarter. On the scramble, Mathias
Kiwanuka deliberately let Young go, believing he had thrown the ball and not wanting a roughingthe-passer flag. This was just a mistake by Kiwanuka. It's what happened next that was bad:
Defenders Will Demps, William Joseph, Kiwanuka and Fred Robbins all stood there doing nothing,
making no attempt to chase Young as he headed for the first down. Will Demps, William Joseph,
Mathias Kiwanuka and Fred Robbins -- you staged the Single Worst Play of the Season So Far.
Stupid late hits, guys standing around doing nothing -- sounds like a team that's been outcoached,
doesn't it?
USC-Notre Dame Analysis: The main thing that happened was the Trojans showed they are the
better team. Better lines both ways, better linebackers, better running backs and at least equal
quarterbacks. The Irish had four dropped passes, including a killer drop on fourth down while the
game was close; S