August 12, 2003

I am back with offseason highlights

POST #    482

I am back with offseason highlights
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

Arnold Schwarzenegger is running for governor of California, and Jennifer Lopez isn't: In terms of the pictures we will have to look at in the news between now and October, where's the justice in that?

All current Hollywood mega-babes are passing on the gubernatorial run, which is a terrible development. We could be gawking at Cameron Diaz or Gina Gershon in every morning's paper instead of AHH-nold and Cruz Bustamante. TMQ's advice to Californians: start preparing the recall petitions for Schwarzenegger now! Give him two, three weeks and then yank him out of office, too.

Of course, Democratic operatives will be looking for Schwarzenegger's dirty laundry. TMQ has already found it: three shirts, one cyborg costume (slightly used) and several sets of boxers with cute little bunny rabbits on them.

Forget that Schwarzenegger has vowed to solve California's runaway budget deficit, and then Monday made his first campaign promise -- calling for a dramatic expansion of government spending! AHH-nold endorsed state-sponsored after-school programs, declaring that "three to six in the afternoon is the danger zone, when children are unsupervised and might do inappropriate things." Like watch an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie!

Tuesday Morning Quarterback hopes Schwarzenegger loses in a close race; that way he can stand on the California statehouse steps and declare, "I'll be back." And TMQ has discovered these movie proposals already circulating among Hollywood machers:

Yes, California, this man could be your next governor!

TERMINATOR 4: RECOUNT DAY: Just as Schwarzenegger is about to be sworn in, another governor appears from 30 years in the future. It seems that in 30 years, California has been totally taken over by Santa Monica liberals: religion is forbidden, homosexuality is mandatory and anyone caught speaking English is sent to a re-education camp. The governor from the future has come backward in time to stop Arnold from leading Californians against this liberal tyranny. The showdown begins!

LENO THE BARBARIAN: On a windswept, primitive backdrop, Arnold Schwarzenegger must fight off limitless barbarian hordes of gubernatorial contenders. There's the sinister wizard Davis the Gray, flanked by character assassins. There's the cunning enchantress Arianna, who switches sides when you least expect it. The uncontrollable beasts Bustamante and Ueberroth roam the landscape. Competing for Arnold's attention are dozens of beautiful, scantily clad wenches who will do anything for a part. He must constantly deny to the press that he is fooling around with them, or else Princess Maria will vow vengeance! "I vant to hear the lamentations of your campaign consultants and get the phone numbers of your women," Arnold declares.

TOTAL RECALL: Arnold Schwarzenegger is a simple, mild-mannered bodybuilder, going about his business, when he begins to experience strange dreams that he is an actor. Next he experiences strange dreams that he is a great leader. Which is the dream and which the reality? In a shocker ending, California finds out the hard way.

In NFL news, Jersey/A tight end Jeremy Shockey says he was misquoted by a magazine that asserts he called Dallas coach Bill Parcells a "homo." In an exclusive interview with Tuesday Morning Quarterback, Shockey explained, "What I called him was a 'homo sapiens.'" Saying he did not wish to offend anyone, the Giants' star added, "To make me look bad, the queers at the magazine edited out the 'sapiens' part." Remember, this is a Tuesday Morning Quarterback exclusive.

And in the most important national news, Tuesday Morning Quarterback resumed on for the 2003 season. From now 'til the Super Bowl, this column will appear every - well, if you can't figure it out, we're not going to tell you. Next week TMQ gets down to business with its annual preseason previews. For today, here are the annual Offseason Highlights:

Further Proof of the Decline of Western Civilization: The new College Sports Television cable channel announced it would broadcast the spring practices of college football teams.

There's nothing like that new-helicopter smell.

That Helicopter Won't Fit in the Overhead Rack, You're Going to Have to Check It: The Army used an enormous cellophane-applying machine to shrink-wrap helicopters for shipment to the Persian Gulf. Did pilots have to show a baggage claim check to pick up their aircraft? Please check carefully, many helicopters look alike!

Beginning of the Decline of Eastern Civilization: MTV started broadcasting in China.

Best Movie Title: "Final Destination II." Next up, "End of the World: the Sequel."

Scientists Said They Would Need Millions More in Tax Funding to Determine Whether the Sky Is Blue: Researchers at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, a $365 million government mega-project consisting of two buried four-kilometer-long lasers in Louisiana and Washington state, announced that so far, the device has been unable to detect the existence of gravity.

Jeff Fisher Was Trying to Purchase a Gas Grill at Home Depot When an NFL Lawyer Called to Say That Would Put the Titans Over the Cap: On March 29, 2003, the Tennessee Titans had $1,178 in salary cap space.

Next Budget: Bloomberg Offers Trading in Parking-Ticket Futures: New York City's first budget under new Mayor Michael Bloomberg specified that parking enforcement officers must write 1.7 million more tickets than the previous year - finally, officially, putting ticket writers on quota.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, that city's meter maids and meter muffins have also gone on commission. In early May, the San Francisco Department of Parking and Traffic ordered them to write an extra 40,000 tickets in the next 45 days. California law prohibits ticket quotas, so the 40,000 extra citations were officially a "goal," not a quota.

The vote is in: 40-year-old Demi upsets the younger Cameron in the swimsuit competition!

Waiter, I'll have What Ashton Is Having: The mega-babe of the offseason was Demi Moore, whose cheesecake scenes were the best part of the incomprehensible "Charlie's Angels 2: Full Throttle." See this article in which fashion writer Robin Givhan (her 1998 book "Runway Madness" is a lot of fun) rhapsodizes about Moore's bod and declares the 40-year-old actress the winner of the bikini showdown scene with 30-year-old Cameron Diaz.

The tabs rediscovered Moore, too. "Us Weekly" ran a cheesecake shot with the headline, ASHTON AND DEMI IS GETTING SO HOT - MIDNIGHT ROMPS, SEXY DINNERS OUT. What's a "sexy dinner out," did she go to the restaurant topless?

To Prevent the Scouts from Fainting, They Were Told Not to Watch Any Bengals Games: New coach Marvin Lewis finally hired a scouting department for the Cincinnati Bengals.

One of Tuesday Morning Quarterback's favorite things about the Bengals is that the team posts press-conference transcripts, as if these events were United Nations meetings. Here, asked about the Bengals being the sole NFL team that does not send agents to watch prospective draftees, former head coach Dick LeBeau dryly noted, "We haven't scouted a lot in recent years, but we do look at a lot of video." Here, after the Bengals dropped yet another contest last season, a transcripted exchange between LeBeau and a sportswriter:

Q.: After the game, (quarterback) Jon Kitna said that there's an absence of a winning attitude, and the organization doesn't have a winning attitude. Do you have any reaction?

A.: I wish Jon wouldn't say that.

During the offseason, when linebacker Takeo Spikes rejected a team offer and departed for Buffalo, the Bengals website posted a news release (in the news archives area of the team site, scan for "Lewis' New Deal Doesn't Include Relieved Spikes," March 10, 2003) that described Spikes as "relieved not to be coming back to Cincinnati."

And It's Free, Except Where Charges Apply:TMQ signed up for broadband from Comcast. The service advertised the ability to access email from "anywhere in the world!" Then in fine print added, "Check availability in your area."

Why Is This Item in My Offseason Roundup? To Create a Flimsy Excuse for Page 2 to Re-Use Previously Obtained Cheesecake Photos: During the offseason, Page 2 readers developed a puppy-love crush on softball bombshell Jennie Finch, voting her "hottest female athlete", besting Anna Kournikova.

Rumor has it that Jennie is demanding a trade to a network with higher ratings.
The distinction of male hottest athlete went to Alex Rodriguez, who had the largest contract in a group of 16 nominees. Assuming the voters for the hot-male poll were female, this just confirms once again that to women, a man's sex organ is his wallet.

In the Next Movie, "Harry Potter and the Global Marketing Campaign of Doom," Dan Snyder's Face Will Be the Model for Peter Pettigrew: Russian lawyers threatened to sue Warner Brothers when rumors circulated that the face of Vladimir Putin was used as the model for Dobby the Elf in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." (Headline explanation for non-Potter fans: Pettigrew is a sniveling brat who gets turned into a rat.)

Making It the Second Bubble to Burst in the New York Area in This Century: The practice bubble used by the Giants collapsed during a snowstorm.

Euphemism Watch: NASA declared the disintegration of space shuttle Columbia an "off-nominal event." Supporters of war on Iraq called the action not an invasion but a "forced disarmament." The New York Times ("All the News That Might Be True") called the dozens of fabricated stories it published by Jayson Blair a "breakdown of communications and oversight."

He Dressed As the Third Quarterback, But Can Only Play If All the Other Justices Leave the Court: When Justice Antonin Scalia had shoulder surgery, a Supreme Court spokeswoman said he would be "out for a few days."

For the Psychics Licensing Exam, Wouldn't They Know the Answers in Advance?: The city of Boston set off a furor among fortune-tellers by declaring that to obtain a psychics' license, they must show proof of local residency. And the psychics didn't see this coming? The Washington Post said an assault on the ordinance was being run by "Boston attorney Alfred Farese, who represents 45 psychics." Obviously they have not foreseen his bill.

Putin? We thought Dobby looks more like Steve Spurrier.

In a related development, Sydney Omarr, the world's leading astrology columnist, died of complications from a heart attack. Apparently Omarr didn't see that one coming.

Isn't This Like a Woman Saying You Can Pay for Her Dinner But Not Take Her Out?: Starbucks issued a card that allows customers to pay for coffee before entering the store.

Ads for Snyder's Football Team Actually Show the Packers, Digitally Altered: Bermuda's Board of Tourism ran ads displaying beautiful, inviting beaches - but the photos actually showed Hawaii. The ads were created by a subsidiary of Havas, the international public-relations firm that made Dan Snyder rich by purchasing his advertising company.

Dressing Like a Homeless Person Has Always Been in Fashion Around the ESPN Office: Dressing like a homeless person became a fad in Hong Kong. "The homeless make creative clothing choices, like putting interesting tops with different wraps," a Hong Kong fashion designer told CNN.

Nicole Kidman could manage the Yankees with a nose like that.

The Reason Virginia Woolf Killed Herself Is That She Found Out She Would One Day Be Played by Nicole Kidman: Newsweek described the movie "The Hours" as a "celebration of life as it is meant to be lived." The movie is about people committing suicide.

Statistically, This Should Happen Again in Just 10,000 Days: Actual winning number in the Washington, DC, March 14 pick-four lottery: 7777.

Nice Little Cable Channel You've Got. Too Bad If Anything Should Happen to It: "Sopranos" actor James Gandolfini sued HBO, expressing outrage that the network proposed to pay him a mere $11 million for the 13 weeks of work required to film the next season. Note to scriptwriters: Bump Tony off.

This Bird Won't Take No for An Answer. Plus He's a Closer, He Never Lets a Deal Walk: Atlanta unveiled a new logo featuring an "aggressive" falcon.

You Can Have Any Facemask You Want, So Long As It's Black: Detroit unveiled a helmet with black facemask, team officials saying the facemasks look "menacing."

Two Regimes Diverged in a Yellow Wood…: Pandeli Majko, the Defense Minister of Albania - a mainly Muslim country that announced "unreserved support" for the U.S. attack on Iraq - wrote a poem ridiculing Saddam Hussein. It began,

Oh Saddam, you bum.

Where will you go?

In place of gratuitous cheesecake photo depicting stripping aerobic dancers, we instead give you this.

Seriously, ESPN, There's a Legitimate Reason for These Expense- Account Receipts from Topless Dance Clubs. I Needed to Research How the Pros Remove Their Clothes. Plus, Tricia Wouldn't Let Me Into Her Cardio Strip Tease Class: Fitness clubs in New York, Los Angeles and other trendy places began offering Cardio Strip Tease workouts for women; participants use stripper moves and tear off clothes as they exercise. Tricia Murphy, owner of Urban Fitness in Seattle, told Julia Sommerfield of the Seattle Times she started a Cardio Strip Tease class because "We've all had our boyfriends beg us to put on a show for them… this teaches women how to be stripper-hot." Murphy said she choreographed the class after visiting topless dance establishments to research how "the pros" remove their clothes.

At Least It Wasn't Alcatel Using Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" Speech to Promote Cell-Phone Calling Plans: In a deeply grating television commercial designed for the NCAA men's basketball tournament, Allstate used the "no man is an island" writings of John Donne, 16th century theologian, to promote auto insurance. For good measure, Allstate got the meaning of Donne's work wrong. The commercial implied that Donne believed rich, privileged people should make friends with other rich, privileged people. What the "no man is an island" poem actually means is that Christians have an obligation to give to the poor and to come to the aid of strangers.

Note: Alcatel, sponsor of those tasteless Martin Luther King Jr. ads, is a French company. Alcatel executives probably chortled over their decision to make a mockery of an American national hero; imagine the French reaction if McDonald's hawked cheeseburgers using a digitally altered image of DeGaulle leading the Resistance! Just keep repeating to yourself, "France, once great, is now a nation of pastry chefs."

Never Meant It: Seven-Up - which for 20 years has advertised itself as caffeine-free, declaring "never had it, never will" - introduced a caffeinated version.

Are You Saying Testosterone Is Leaking Through My Skin?: Old Spice High Endurance Body Wash advertises, "Won't Wash Away Testosterone!"

TMQ Was Born Too Soon: Arvada High School, outside Denver, sent 40 girls home for wearing extremely skimpy outfits. Female apparel should not be "distracting," principal Robert Lopez declared. The school's dress code bars display of "midriff, cleavage, back or buttocks" and specifies that "the majority of your back must be covered."

Never Meant It No. 2:Ford announced it would not honor its much- ballyhooed corporate pledge to raise SUV fuel efficiency. Note to potential Ford buyers: Now the warranty says, "Good for three years or 36,000 miles, unless we renege."

Hi, This Is AT&T Telemarketing. We're Calling at 2 A.M. Because We Thought We Might Catch You at Home: AT&T won a multimillion dollar government contract to run the "do not call" anti-telemarketing system - though AT&T's telemarketing division is No. 1 for most federal complaints about telemarketing intrusions.

Arnold Also Lost $68,534 On Global Crossing Stock, But That Hasn't Stopped Him from Using the Phone: Arnold Schwarzenegger appears on the cover of this week's Time. He seems to have forgiven AOL Time Warner, on whose stock he lost $16,122 in 2000 .

Carty Immediately Took a Front-Office Job with the Bengals : Donald Carty was fired as CEO of American Airlines after he approved roughly $50 million in undisclosed payments to executives at the same time as he was negotiating $1.6 billion in emergency labor concessions to keep the airline out of bankruptcy.

Some of the millions were "retention bonuses," which in theory are justified as needed to keep executives from leaving a company to accept other lucrative offers. Other lucrative offers in the airline industry? United and USAir are bankrupt, America West is charging for on-board meals, the industry is barely aloft financially - what, exactly, lucrative offers might American Airlines executives be jumping to? Carty and his cronies simply wanted to make sure they reached into the till before the company collapsed. Perhaps the bonuses were in small, unmarked bills.

* * * * *

We're Bilking Our Clients One At A Time: Several large Wall Street brokerage houses agreed to pay $1.4 billion to settle a Securities and Exchange Commission complaint that they had deceived investors about stock ratings. Every piece of paper you sign with a stock broker includes a warning about assumption of risk; now it turns out the risk they were warning about is that Wall Street brokers are actively trying to defraud you.

But they've turned over a new leaf and are telling the truth now, right? Shortly after signing the SEC agreement, Morgan Stanley CEO Philip Purcell declared that his company had done "not one thing" the typical investor should be worried about. Morgan Stanley had just admitted to the SEC that it in order to obtain investment banking business, it promised favorable research reports about firms regardless of the firms' financial prospects. What is the purpose of such reports? To defraud investors. Presumably, Morgan Stanley brokers are trained to cover the warning statements with their hands as they say, "Just sign here, grandma." See the firm's web site for item headline explanation.

At Least We're Realizing Our Financial Goals: Merrill Lynch paid a $100 million fine to New York State over allegations that former tech-stock shill Henry Blodget defrauded clients into buying stocks he knew were stinkers; Merrill Lynch also agreed to participate in the $1.4 billion settlement with the SEC. Blodget was permanently barred from the securities industry by the National Association of Securities Dealers. So Merrill Lynch has learned its lesson and turned over a new leaf, right? For 2002, a year in which the name Merrill Lynch became synonymous with stock fraud, Merrill Lynch CEO E. Stanley O'Neal paid himself $14.3 million.

Check this now-hilarious 2000 article from, which ranked Blodget the top analyst for tech stocks: "Henry has a realistic assessment of growth rates in emerging tech companies." See the Merrill Lynch web site for item headline explanation. Check Merrill Lynch's incredibly phony Guidelines for Business Contact, which as far as TMQ can see authorizes analysts to rob customers blind, but sternly cautions, "All Merrill Lynch persons are required to notify and receive the approval of the Office of General Counsel before committing to a candidacy for elective office."

Married couples aren't having enough sex? That's only because Winona is still single.

A Couple Years Ago the Newsmags Said the Big Trend Was Not Enough Sleep. So If People Have Stopped Having Sex, They Should Be Getting More Sleep: Newsweek declared in a cover story by Kathleen Deveny that Americans with children have lost interest in having sex. The mag's hard-hitting evidence? "Judging from the conversation of the young moms at the next table at Starbucks, it sounds like we're in the midst of a long dry spell." Later the article allowed that it is "difficult to say" how many married Americans "are too exhausted or too grumpy to get it on," but that psychologists estimate "15 to 20 percent" of married couples don't have sex.

Wait a minute: that statistic means 80 to 85 percent of married Americans are indeed getting busy. Considering senior citizens -- a huge cohort of the married are above Medicare age -- TMQ would have guessed that the non-lovemaking fraction of the couples population would be significantly higher than 15 to 20 percent. The very figure Newsweek uses to buttress a claim of a national anti-sex outbreak sounds, to TMQ, like an indication of a healthy pace of married-couple nooky.

Then Newsweek has to squirm out of statistics suggesting that married people as a group actually have more sex than singles. (SINGLES: NOT SCORING ENOUGH! apparently is the newsmag cover waiting to be written.) Indeed, TMQ commends to readers the book "The Case for Marriage," by the University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite, which asserts in part that the married as a group have sex more often, and report higher satisfaction during sex, than swinging singles. So how did Newsweek squirm out of that complication? The mag opined, "People aren't very candid about how often they have sex."

Wait -- how could Newsweek possibly know that people aren't being candid to Newsweek? Are we to believe that if married people say they're not having enough sex they must be telling the truth (thus supporting the Newsweek story) but if they say they are satisfied with their sex lives they must be lying (thus not contradicting Newsweek)? This requires the author to find people's testimony persuasive when it supports her theory and phony when it does not: Get this woman a job in the White House! Though it sure sounds like the staff of Newsweek needs to have more frequent sex. Maybe Newsweek should light some scented candles around the office. For a thoughtful view of the same subject, see this Atlantic Monthly article by Caitlan Flanagan, which preceded the Newsweek account by months.

There's Something Cheesy About Those Mouldings. But in Green Bay, There's Something Cheesy About Everything: Brett Favre offered his house for sale through eBay. The offer read in part,
Absolutely exquisite all brick 2 story walkout on private cul-de-sac lot. This wooded setting offers 2.77 acres of beauty and serenty with extensive decking and landscaping. Interior amenities include 5 bdrms, 5 full baths, 2 half baths, a formal living and dining room, master suite with Jacuzzi, private guest suite, office, sunroom and a full racquetball court. The walkout lower level is finished with a bar and recreational room. Attention to detail throughout includes hardwood floors, leaded French doors, crown mouldings, 3 woodburning fireplaces, vaulted and beamed ceilings and plantation shuttered windows.

Yes, Favre's ad said "serenty" and "mouldings." Haven't you always dreamed of achieving serenty in a wooded setting? Favre also allowed the street address to be published on eBay. Presumably in a town as small as Green Bay, everybody already knows where he lives.

Further Proof of the Decline of Western Civilization: conducted a fantasy mock draft.

Somebody's Head Was Swimming All Right: A critic for the New York Times swooned that "movies as we knew them changed" because of "The Matrix" and declared that its "inspirations" could "make your head swim." Matrix inspirations included, supposedly, "video games, Hong Kong sword-fighting ghost epics, Japanese anime, William Gibson cyberpunk, Philip K. Dick dystopian science fiction, druggy Alice-in-Wonderland surrealism, the bio-mechanical designs of the artists H. R. Giger and Geoff Barlow, David Cronenberg's visions of cybernetically enhanced flesh and Terminator-like battles of man vs. runaway machine (with a nod to the writer Harlan Ellison and the father of robotics, Hans Moravec), the ancient philosophy of Gnosticism, which in this case overlaps with Jean Baudrillard's postmodern book Simulacra and Simulation (which makes a cameo in "The Matrix"), messianic Christianity and even Zen Buddhism. (Also) a philosophy essential to many Eastern martial arts, that the material world is secondary."

The review further declared, "A science-fiction screenwriter I know said he'd been stewing over his own simulated-universe project for years when "The Matrix" came out. 'What I didn't think of,' he said sadly, 'was the martial-arts angle.' And that's the crux of it." So - Gnosticism, Jean Baudrillard and H.R. Giger, but what was missing was fist fights! Talk about a great breakthrough by The Matrix's producers. Coming soon to a theater near you: Catharism, Andre Malraux and Lo Spagna, plus naked women!

A mere one week after penning the above love poem to the "Matrix" series, the same critic wrote on Slate that Matrix Revisited was "messy and flat-footed ... ugly, bloated, repetitive ... the disposable feel of a video game ... fake." The same critic complained that "Matrix Reloaded" was bad because it's a bunch of pretentious mumbo-jumbo tied together with obviously staged kung-fu fights: exactly what the same critic had praised as inspirational just one week before.

Heinz Assumes That Scooby Has a Higher IQ Than the Company's Customer Base: Heinz unveiled Scooby-brand dog snacks. Boxes are adorned by pictures of the dog, and stamped with the trademarks of Heinz, Cartoon Network and the WB. The treats are shaped like Scooby movie characters. Packages offer a Scooby scavenger hunt puzzle game. But -- do dogs shop? Is a dog wandering through the supermarket aisles supposed to spot the box and say, "Ro! Rook at rat! Rate! Rets ruy rum!"

Thousands of Fans in Attendance Were, Actually, Glad: Barry Sanders skipped his own induction into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.

A book only Jayson Blair would know how to write.

Jayson Blair Read This Book at a Young Age: Penguin reissued the 3-million-copy bestseller "Coffee, Tea or Me?" from 1967. This book was supposedly the shocking true-fact revelations of two sex-crazed flight attendants (in the days they were called stewardesses), living out their insatiable desires for airborne quickies with middle-aged total strangers.

In reissuing the book, the publisher admitted this account was actually a fabrication written by one Donald Bain. Bain was, as well, actual author of the "Murder She Wrote" series, books marketed as "by" the nonexistent Jessica Fletcher. See the oeuvre of Bain's ghostwriting at his own website.

"Coffee, Tea or Me?" was supposedly by "Trudy Baker" and "Rachel Jones," two hot babes who appeared on television shows to talk breezily -- by the standards of the time -- about their insatiable cravings for quickie sex during flight. Turns out Donald Bain wrote the book from whole cloth, while "Baker" and "Jones" were actresses hired to impersonate sex-crazed stews at promotional events. Nobody questioned who they really were, perhaps because middle-aged male interviewers did not want to spoil their chance to talk sex with a couple of young tomatoes -- or spoil the illusion that hot babes lust for sex with middle-aged men.

Of course, in 1967, an airline flight was considered romantic. Try to imagine anything sexy on a commercial airplane today! The seats are so close together you can't even move your elbows, let alone engage in any form of nooky. The flight attendants are scowling, ill-tempered wage slaves whose keenest desire is never to see another middle-aged man again.

Arnold Schwarzenegger Said He Dreams of "An America That Shoots Everybody": Speaking at a black-tie dinner of the Human Rights Campaign, the mainstream gay and lesbian advocacy group, Democratic presidential contender John Edwards declared that he wants "an America that embraces everybody." Wait, didn't Bill Clinton already personally try that?

First Tip: At a Lesbian Wedding Don't Ask, "Who's the Best Man?": Bride magazine became the first of the major bridal periodicals to run an article on etiquette for same-sex weddings. No doubt Bride hopes to lock up the lucrative Canadian gay marriage market!

Can't wait for the next issue of Bride? Check out the Dear Abby of the nontraditional lifestyle -- the Human Rights Campaign page of advice for gays and lesbians on home-life issues, handling breakups, etc. Here, a discourse on whether two women getting married should wear the ring on the fourth finger of the left hand.

"All the News That Might Be True": Months before Jayson Blair, now-disgraced New York Times editor Howell Raines showed his canny acumen by running an obituary of scum mobster John Gotti that, at 3,086 words, was 50 percent longer than the obit the Times once ran for one of the great human beings of the 20th century, Jonas Salk.

And exactly why was Gotti the "Teflon don," when he spent 10 years of his worthless existence in prison, then died young at 61? That sounds to TMQ like a crummy life, though by all accounts his cufflinks were quite nice. TMQ's favorite line from the Times obit: "Mr. Gotti is survived by his wife, the former Victoria DiGiorgio, his son John A., and his brothers, Gene, who is serving a 50-year sentence for heroin trafficking, and Peter." In death, the convicted murderer became "Mr. Gotti."

Arthur Andersen Approved the Accounting : "Matrix Reloaded" claimed to be the all-time top-grossing first-day film by selling $42.5 million worth of tickets on its opening day. The "first-day" record included millions in box-office receipts from 2,700 theaters that actually began showing the movie the night before.

At Least Something in the Economy Is Still Booming: Americans lost $68 billion gambling in 2002 -- a $239 loss per capita and about twice as much, in inflation-adjusted terms, as Americans lost on average a decade ago. This was reported by Christiansen Capital Advisors, which "provides unparalleled professional gambling and entertainment industry analysis and management services."

The only consultant's insight TMQ would like about the gambling world is how to meet Las Vegas showgirls of easy virtue. But think about that $239 annual loss per capita. It's not William Bennett gambling away his latest virtue-book advance, or Michael Jordan dropping a month's shoe royalties -- that's average working people blowing part of their Friday paycheck on various rigged rackets.

Increasingly, the lottos are run by states, and studies show that state-run gaming pays back far less to gamblers than Vegas gaming or even local numbers runners. It is now state governments -- through OTB in New York, Powerball in Illinois and dozens of others -- that take advantage of the dreams of the poor to bilk them $5 or $10 at a time.

Next Year, the Basketball Draft Will Be a Reality Show in Which Slinky Women in Evening Gowns Compete to Pick High-School Sophomores: ABC broadcast the NBA draft lottery in national prime time, implicitly saying that the basketball draft is more important than the NFL draft. ESPN: you gonna let that pass?

The Game Was Decided by a Last-Second Free Throw: Highest scoring Arena League football game: Arizona Rattlers 82, Grand Rapids Rampage 81. This contest saw 22 touchdowns and five missed extra-point attempts, featured 72 passes and 12 rushes. TMQ's favorite scoring play: a 10-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

ESPN Offers TMQ $4.5 Million; TMQ Cries, "It's An Insult!": Each NFL offseason there is an entertaining "it's an insult!" moment in which a player angrily rejects a contract offer from his employer, then ends up signing for less.

A prominent "it's an insult!" involves receiver Oronde Gadsen. Last fall the Dolphins offered him a $750,000 bonus to autograph a contract extension; not bad for a 32-year-old, run-of-the-mill player who at the time was recovering from a severe injury. Gadsen cried "it's an insult!" and bad-mouthed the Marine Mammals in the papers, the negative vibes thus created one reason Miami's promising season went downhill.

Later, Gadsen ended up re-signing with the Dolphins for the league minimum, and zero bonus. (Note: the Gadsen situation went negative almost immediately after Miami made its disastrous midseason signing of the me-first Cris Carter, who brought bad karma into the previously team-spirited organization. The football gods chortled.)

This year's "it's an insult!" winner is defensive end Brad Scioli of Colts. In February, Indianapolis offered him a $4.5 million bonus; Scioli cried, "it's an insult!" A month later, having received no better offers, Scioli resigned with Indianapolis for a bonus of about $2.5 million.

Enjoy 'Em, Studs: Author Studs Terkel declared that at age 91, "I still have two martinis and smoke two cigars every day." TMQ hopes he can still do that at the age of 91. TMQ hopes he can still do that next year!

Worst Movie of the New Century: "Gigli," without peer. But it's stupid-bad as opposed to funny-bad, meaning it won't become a cult classic of low quality - the sort of movie you play at parties for laughs, like "Showgirls." So unrelentingly bad is "Gigli" that even a scantily attired Jennifer Lopez doesn't help. One critic wrote, "Unfathomable as it sounds, I got tired of looking at her."

Maybe there will be some badness-highlight-reel value to Lopez's loopy monologue about how she loves performing certain unnatural "acts" on other women. Yet "Gigli" is sufficiently awful it even manages to make the fantasy image of J-Lo going at it with another babe seem uninteresting.

Hidden psychological motive in Lopez playing a gay character: when she ends up in bed with Ben Affleck, this is supposed to tell the world that her beau has such astonishing animal magnetism, not even a lesbian could resist him. The whole cinematic disaster, TMQ feels, was set in motion to boost Affleck's ego.

Haga Una Pausa Por Favor: In California, voters became furious at Governor Gray Davis for budgetary -- [Note to Bristol: TMQ is experiencing technical difficulties. Please ask the staff at ESPN Deportes to complete this item.]

Plus, She Never Suspects That the Cyborg Plans to Run for Governor: The Warner Brothers press kit for "Terminator 3" described the role played by Claire Danes, the movie's love interest, as that of "unsuspecting veterinarian Kate Brewster." What? She doesn't suspect that invincible robots from the future are after her boyfriend?

Enron Economics Comes to Sports: The highlight of NBA trading season was competition to obtain the services of Terrell Brandon, an injured guard who will never play again. Atlanta gave up a star, Glenn Robinson, to get Brandon, fending off other clubs that were suitors. Why did teams lust after a player with career-ending injury? Because Brandon represents $11 million in salary cap space. That's how much he makes annually, and that amount will now vanish from Atlanta's cap in January 2004 when his retirement takes effect. Teams wanted Brandon because they could get rid of him -- unlike the majority of guaranteed-contract NBA players.

In another Enron-like swap, Sacramento traded Keon Clark and two second-round draft choices to Utah for one second-round choice. Got that? Utah nets a player and a draft pick in exchange for surrendering absolutely nothing. The motive for the trade is that Sacramento has salary-cap problems, and Clark gets $5 million per annum guaranteed. Now the Jazz are stuck with the bill, while the Kings gladly paid compensation to be unstuck.

Worst Offseason Idea: The Trio cable channel is producing "Good Clean Porn," excerpts from famous porn movies in which the hot stuff is spliced out, leaving only the dramatic tension and dialogue. Here is Trio's description of the shows:

The subtlety of acting in adult films is explored in three half-hour specials featuring the unforgettable dramatic scenes from such perennial favorites as DEBBIE DOES DALLAS and I DREAM OF JENNA. With the distracting action sequences edited out, these programs allow the viewer to focus on those moments which best illustrate the skills of the writers, directors and most importantly, the performers who set the plot in motion.

Subtlety of acting in adult films? Skills of the writers? Most porn dialogue boils down to:

LUCIOUS-LOOKING WOMAN: Hi, my name is Jill.

THREE OTHER LUCIOUS-LOOKING WOMEN: Want to have sex on the kitchen countertop?

JILL: Sure!

Perhaps the "Good Clean Porn" is project some kind of postmodern joke intended to amuse college students and bar patrons. But watching porn with "the distracting action sequences edited out" makes about as much sense as reading the Bush Administration 9-11 report with the distracting references to Saudi Arabia deleted.

The New ESPN Draft Dartboard Feature Will Pit NFL General Managers Against Darts to Select Players: The Wall Street Journal ended one of the TMQ's favorite things about that storied newspaper -- its Dartboard feature. The Dartboard pitted highly paid Wall Street investment bankers against darts thrown at a board, to see which did better picking stocks. Over 14 years and 142 contests, the highly paid professionals won 61 percent of the time, which is the same as saying the darts won 39 percent of the time.

TMQ imagines Wall Street types were relieved to see the Dartboard feature end. Possibly they took up a collection and paid the Wall Street Journal to stop running it.

The Media's Finest Hour: An estimated 500 journalists, backed by 30 large satellite-uplink vans, covered the seven-minute Kobe Bryant pre-trial hearing in Eagle, Colo.

The Government's Finest Hour: Why were tens of thousands of dollars in Colorado taxpayer funds wasted on Bryant's meaningless seven-minute appearance, during which he was simply read the charge that not only he but everyone in the entire world already knew? There was no need whatsoever for this staged event, other than to provide media footage and air time for the prosecutor.

Set aside dragging a defendant -- defendants are presumed innocent -- halfway across the country for a seven-minute staged media event. Finding himself in the national spotlight, prosecutor Mark Hurlbert appears planning to milk his air time for all it's worth. After the meaningless event covered by 500 reporters backed by 30 television trucks, Hurlbert told a news conference the Bryant legal proceedings would take a long time because "sexual assault cases are extremely complex."

No they're not. One of the problems of proving rape is that there is often relatively little evidence - two people's words, sometimes bruises, sometimes statements made to others, that's about it. Witnesses are rare; rape shield laws have eliminated most detours into the accuser's past; sexual evidence shouldn't be a factor in this instance since Bryant has already acknowledged there was intercourse. Cases with little evidence, few witnesses and no controversial new interpretations of law aren't "extremely complex" and need not be drawn out. But drawn-out proceedings may be what Hurlbert has in mind, to maximize his national media exposure.

We know what you're thinking: Next time, please give us the photo of the female streaker.

If a local prosecutor wants to stage courtroom theater to order to give cable-news channels something to cover and for his own career advancement, then the national media -- and the prosecutor's book publisher and movie agent -- should foot the tab, not the Colorado taxpayer.

As If Anyone Was Looking at Her Back!: The Golden Palace online casino promo-ed itself at the U.S. Open by hiring a babe to walk around topless with written on her back. This cheap, cynical publicity gimmick worked since, after all, here we are mentioning the Golden Palace site. Though not linking to it -- TMQ is pro-topless but anti-gambling.

The casino also has been hiring a hunk to streak naked across the field at soccer matches, with the same message written on his back. In the war of the bods, this represents a rare instance where the man is expected to show more than the woman.

When, oh when, will ESPN corporate hire a mega-babe to flash the crowd at an NFL game with "READ TMQ" written on her back? Or just to flash me at my office?

Next Week: The Tuesday Morning Quarterback AFC preview.

Posted by tien mao in Sports at 7:50 PM



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