September 17, 2002

Florida foibles and football fumbles

POST #    526

Florida foibles and football fumbles
By Gregg Easterbrook
Special to Page 2

The football world was thrown into turmoil late Sunday night when the NFL announced that it was unable to determine who had won any of the three weekend games involving Florida franchises.

"The final scores of the Miami-Indianapolis, Jacksonville-Kansas City and Tampa-Baltimore games are just too close to call," commissioner Paul Tagliabue told a packed news conference. "There will have to be a recount."

Miami was initially announced as the winner over Indianapolis by a count of 21-13, but officials now believe the final score was so close to a 21-21 tie it is impossible to know who won. "Indianapolis was on the Miami 5 when the game ended," an informed source said. "They might have scored, might have converted the two and might have won in overtime. The Colts are demanding a recount."

Jacksonville appeared to beat Kansas City 23-16, but Chiefs officials have protested that a confusing "butterfly" scorer's sheet may have denied them points. Tampa appeared to blank Baltimore 25-0, but complex new touch-screen devices installed in the press box malfunctioned repeatedly and might have credited field goals to the wrong club.

"It's so embarrassing that we installed all this new equipment and still don't know who really won the games," a league source said. The NFL had previously been embarrassed in 2000, when the Ravens won the Super Bowl despite failing to score an offensive touchdown in five straight games, and many teams demanded a recount.

Fans also confused officials by hurling handfuls of chads down onto the field during Florida-team games, making it hard to see who was scoring. League officials said they would retain unemployed attorney Janet Reno to conduct a thorough -- OK, we've gone far enough with that joke.

Ricky Williams
Speakng of recounts, Ricky Williams would like one for the contract that Master P's agency had him sign as a rookie.
In other NFL news, it took Drew Bledsoe exactly two games to have the best passing day in 43 years of Buffalo Bills history. Bledsoe threw for 463 yards, three touchdowns and no picks against Minnesota, a bigger single-game yardage total than any compiled by Bills Hall of Famer Jim Kelly or Pro Bowl QBs Jack Kemp, Joe Ferguson and Doug Flutie. From the start of the fourth period through his winning toss in overtime, Bledsoe was 19 of 24 for 266 yards and two touchdowns. At one point in the fourth quarter, Bledsoe's lip was cut; he went the sideline and had the cut stapled together without anesthesia, immediately returning to the game. Remember, this is a gentleman whom most of the league's general managers did not want when he was placed on the trading block last winter, questioning his arm strength and spirit.

Best dive into the Briar Patch: After Raiders coach Bill Callahan spent the week saying he would not repeat the Patriots' pass-wacky strategy against the Steelers, Oakland threw on 30 of its first 32 snaps and 64 times overall -- an incredible number of pass attempts considering this wasn't some wild comeback game but one in which the Raiders led from the first quarter on. Pittsburgh seemed to believe there was no way the Raiders would repeat the Patriots pass-pass-pass strategy, and opened with an eight-man front designed to stop the run. Pittsburgh stayed in an anti-run front for most of the second half even after Oakland threw 41 times in the first half.

Worst performance by an eight-man front: Trailing by three, the Steelers had Oakland facing third-and-15 on its own 5 midway through the second quarter; a stop would have meant good field position after the punt. Inexplicably, Pittsburgh brought its defense up into the box as if expecting a run; Raider Terry Kirby took a junky-looking shovel pass 24 yards for the first. Oakland went on to score a touchdown on the drive, and suddenly the Steelers were in a hole.

Best sincerest form of flattery: Game scoreless, Tennessee had third-and-goal at the Dallas 1. The Flaming Thumbtacks faked a pitch left, then rolled right; TE Frank Wycheck "brush blocked," pretending to have blown a running block, then turned for the easy touchdown catch. On the ensuing possession -- one of the fun things about sportswriting is using the word "ensuing" -- Quincy Carter of Dallas rolled right, while TE Tony McGee brush blocked, pretended to have blown a running block then turned out into the flat for an easy touchdown catch.

Drew Bledsoe, Charles Johnson
Drew Bledsoe, celebrating the Bills' victory over the Vikes with Charles Johnson, is proving a lot of people wrong.
Best block: Everyone raved about Saints center Jerry Fontenot's pull block on the 34-yard touchdown pass to Donte Stallworth that put New Orleans ahead 21-3 and Green Bay into a panic, but the best thing about the block was the tiptoe act Fontenot did just before it. The play was a hitch screen; Fontenot was supposed to pull and lead. Running sideways, he briefly went over the line of scrimmage -- then tiptoed backward before drawing the flag for being downfield on a pass attempt.

Best team spirit: In the Buffalo-Minnesota game, the Vikings were doubling on Bills star receiver Eric Moulds. According to the Buffalo News, Moulds went to Bills coaches, declared "Forget about me" and offered to run decoy routes for fellow WRs Peerless Price and Josh Reed, who responded with 21 receptions for 295 yards and three touchdowns. Can anyone imagine the star receiver on the other side of the field, Randy Moss, going to his coaches and offering to run decoy routes?

He was pumped! In the fourth quarter, Bledsoe threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to the above-cited Price on a Z-in pattern -- Bledsoe pumped out, faking the defender, and Price went in. To finish the contest in overtime, Price ran a hook-and-up; Bledsoe pumped the hook, the defender bit, and Price was on his way to a 48-yard six.

Best audible: Setting up in a four-wide on third-and-goal at the Falcons' 3-yard line, Bears QB Jim Miller noticed Atlanta had no middle linebacker on the field -- all its gentlemen were spread out anticipating pass. Miller audibled for a run straight up the middle, where five OLs would be blocking four DLs. Anthony Thomas danced into the end zone.

Best with who-dats: Two years ago, Jersey/A offensive line coach Jim McNally molded a group of who-dats and cast-offs into the key component of the Giants' Super Bowl run. This year, McNally has a new group of no-names -- three of them undrafted -- and against St. Louis, they outplayed the Mouflons' highly drafted, highly paid line.

Michael Vick
It might be a long year for Michael Vick in Dan Reeves' conservative offense.
Worst complacency about long kicks No. 1: Trailing by a point, the Falcons moved smartly down the field on Michael Vick runs and passes in the waning minutes against the Bears, reaching second-and-one at the Chicago 28 with 1:32 remaining. The 28 is field-goal range, but hardly a sure shot. Nevertheless lethargic Atlanta coach Dan Reeves decided his team had gone far enough. He called a sluggish dive into the line to grind some clock, then on third down had Vick dive to the center to position the ball for what Reeves inexplicably assumed would be an automatic winning kick. The 45-yard figgie attempt doinked.

Worst complacency about long kicks No. 2: Reaching the Minnesota 27 in overtime, tastefully named Bills coach Gregg Williams sent in the field goal unit on third down. The 44-yard figgie attempt doinked. But don't feel bad for Buffalo kicker Mike Hollis, whose 54-yard off-the-crossbar three on the final play of regulation was one of the beauty pressure kicks of all time.

Worst performance by an eight-man front No. 2: Trailing by 10 with six minutes to go, the Niners had to stop Denver's third-and-four. Expecting run, they crowded eight gentlemen into the box. Mike Anderson plowed through for a 20-yard gain, game effectively over.

Worst failure to read TMQ: Last week, Tuesday Morning Quarterback explained how, if you're going to play-fake at the goal line, do it on first down, when the defense is thinking run, not on second down after they've stuffed a run and are thinking pass. Leading 17-14 in the third at St. Louis, Jersey/A had first and goal, ran, was stuffed, then play-faked unsuccessfully on second against a defense that was thinking pass. The drive ended in a field goal.

Contrapositive proves the rule: Trailing 7-3 in the third, the Broncos had first and goal on the Niners 2. They play-faked on first down when the defense was thinking run, easy TD pass to Mike Anderson.

Worst failure to watch your own game film: Last week in their opener against the Niners, the Giants blew the game's pivotal play, a fourth-and-inches, when they came to the line facing an overstack and did not audible to a pass. They ran and were stuffed. Sunday against the Rams, leading by three late in the fourth, Jersey/A faced third-and-one on the St. Louis 12. The Giants came to the line, saw a Mouflons overstack and did not audible; rather, ran and were stuffed.

Worst zebra moment No. 1: On the snap after the above-cited play, Giants QB Kerry Collins obviously fumbled and the Rams recovered, but a zebra blew the infamous inadvertent whistle, allowing Jersey/A to keep the rock and take a field goal. To top it off, as the Giants lined up for the non-fumble down, RB Tiki Barber split wide left and was covered by no one -- it would have been history's easiest six. But Collins never looked Barber's way.

Worst zebra moment No. 2: Late in the second quarter at San Diego, David Carr of Houston was sacked in his end zone and lunged forward; zebras ruled the ball on the Texans 1, and replay upheld. Carr's knee was obviously down in the end zone before his lunge, it was a safety all the way. The rule for getting out of the end zone is the same for getting in -- it's where the ball is when your knee hits the ground, not where the ball ends up after you extend. Refs constantly mangle this call, but if they would imagine that a player trying to avoid a safety by lunging out of the end zone were a running trying to score by lunging in, then the call becomes easy.

Doug Brien
Doug Brien looks for a place to hide Sunday. Soon he'll be looking for a job.
Worst PAT attempts by someone who is not the league's all-time leading scorer: In a game Minnesota lost in overtime, Vikes kicker Doug Brien honked two PAT attempts in the second half; either would have given his team the win in regulation. During the offseason the Vikings cut kicker Gary Anderson, the NFL's all-time leading scorer, a move that TMQ pointed out, in his preseason preview of Minnesota, was "not exactly a good omen."

Best play by skinny Canadian: Pro Bowl return man Jermaine Lewis had nothing but grass and Canadian kicker Steve Christie ahead of time against the Bolts; the skinny gentleman calmly made the play. Cold, cold blood runs in the veins of those born in Oakville, Ontario, eh?

Unwelcome self-knowledge of the week: Trailing 21-3 in the third, the Horsies had first-and-goal at the Marine Mammals 1. Tony Dungy ordered Edgerrin James straight up the middle as many times as needed. When a coach orders "damn the torpedoes" in this situation, he is challenging his team to show what it's made of. Unfortunately, Dungy found out what the Horsies are made of -- James was stuffed four straight times, turnover on downs. Indianapolis went on to lose by a touchdown.

Worst self-destruct: Losing to plucky Jersey/A at home, the defending NFC champion Mouflons turned the ball over twice on consecutive snaps in the closing minutes.

First St. Louis faced fourth-and-inches at its 40, trailing by five with three minutes left. The Mouflons called "load left," Emmitt Smith's favorite play, and one that consistently works on first-and-10 or second-and-five, but consistently fails on fourth-and-short. St. Louis put a TE and a wingback blocker on the left, then Marshall Faulk ran left behind them; he was hit in the backfield by numerous G-Men long before getting to the line, then fumbled. Load left doesn't work on fourth-and-short -- it was the play that famously failed for Dallas on two consecutive tries on fourth-and-inches against the Eagles during the 1995 season -- because it packs so many 300-pound-plus gentlemen into such a small area, there's no place for the runner to go.

The St. Louis defense held, getting Kurt Warner the ball back at his 20 with two minutes remaining. On first down, unpressured Warner threw the ball directly into the hands of Will Peterson of the Giants, ending the game.

Stats of the week: The Steelers and Rams, picked by most touts as the year's favorites, both lost their first two and stretching back to last season are on a combined 0-6 run.

Stat No. 2: Peyton Manning is now 2-8 lifetime against the Marine Mammals. On Sunday his Colts ran up 432 yards of offense and 29 first downs, but scored just 13 points.

Stat No. 3: Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston and Jersey/B were outscored by a combined 144-24. Baltimore and Jersey/B were outscored by a combined 69-7 at home.

Stat No. 4: Joe Nedney of the Titans has now nailed 28 straight attempts from inside the 40. TMQ mentions this only to have an excuse to propose that the ultimate kicker's name would be "Olindo Nedney."

Stat No. 5: The Tampa defense (16 points) outscored the Tampa offense (nine points), while Baltimore has had only one scoring play in its first two games.

Kurt Warner
Kurt Warner hasn't won this season, but he should be the NFL's No. 1-rated QB of all time by late next Monday.
Stat No. 6: Owner-Menace to Western Civilization Dan Snyder of the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons is not only on his fourth head coach, fourth general manager, fourth defensive coordinator and fourth starting quarterback in the four years since his hostile takeover of the team -- Monday night the Persons trotted out James Tuthill, their sixth placekicker in four years under Snyder. The Owner-Menace to Western Civilization ordered several kickers cut the day after they missed field goals. Bet that creates a warm feeling of security for Tuthill.

Stat No. 7: Assuming Kurt Warner attempts 17 passes next Monday night against Tampa, he will become the No. 1-rated NFL quarterback of all time -- Warner has 1,483 attempts and needs 1,500 to qualify for the all-time rating record, which is sure to be his unless he goes INT-wacky. That n-dimensional lambda transducer Warner brought with him on the starcruiser from his homeworld sure is coming in handy!

Stat No. 8: Detroit lost by 24 points to a team that had lost 15 of its previous 16 games.

Stat No. 9: Three NFL teams have already scored 70 or more points, and all of them are in the AFC East.

Stat No. 10: Stretching back to last season, the Steelers have allowed four kicking-play touchdowns in their last four games.

Stat No. 11: The Jets' leading rusher against New England was punter Matt Turk.

Seagals' Amie
Amie, certainly not a seagull.
Cheerleader of the week: One NFL cheer-babe squad rising in aesthetic appeal is the Seahawks' regrettably named Sea Gals. (Seagulls, get it? But do you think of seagulls as really hot-looking?) This week's TMQ Cheerleader of the Week is Amie of the Sea Gals, whose picture should convince you that, yes, there is a God. Though it's a wind machine, not God, blowing her hair, and though TMQ could also link to millions of pictures, including his own, that would convince you God has a sense of humor.

According to her team bio, Amie has a background in jazz, modern and hip-hop dance, is a student at the University of Washington, and would like to visit Tahiti. The Seahawks' team site does not say where you could send Amie a proposal to take her on a trip to Tahiti with you. It does, however, offer a chance to download an Amie screen saver. TMQ strongly recommends an Amie screen saver unless your wife, girlfriend, or, alternatively, your lesbian companion regularly uses your PC. Don't miss the Sea Gals' "Bras for the Cause" page, in which "The Sea Gals bring a whole new meaning to the term "support" with their painstaking assembly and completion of a series of celebrity bras." TMQ must stop poking fun there however -- and I'm leaving a lot of jokes on the table -- since this is for a worthy cause, breast-cancer research.

Speaking of the Seahawks, what was that all-quasi-heliotrope-purple outfit they wore in the home opener? It looked like a hybridization of a USFL uniform, a CFL uniform and TCU in the 1950s. It looked like the entire Seahawks squad fell into a pot of finger paint just before the game. That can't seriously be the new Hawks home uni, can it?

Itula Mili, Archie Amerson
Itula Mili models the new Seahawks unitard, left, which is similar to the Serena Williams-ish Hamilton Tiger-Cat-suit. But for a true CFL uniform ripoff ...
Blitz warning: The Bears, Bolts, 'Boys and Rams all big-blitzed to good effect on Sunday. But be forewarned; the blitz tends to work early in the season because defenses jell faster than offenses, and backfire later. TMQ will start a running item called "Stop Me Before I Blitz Again!" as soon as the big-blitz starts to backfire, which is usually in October.

My gimmick is your gimmick: ESPN is running advertising clips of a snippet in which John Madden says to Chris Berman, mi casa es su casa. Forget the modern absurdity that Madden makes this homey offer via long-distance satellite link. Since it's Madden, he should say, mi autobús es su autobús.

Honk if you're mayor of Washington. Through a foul-up -- a fairly routine one by Washington standards -- the mayor of the nation's capital, Anthony Williams, got his name knocked off last week's primary ballot and had to run as a write-in. He won. At least, somebody named Anthony Williams won. Slate writer Tim Noah has found at least nine people named "Anthony Williams" are in the District of Columbia, and another four named "Tony Williams;" many write-ins for the mayor said "Tony Williams." Under D.C. law, any of them could step up and claim to be the real mayor!

Fire the guy who sent him out there! Um, no, wait ... No. 1: Insult-spewing Tom Coughlin, the worst sport in NFL coaching ranks, cut Jax return man Damon Gibson mere hours after his fumbled punt near the goal line handed the Indy Horsies a cheap touchdown on opening day. Maybe Gibson shouldn't be running back kicks -- he fumbled three times last season -- but this seems no excuse for the unsportsmanlike response of the insult-spewing Coughlin, who, according to The Associated Press, "berated Gibson at length on the sideline after the play, and came back Monday with more criticism of the player."

Drew Bledsoe, Terry Baker
... Drew Bledsoe and the Buffalo Bills' new look borrows shamelessly from the CFL's Montreal Alouettes.
So, coach -- you've never made a mistake? Among other errors, Coughlin sent Gibson out to shag the punt, knowing full well he fumbled thrice last year. The insult-spewing Coughlin is one of those customers who, when things go smoothly, thinks the coach should get the credit and when things go poorly, thinks the players are to blame. Thank goodness Notre Dame wised up to this guy in time.

Internet note: the morning after the fumble the Jax official team site,, posted an item saying Coughlin had given Gibson a "vote of confidence." Tom, please don't ever express confidence in TMQ!

Thank goodness Notre Dame chose wisely note: Tyrone Willingham has got the leprechaun magic going again, but needs to relax a little. If someone told him he'd just won "American Idol," Willingham would scrunch up his face, look disturbed and say, "We've got to cut down on mistakes and mental errors."

If only Ryan Leaf had the dignity to quit without ever playing: More proof that coaches should not also be general managers comes from the continued personnel bungling of Mouflons uberboss Mike Martz.

In the 2001 draft, Martz had three first-round choices to play with and managed to one up with just one starter, Adam Archuleta; fellow No. 1s Damione Lewis and Ryan Pickett play only sparingly. Martz insisted on taking DT Lewis over DT Casey Hampton, whom the Rams staff wanted and who's playing well for the Steelers. Martz insisted on taking the lightly regarded DT Pickett -- the $19.95 PFW Draft Guide called him a late-rounder -- over DE Aaron Schobel, whom the Rams staff wanted and who recorded three sacks on Sunday for the Bills.

In this year's draft, Martz insisted on using his third-round pick on QB conversion project Eric Crouch, despite the recent poor track record of QB conversion projects. (Scott Frost, etc.) Crouch last week announced he was "retiring," if that verb applies to someone who never played a regular-season down. Maybe Crouch couldn't adjust from being a glamour-boy Heisman-winning local hero to being a special-teams player, or maybe it was Heisman Curse. Just three of the last 10 Heisman recipients start in the NFL (Eddie George, Charles Woodson and Ricky Williams), others are backups (Danny Wuerffel, Ron Dayne, Chris Weinke) or long since out of football (Gino Torretta, Rashaan Salaam) or make their living jumping around in shiny undershorts (Charlie Ward). At any rate the Mouflons wasted a No. 3 pick.

Eric Crouch
Like many Heisman winners, Eric Crouch wasn't a good catch for the Rams.
It doesn't stop there. Martz, who once coached at Arizona State University, inexplicably insisted on using his fourth pick in the 2002 draft on ASU lineman Travis Scott, who was a reserve for the Sun Devils. Scott wasn't even listed in the 1,000-gentleman PFW Draft Guide, nor invited to the NFL predraft combine; anyone could have signed him as an undrafted free agent. ASU expressed "shock" that this gentleman was drafted. Scott has also played zero downs, and is now lingering on the Mouflons injured reserve list. It's said Scott was put on IR so Martz could avoid the criticism that would follow if this inexplicable choice didn't make the team; Scott will be quietly waived next winter after everyone's forgotten who he is. Scott takes home almost $500,000 for participating in this charade, so he's happy. But what gives with Martz? Martz also insisted on using his fifth pick in the 2002 draft on QB conversion project Steve Bellisari, who's also vanished to IR.

Coaches want to have player-personnel authority as an ego indulgence. But everyone who's trying to fill both roles right now in the NFL -- Mike Holmgren, Dan Reeves, Andy Reid, Martz -- is handling at least one poorly. Players don't go both ways anymore, why do ego-inflated coaches think they can hold down two full-time jobs?

The $19.95 PFW Draft Guide, by the way, consistently includes accurate warnings of players who turn out to be draft busts. Two years ago, for instance, it warned teams away from Virginia Tech star Corey Moore, who went on to be a high draft choice and also a head case who's already waived out of football. Teams like the Mouflons might do better to spend $19.95 on this publication than huge sums on the bonuses of blown picks.

As for nicknames, the St. Louis franchise will continue to be the Mouflons to TMQ until it begins acting less sheeplike. And if you're traveling in France, why not stay at the lovely Hôtel les Mouflons, one of the few fine hotels in the world that is named after a species of sheep! Check out the lovely sheep-inspired hotel logo. In addition to a private Jacuzzi room you and your companion may rent, the hotel boasts that its location offers "Un bain d'oxygène pur dans une nature mythique," which TMQ would translate as "fresh air in the enchanted countryside" -- TMQ knows enough French to speak such crucial phrases as "another beer, please" -- but which the Babelfish automated translator says means, "A pure oxygen bath in a mythical nature." Available exclusively at the Hôtel les Mouflons!

Imagine how bad it's going to be when Mark Wahlberg movies start getting remade: About to afflict theaters is a remake of the 1963 classic flick "Charade" starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. In the remake, underwear model Marky Mark plays the Grant role, and the legendary Thandie Newton stands in for Hepburn. "I probably won't realize what it means until it's over and I get bashed for destroying a great part," Mark cheerfully told the fan-zine Long-range sensor scans of Mark's cranium suggest he will never realize what it means.

In other remake news, plot a course at Warp Six away from any sector in which theaters are showing "Red Dragon," the sure-to-be-awful remake of the first-rate 1986 Michael Mann film "Manhunter." Mann's movie, based on the first Thomas Harris novel about the FBI's Behavioral Sciences Division, treated Hannibal the Cannibal as a minor character, showed no gore and emphasized psychological themes, plus supplied the usual top-notch Mann music and lush cinematography. "Red Dragon," by contrast -- a remake of a film only 15 years old! -- will feature numerous graphic presentations of murder and torture as a form of "entertainment."

Yes, Harris himself has long since taken a high dive into the shallow end with the dashed-off beyond-awful insulting-to-the-reader's-intelligence novel "Hannibal," which dropped all pretense of thoughtfulness and presented murder and torture as a form of entertainment. Yes, it's revolting that major movie studios, famous actors and even famous actresses promote the notion that glamorization of murder and torture, and especially of violence against women, is "entertainment." Universal is to blame for "Red Dragon;" Anthony Hopkins and Danny Elfman number among those shaming themselves for money in creation of the film. Never mind that theater chains often promote movies that depict murder and torture as "entertainment," and that parents let their children see this stuff. What adults want to see is their business and should be unrestricted under the First Amendment, but psychological studies conclusively show that children's minds are harmed by exposure to images of violence, and especially to depiction of violence as a form of fun. See this study published in Science, the technical journal of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, and endorsed by a broad coalition of medical professional societies led by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In the end what bothers TMQ in this case is that "Red Dragon," because it is shameless filth, is sure to be a huge money-maker hyped by the newsmags and midmorning TV shows while "Manhunter," which was subtle and artistic, was instantly forgotten.

And when will the NFL present a remake of the 1981 Niners-Cowboys NFC title game?

Times correction of the week: Last week The New York Times ran this confession, "Because of an editing error, an obituary of the French Resistance leader Henri Roi-Tanguy yesterday misstated the name of a medal he was awarded. It is the Grand-Croix de la Légion d'Honneur, not the Grand-Croix de la Légion de l'Honneur.

A French phrase was off by one letter -- l'Honneur instead of d'Honneur -- and the super-respectable Times feels it must issue a correction, in the name of its obsession with precision. Yet still during football season the paper weekly prints an entire page of NFL final-score predictions that are never right.

Anna Kournikova
We're showing Russian-looking Anna Kournikova only so salesmen don't make any more mistakes.
Why wasn't TMQ called in as an expert witness to examine these pictures? Last spring Penthouse magazine, after announcing the publication of topless photos of Anna Kournikova, had to pay a judgment and issue an apology to model Judith Soltesz-Benetton, the woman really in the pictures. On Miami Beach, Soltesz-Benetton had been seeking a suntan without lines when she was glimpsed by Frank Ramaesiri, a vacationing salesman from St. Louis, who mistook her for Kournikova, snapped photos and sold them to Penthouse. TMQ hopes that a topless mega-babe sunbathing in Miami is an indication that the enlightened European custom of beach toplessness is on its way to the United States. On the other hand, it does not sound as though Soltesz-Benetton would offer much of a testimonial to the fun she had doing this.

Penthouse claimed it ran the photos because it reasonably believed the subject to be Kournikova, who would be a "public figure" under libel law. When Soltesz-Benetton filed suit, the result was this preposterous courtroom scene described by The Associated Press: "The judge studied Penthouse pictures as the magazine's publisher, Bob Guccione, defended the likenesses of each woman's wristwatch, freckles and the 'attitude of the pinkie,' as in the direction they like to point their smallest fingers." The judge had to study the topless pictures -- the things he must do for his country!

Ramaesiri, The AP further reported, said he believed the woman he photographed to be Kournikova because she "seemed Russian." What, she had a vodka bottle in one hand and a book of poetry in the other? Further, Ramaesiri thought he'd stumbled on Kournikova because the woman "acted like a celebrity who wanted to be left alone." Now let's see, salesman from St. Louis approaches a hot babe sunbathing topless and immediately whips out his camera, she then acts like she wants to be left alone. What woman other than Anna Kournikova could possibly have that reaction?

To collect damages, Soltesz-Benetton had to claim harm, so she asserted she was "very offended" to be misidentified as Kournikova. Offended to be mistaken for someone often described as the most beautiful woman in the world? Soltesz-Benetton also asserted she was "very embarrassed" by publication of the photos. But Soltesz-Benetton called a press conference to announce that the photos were of her! If Soltesz-Benetton had simply said nothing, everyone would have thought the photos were Anna and no embarrassment would have fallen on the actual subject.

Meanwhile it was revealed at the courtroom hearing that "Guccione spent nearly a week comparing the photographs of Soltesz-Benetton to numerous pictures of Kournikova from the Internet," trying to determine who was who. The publisher of Penthouse, surrounded by actual naked mega-babes many of whom might consent to perform unnatural acts with him for casting-couch reasons, nevertheless spent an entire week searching the Internet for pictures of Anna Kournikova. Talk about misplaced priorities. Besides, Bob, you could have just come to Page 2.

Another sign of the decline of Western Civilization: At the Bills-Jets opener in Buffalo, stadium concession stands sold more bottles of water (56,000) than cups of beer (50,000).

Steve Spurrier
Steve Spurrier wonders if his Indigenous Persons can schedule Rutgers next season.
Non-surprise that everyone's acting surprised about: The Eagles pounded the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons 37-7 Monday night, and the game wasn't as close as the final indicates. Based on a high-scoring offense in preseason, Washington area fans and media had proclaimed the Spurrier regime an instant Super Bowl contender, but as TMQ cautioned of the Persons last month in his NFL preview, "Preseason success has nothing to do with what happens once the light goes on, and can backfire by making teams overconfident." TMQ, in fact, called the Persons' preseason "a bad sign."

Monday night Spurrier was so overconfident that when the Persons had to punt on their first possession, he buried his head in his hands as if he'd just witnessed total calamity. At Florida, Spurrier spent most of his time running up the score on second-echelon teams with no chance of beating him; he was much more concerned with getting 45 points than with winning, since winning was rarely at issue. Now he's entered an environment where any team can beat you and every yard of field position is contested. Step One in avoiding what could be a horrible Persons season is for Spurrier to wake up and realize that the goal in the NFL is not margin of victory.

The electric shock that PBS sent through Shields' chair got his attention: Last week on the super-ultra-respectable PBS show "Newshour with Jim Lehrer," the super-ultra-respectable commentator Mark Shields described how he dreaded having to watch television coverage of the Sept. 11 anniversary and planned to spend the day watching ESPN. Then quickly added, "Er, PBS." See transcript here.

Inexplicably, it fails to rank obscure college games: US News & World Report has released its influential college rankings, causing admissions directors across this great country to run from the room screaming "aaaiiiiiiiiyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeee!" Colleges annually groan that small tweaks in the ranking criteria lead to big changes in the result: read the magazine's tortuous "general methodology" here, containing such incredibly scientifically advanced pseudo-specific gauges as ...

A school's academic atmosphere is determined in part by the abilities and ambitions of the student body. We therefore factor in test scores of enrollees on the SAT or ACT tests (40 percent of this factor); the proportion of enrolled freshmen who graduated in the top 10 percent of their high school classes for all national universities-doctoral and liberal arts colleges-bachelor's, and the top 25 percent for institutions in the master's and comprehensive colleges categories (35 percent of the score); the acceptance rate, or the ratio of students admitted to applicants (15 percent of the score); and the yield, or the ratio of students who enroll to those admitted (10 percent of the score).

Separately, the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges {}, which hates the annual rankings, announced plans for a new annual publication to be called "America's Best Newsmags" and demanded that US News submit hundreds of pages of documentation to justify its ranking.

Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning makes a pass in the NFL's version of sensible shoes.
Not free to shoes: The NFL, long known as the No Fun League for its prissy prohibitions of post-touchdown celebrations, this weekend became the No Funerals League as it ridiculously forbade Peyton Manning of the Colts from wearing high-top black shoes in commemoration of the death of Johnny Unitas. This was a fine, and respectful, idea on Manning's part. Yet the league issued a ridiculous quasi-legalistic dictum saying that such apparel requests could only be made "well in advance" -- was Unitas supposed to have informed the league in advance that he planned to have a heart attack? -- and further declaiming that only the Baltimore Ravens could make any gesture acknowledging Unitas' passing. Ravens QB Chris Redman, like Unitas a graduate of Louisville, did wear black high tops.

Then the league issued an order requiring all stadiums to have a moment of silence in Unitas' name. This was inappropriate given first that we just had moments of silence for the genuine tragedy of 9-11, and second that Unitas' death, though sad, was no tragedy. He died in old age after a successful, apparently happy life. The way to commemorate someone who lives a successful life and then dies in old age is not with solemn silence but with celebration. Not only should Manning have worn Unitas' goofy trademark shoes; every NFL quarterback should have worn black high-tops last weekend. Celebrate him with love of life, don't impose silence.

For its part the Ravens-only ruling stems from continuing debate over who owns the legacy of the old Baltimore Colts. Look in the NFL 2002 Record and Fact Book, the league's official publication, and you will find Unitas records listed under the Indianapolis Colts; Indy's got the Lydell Mitchell, Ray Berry, Lenny Moore and other old Baltimore Colts records too. According to the record book, the Indianapolis Colts are the successor of the Baltimore Colts. But the Ravens, who wear purple and whose league-recognized records begin in the year 1996, when Unitas had been in retirement a quarter century, continue to insist they are the successor of the Baltimore Colts. The Ravens lobbied the league to furiously forbid anyone but them to honor Unitas, on the murky theory that this strengthens their claim to being the real Colts successor. How anything other than small-minded politics is served by ruling that the current quarterback who wears the blue-and-white that Unitas wore may not honor Unitas escapes TMQ.

Fun factoid: when the Ravens were being formed, there were negotiations with the Irsay family, which owns the Colts, over whether they would sell the team's name and colors back to Baltimore. At one point there was even negotiation on whether the Irsays would sell Indy's claims to the old Colts records.

This week's "Star Trek" complaint: The new season of "Enterprise" begins Tuesday, which means time to revive TMQ's This Week's Star Trek Complaint running item.

Scott Bakula
What happens when Scott Bakula's Captain Archer goes back in time and meets Dr. Beckett from "Quantum Leap"?
Last spring, "Enterprise" wound up with part one of a time-travel cliffhanger. You may recall that in the original Captain Kirk episodes -- which come after "Enterprise" chronologically, since the new series is a prequel -- time travel was depicted as an astonishing discovery. In "Enterprise," time travel has already happened several times and is practically viewed as common. So how could Kirk, who is supposed to be born years after the era depicted in "Enterprise," not have known that? And how come in "Enterprise," the Vulcans are the big spacefaring power in Earth's part of the Milky Way, their ships and diplomats everywhere -- but in the Captain Kirk episodes, which happen later, the Vulcans are depicted as an insular, technologically modest people, and Spock is described as the first Vulcan ever to explore space.

Anyway in the "Enterprise" cliffhanger that ended last season, the Federation agent from 900 years in the future -- whom we saw killed in the series pilot, and is now alive again without explanation -- caused Captain Archer to materialize in the past, in his apartment in San Francisco the week before the very first starship Enterprise is launched. In the apartment, the agent from the future tells Archer how to attack an advanced alien starcruiser that is shadowing Enterprise; then the guy and Archer reappear in the present. There's no explanation of how the Federation agent from the future moves himself and Archer around in time and space, but why did he and Archer have to go backward in time and far across the galaxy just to have a conversation? The agent could have just told Archer everything in his cabin, or for that matter sent him an e-mail.

At the end of the cliffhanger, something goes horribly wrong and Archer and the agent from the future find themselves again in the San Francisco apartment, but 900 years later. All San Francisco lies in smoking ruins; something Archer did in the past has altered the time line, and that's the cliffhanger. But what TMQ noticed was that except for broken windows, Archer's apartment looked exactly the same in the 31st century as it had in the back-to-the-past scene in the 22nd century. Nothing in Archer's apartment had changed in 900 years.

Fire the guy who sent him out there! Um, no, wait ... No. 2: The 'Boys yanked CB Bryant Westbrook from the opener versus the Texans after Westbrook was called for a questionable penalty; on the next pass play, his replacement surrendered the 65-yard bomb touchdown that was the game's deciding points. The touchdown that occurred while he was out was interpreted as Westbrook's fault, and he was cut by Dallas last week, scapegoated for the defeat. Because Westbrook, a vested veteran, was on the roster opening day, his full pay for the season, about $1 million, is guaranteed. So Bryant Westbrook becomes, on a per-game basis, the highest-paid gentleman in the NFL this autumn, receiving $1 million for a single game. (Ray Lewis will get $1.1 million actual per game, but the complete money won't be in till next winter.) It's certainly nice to see Jerry Jones throw his money out the window.

Hidden indicator: The Chiefs lost a Week 2 home opener after winning nine straight home openers held in the second week. This is the kind of hidden indicator that is essential to an insider's understanding of the game. Unfortunately, Tuesday Morning Quarterback has no idea what it means.

Running items department
Obscure college score of the week: Indiana of Pennsylvania 27, Catawba 26. TMQ loves the college name "Indiana of Pennsylvania" as much as "Pittsburg of Kansas." Located about an hour from the h-spelled Pittsburgh, Indiana University of Pennsylvania is known as a high-standards public school that offers a bargain education with an in-state tuition of $4,258. IUP is ready for an uncertain world, boasting, "Who are you now? What do you want to become? Not sure? Then IUP is the place for you." The school is host to the newly formed Pennsylvania Important Mammal Areas Project, which refers to small fuzzy creatures, not IUP students, though presumably they are mammals as well.

Bonus obscure score: California of Pennsylvania 14, Fairmont State 6. And TMQ loves the college name "California of Pennsylvania." Snuggled on the banks of the Monongahela, California University of Pennsylvania takes itself very seriously, the school's 1,019-word "core values statement" droning on in this tone: "For over 2,000 years, European thought has been acted upon by the idea that the rational faculties of men can produce a common conception of law and order which possesses a universal validity. This conception was first formulated as a theory by Zeno and the Stoics." CUP may have no mammals other than students, but next month the landlocked school will be host for a meeting of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Fisheries Society; participants may bring posters, which "should be no larger than 3-foot by 4-foot in size and can include any fisheries-related topic."

Indiana of Pennsylvania travels to California of Pennsylvania on Oct. 19 for the Tuesday Morning Quarterback Obscure Score Game of the Year.

Double Bonus Obscure Score Bluffton 45, Hiram 0. Though Bluffton was founded in 1899 by Mennonites, who are Christian pacifists, and remains an affiliate of the pacifist Mennonite Church USA, this did not prevent Bluffton from running up the score on defenseless Hiram.

Robert Hodge, Omar Nazel
Colorado QB Robert Hodge gets sacked for another loss against USC, or for our South Carolina readers, Southern Cal.
Bonus big-school stat: Nineteenth-ranked Colorado not only got pounded 40-3 at home by USC, if you count sacks as passing plays, rather than as negative rushes as college statisticians do, Colorado rolled up 1 net passing yard.

New York Times final-score score: Once again the Paper of Record goes 0-16 in its quixotic attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times final-score score to 0-552 since TMQ began tracking.

Reader Animadversion: Many readers protested that Miami University is named after the Miami indigenous nation, not the Miami River. Many, including Jim Johnson of San Antonio, agreed with TMQ that it was outrageous that Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora wore a U.S. flag on his butt during halftime of the NFL opener; "Sambora's transgression did not pass unnoticed" by the military audience overseas, Johnson reported. Many readers protested TMQ's assertion that the Florida Supreme Court "fumbled the United States Constitution" during the 2000 presidential recounts -- I'll answer that objection next week, today's column already being too long.

Got a comment about TMQ or a deeply felt grievance? Register it here, clever comments being much more likely to draw notice.

Last week's TMQ Challenge: Last week's Challenge was to describe a school, from which you had graduated, whose name is constantly mangled by sportswriters.

Reader Creighton Waters of Columbia, South Carolina, protested that sportscasters call the University of Southern California "USC" when this is how the University of South Carolina is known to its alumni. The University of South Carolina, Waters maintains, should get first call on "USC" by virtue of having been founded 79 years before the California school, which he maintains should be known only as "Southern Cal."

Bob Mackowski, a current student at the TMQ-beloved California of Pennsylvania, protested that by the same rule of prior founding, his school should have rights to the nickname "Cal."

Craig Kaliser of Wellington, Fla., protested that sportscasters always say "Kutztown State" for the school where Andre Reed and John Mobley learned their ball, when this institution is actually Kutztown University.

Mike Byrnes of Las Vegas complained that many sportscasters say "Note-RA Dame" trying to sound sophisticated, though the correct French would be "Note-RA Daum" and anyway the Indiana-ized "Note-Er Dame" at this point is more authentic. TMQ will avoid all such pitfalls by calling the school Our Lady. And why does an Irish college have a French name, anyway -- shouldn't the name be Gaelic?

This week's TMQ Challenge goes to Mark Hasty of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, an alum of Mankato State University in Minnesota -- which no longer exists, having changed its name to Minnesota State. The fictional football-factory college on the TV show "Coach" was called Minnesota State, and now there is a Minnesota State, leaving sportscasters confused about whether they are referring to a real or fictional school.

This week's TMQ Challenge: This week's challenge is to take some cliché phrase associated with the NFL -- such as, "they're a fine, fine football team" -- run it through the Babelfish automated translator into the language of your choice, then translate it back and see if it is garbled into ridiculousness. That is, have Babelfish translate it into French and then from French back into English and so on. The longer the phrase, the better the chance for a goofy result.

Submit your entry here. Be sure to include your e-mail address, name and hometown in the extremely unlikely event your submission is chosen.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 4:58 PM




Posted by: GEORGE SCHNEIDER at April 22, 2005 2:36 PM

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