October 15, 2002

Honk if you're from St. Louis

POST #    528

Honk if you're from St. Louis
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

So Marshall Faulk walked out on an interview with Bob Costas last week when Costas inadvertently asked about the Mouflons' 0-5 start. The walkout came the day after Whitey Herzog hung up on Dan Patrick when this ESPN super-stud asked some less-than-obsequious question. What's going on in St. Louis -- is it the water? Let's hope not the water they put in Budweiser!

Considering that St. Louis won in football and honked in baseball after these walkouts, it looks like bad manners has a mixed record as a tool for improving civic sports fortunes. Now, as a public service, Tuesday Morning Quarterback provides a suggested script that bobbleheads may use when interviewing St. Louis sports figures:

Bobblehead: O mighty one, a thousand thanks for granting this audience to my worthless, miserable self.

St. Louis Sports Figure: You may rise.

Bobblehead: O splendid one, on which a thousand suns shine, how do you explain your immaculate perfection?

St. Louis Sports Figure: (Becomes angry.) That is not for you to know! Guards!

Bobblehead: A thousand pardons, glorious one! I am not worthy to touch the tape on your ankles. (Cowers.)

St. Louis Sports Figure: We are merciful and will forgive your impudence.

Mark McGwire bobblehead
All questions for the St. Louis Sports Figure had to be screened for approval.
Bobblehead: Is the camera angle sufficiently flattering to your radiance?

St. Louis Sports Figure: It is adequate. I'm wearing dark glasses indoors anyway. Now, ask your question.

Bobblehead: O wondrous one, may your path be covered with a thousand scented rose petals, now that the team has lost 18 consecutive --

St. Louis Sports Figure: Guards! Off with his head!

In other NFL news, on Sunday champagne corks began popping at 7:29 Eastern as the Raiders, till then the league's last unbeaten team, left the field at the Dome at the Center of the Observable Universe in St. Louis muttering "%#*%@!" In one of the sweetest traditions in sports lore, when each NFL season begins, every surviving member of the 1972 Miami Dolphins -- sole pro football squad ever to complete a perfect season -- sets aside a bottle of champagne to cool. And it's real Champagne champagne, not the genetically engineered pressure-enhanced sucrose-infused blueberry-mango-chutney wine-style beverage that passes for bubbly these days. Then, at the moment the final undefeated team honks a game, insuring that the 1972 perfect season will stand alone one more year, the surviving members of the 1972 squad pop corks. Here is the original roster for the team. And how fitting that its next year of sole possession of the ultimate record was secured on the same day as the fabulous Miami at Denver comeback victory.

Gentlemen of 1972, Tuesday Morning Quarterback hopes you enjoyed your draught. You are likely to continue to taste champagne on an annual basis until the football gods call you home to Asgard for song and feasting.

Pretty play of the week: It was Green Bay 14, New England 3, and the Packers facing fourth-and-three on the Pats' 35. Brett Favre was under pressure and retreated all the way to the 46 before throwing, off his back foot, a perfect strike for the first down at the 26. That meant a thrown-off-the-back-foot pass traveled 20 yards and was exactly on target.

Best yard: Leading by two, Tennessee faced fourth-and-goal at the Jacksonville 1-yard line in the middle of the final quarter. Did the Flaming Thumbtacks play it safe and kick? Did they go pass-wacky? Eddie George straight up the middle for the icing touchdown.

Best student body: Leading 14-6 on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Mouflons called USC's old "student body left" -- everybody pulls left, including the offside tackle. Faulk cut back behind a fabulous block by guard Tom Nutten and was 35 yards downfield before a Raider touched him. Six points and two snaps later, St. Louis was finally on the way to a win.

Cover-your-eyes quarter: The Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons turned the ball over on each of their first four possessions. Rookie QB Patrick Ramsey, praised all week in the Washington media as an instant superstar, threw three interceptions before his first completion. Turnovers meant New Orleans started consecutive possessions at the Persons 5, 8, 15 and 18. Throughout the first quarter, the Persons' deepest penetration was their own 23-yard line.

Coffee break play of the week: Trailing 7-3 at home late in the second, the defending champion Pats faced first-and-20 at their own 8. Tom Brady pump-faked a receiver hitch right, then pirouetted to throw a screen left toward Kevin Faulk. The toss bounced off Faulk to the turf. But he had been standing behind Brady -- making it a lateral. Seven assorted gentlemen, Pats and Packers both, stood around amicably chatting, completely ignoring the live ball. Finally a Green Bay defender dived in from the distance for the recovery. The Packers scored on the next play, and the rout was on.

Note to outraged Patriots fans: Yes, this call was close, but it looked more like a lateral than the Music City Miracle.

Best use of TMQ: TMQ's current hobby horse is that if you're going to play-fake near the goal line, do it on first down when the defense is thinking run, not on second down after the defense has stuffed a run and is thinking pass, or on third down after you're desperate. It's Miami 21, Denver 12, Broncos have first-and-goal on the 1 in the fourth quarter. Play-fake, easy touchdown pass to Mike Anderson.

Game scoreless in the first, New Orleans had first-and-goal on the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons five. Run, loss of 3, followed by regular pass, incomplete. Third down -- play fake! Now really, who is going to fall for this? No one: incompletion, Saints take the field goal. Two possessions later, the Saints had first-and-goal on the Persons 4. Play-fake, touchdown pass.

Stop me before I blitz again! San Francisco was leading Seattle 10-0 late in the first quarter and to that point the 'Hawks were doing diddly, with no first downs. Seattle faced third-and-nine. Since the average NFL pass attempt yields 5.9 yards, all the Niners had to do was play straight defense and the odds favored a stop. Instead, it's a blitz! Completion for the first down, Seahawks score a touchdown on the drive and the momentum swings from all-San Francisco to anyone's-game.

Stop me before I blitz again, No. 2! Denver was leading Miami 9-0 midway through the second quarter and the Marine Mammals were doing diddly, with just one first down. The Dolphins faced third-and-11. Since the average NFL pass attempt yields 5.9 yards, all the Broncos had to do was play straight defense and the odds favored a stop. Instead, it's a cornerback blitz! Easy 18-yard completion to the spot the DB vacated, Miami scores a touchdown on the drive and the momentum swings from all-Denver to anyone's-game.

Antonio Bryant
Antonio Bryant bobbles, but catches a touchdown pass in the closing minutes against Carolina.
Wow of the week: Antonio Bryant's game-winning 24-yard touchdown catch on fourth-and-14 with a minute left. TMQ has seen bobble catches and TMQ has seen flying-sideways catches. He had not previously seen a flying-sideways bobble catch. Note to Carolina defense: It was fourth-and-14, an obvious "prevent" situation, and you let Bryant get behind the deepest safety.

Worst calls radioed in from bench: Trailing by just four points with 33 seconds left in the half, ball on their own 27, no timeouts left and quarterback Chris Redman having looked shaky, the Ravens might have been advised to kneel. Instead the Baltimore coaching staff radioed in a middle pass; intercepted, Indianapolis field goal makes it a seven-point hole at intermission.

In the second half, Redman settled down and the Ravens rallied. Holding a 20-19 lead, Baltimore faced third-and-nine on the Horsies' 34 with 3:30 remaining and a top field-goal kicker waiting to trot out. Draw? Quick pass? Whatever you do, don't take a chance of being sacked out of field-goal range! The Baltimore coaching staff radioed in a long pass attempt. Redman was sacked, a Ravens punt rolled into the end zone to net just 20 yards, and Indianapolis ended up winning on a figgie on the final play.

Note to outraged Ravens fans: the last-minute fourth-down interference call that saved the Colts' bacon was correct. Face-guarding is only legal in college.

Worst single call radioed in from bench Leading by a point, Seattle had first down at the Niners' 32 with 17 seconds remaining in the half, holding one timeout. Whatever you do, don't take a chance of being sacked out of field-goal range! The Hawks coaching staff radioed in a long pass attempt. Trent Dilfer, about to be sacked, heaved a goofy lateral to Shaun Alexander, resulting in loss of 7. The 57-yard figgie attempt on the half's final play fell just short.

Note to outraged fans of the blitz: Yes, it was a Niners' CB blitz that created the above loss of yardage.

Worst failure to watch "Monday Night Football": Though the Seahawks were hoisting a very long field goal on the final play of the half -- exactly the situation in which Baltimore scored the decisive touchdown, via runback, against Denver on "MNF" last month -- San Francisco put no one back to return the attempt.

Jamie Sharper, Travis Henry, Jay Foreman
Houston's Jay Foreman, right, makes Travis Henry pay with his head.
Dwayne-Rudd-Esque bonehead penalties of the week: During the offseason linebacker Jay Foreman, son of Chuck Foreman, was traded from Buffalo to Houston and complained bitterly about the move; apparently, his dad never told him that changing teams is a fact of NFL life. As the Texans prepared to play host to Buffalo, Foreman swore vengeance, telling the Houston papers last week that he'd make the Bills pay.

It was Houston 24, Buffalo 17 in the fourth, and the Bills facing third-and-one in their territory. Pass incomplete. But wait! Foreman ran up to a Bills player, screamed boasts of prowess and shoved him; the personal foul for this childish stunt brought an automatic first down and ball advanced. On the next snap, the Bills lost yardage. But wait! Foreman was called for a flagrant face-mask, automatic first down and the ball advanced. Three plays later the Bills score to tie, 30 of the 75 yards on the drive, including the key first down, coming via Foreman's tantrums. Buffalo rallies to win. Perhaps soon Foreman will be in a position to complain bitterly about being released by Houston.

Best 99-yard drive: San Francisco ran eight times and passed four times on its 99-yard touchdown drive against Seattle. Sportswriters may think the West Coast offense is pass-wacky, but running is its key, and the "finesse" Niners rush better than most teams that boast about their punishing style.

Worst defense by a bad team anyway: "One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, four one-thousand, five one-thousand, six one-thousand, seven one-thousand, eight one-thousand." That's how far TMQ got counting the time Daunte Culpepper had to scan the field before tossing to Randy Moss at the Lions' 2 late in the fourth quarter of a tie game. And Detroit had a cornerback blitz on! Minnesota scored the winning points on the next down.

Worst defense by an aspiring bad team: On Terrell Owens' first touchdown against the Seahawks, he lined up as a slotback and ran a Football 101 quick out. No one covered him. It's not that he beat some guy; no Seattle player took any step in the direction of the other team's best offensive player.

Stat of the week: Fullback Chris Hetherington of the Mouflons tasted victory after 20 consecutive defeats. Hetherington was on the Panthers for their record-setting 15 straight losses last year, then joined St. Louis this season to open with five straight losses. (Thanks to reader R. Selzer of New York for pointing out.)

Michael Lewis
The Indigenous Persons couldn't stop New Orleans' Michael Lewis.
Stat of the week No. 2: Twenty-nine-year-old former beer truck driver Michael Lewis, who did not attend college, had 356 all-purpose yards for the Saints against the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons.

Stat of the week No. 3: Stretching back to the end of the 2000 season, Green Bay is on a 22-6 run.

Stat of the week No. 4: New England won 12 straight, and since then has lost three straight.

Stat of the week No. 5: Bills RB Travis Henry, who fumbled five times in 2001 -- high for a non-QB -- has already lost five fumbles this season.

Stat of the week No. 6: Rich Gannon is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,398 yards. And if he doesn't, Drew Bledsoe is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,376 yards. (The season record, held by Dan Marino, is 5,084 yards.)

Stat of the week No. 7: Pittsburgh and Baltimore are tied for first place in the AFC North at 2-3, while the 3-3 Chiefs are in last place in the AFC West.

Stat of the week No. 8: The Panthers, who have lost three straight games by three points or less, are 6-for-13 on field-goal attempts.

Stat of the week No. 9: Buffalo has not intercepted a pass since the year 2001.

Jakene Ashford
And Jakene Ashford's now ESPN.com's favorite cheerleader.
Cheerleader of the Week: This week's honoree is Jakene Ashford of the Atlanta Falcons cheer-babe squad. According to her team bio, Ashford, a graduate of Tennessee State University, has an ultra-serious profession: She is a chemist. TMQ can hear hundreds of guys saying, "Make me a love potion!" Her hobbies include photography, playing basketball and participating in a fantasy football league. Presumably, Ashford keeps to herself how many Falcons players she drafted. There is also something extremely impressive about Ashford. According to her bio, her favorite website is -- ESPN.com. Jakene, you have extraordinary good taste!

Flag-football advice to the defending champs: TMQ coaches eighth-grade boys in county flag football, and in the most recent game kept calling our bread-and-butter play, the pitch, even when initially it didn't work. The pitch went for 1 yard, then 2 yards, then 1 yard, then loss of 3, then 1 yard. On the sixth call the pitch went 45 yards for a touchdown and on the seventh went 60 yards for a touchdown. TMQ felt like Bud Wilkinson at Oklahoma in the 1950s, endlessly calling the same cloud-of-dust play. But I explained to the boys that the run often starts off poorly; you've got to stay with it and not go pass-wacky.

Someone needs to explain this to the defending champion Patriots. Yes, their all-pass all-the-time strategy worked in the opener against Pittsburgh, but then it was a surprise. Now it's expected. The Patriots have thrown 261 times and rushed 140 times. They're abandoning the run by the second quarter -- pretty much what they did against Green Bay on Sunday, even while the game was still close. This is a formula for a losing streak.

New York Times correction of the week: A chart yesterday showing the European Union's steps to expand by 10 nations in 2004 misstated the current population of member nations. It is 378.7 million, not billion.

The super-responsible accuracy-obsessed New York Times moves quickly to correct any inadvertent misperception that Europe has 378.7 billion inhabitants. It only seems that way when you're trying to order a beer during Oktoberfest! Yet the super-responsible New York Times continues to devote an entire page each week during NFL season to exact final score predictions that are never right.

Amy Fadhli
Would Amy Fadhli be interested in someone with a channel-surfing physique?
Physique of the week: At the cutting edge of cheesecake technology are fitness babes, who may be gawked at fitnesswomen.com. A prominent fitness babe is Amy Fadhli of Los Angeles, former Ms. Fitness America and a staff writer for Oxygen magazine. Amy's article in the current issue of Oxygen is titled "Cover Girl Exposed"; unfortunately from the website, one cannot determine what part of the cover girl in question had been exposed. Fadhli's auto-bio of herself explains that after she became a gym rat, grew incredibly buff and won some bikini contests in her native Texas, "I realized that my physique had advanced to competition level, so upon the urging of some of my friends and family, I decided to try my luck in a fitness show." A competition-level physique! There's a 21st century concept.

Watch for an Amy pictorial in an upcoming issue of TMQ's favorite magazine, Gene Simmons' Tongue. Use this eBay link to bid on a signed bikini photo plus the "actual worn suit" Amy was sporting in the picture. (Amy, I don't get that part. Isn't the point what's in the suit, not the bikini itself?) Join her fan club here. A fee of $39.99 buys access to "exclusive" photos, "classic" photos -- let's hope not so classic they are from before she became incredibly buff -- an Amy screensaver, and the chance to read her "personal diary." Setting aside the 21st-century question of how something posted on the Web can be "personal," presumably one entry in Amy's personal diary will soon read,

October 15, 2002

Dear Diary,

Today I was featured in Tuesday Morning Quarterback on ESPN.com! I knew my life was building up to a great moment, and now it has finally happened. To think there I was, right between the Times Correction of the Week and the Jersey turnpike tollbooth item! This just shows it pays to have a competition-level physique.

I wonder what TMQ himself must be like? Surely an incredible hunk of man: deep voice, mysterious, animal magnetism, smoking jacket with color-coordinated cravat. Bet he drives a mint-condition Stutz-Bearcat. Oh diary, I'm sitting here fantasizing about what it might be like if I could meet TMQ and then he and I would … (goes on about this topic for many pages)

Has Springsteen been informed? E-Z Pass, the dashboard electronic toll-paying gizmo, got its start in New Jersey, where highways have long been one enormous waiting line for the toll booths that come every few hundred yards. Last week, E-Z Pass "members" -- finally a club that will accept me as a member -- received a letter from the Honorable James P. Fox, Commissioner, New Jersey Department of Transportation. The Honorable James P. Fox informed E-Z Pass members that owing to mismanagement, waste and fraud in -- hey, it's the New Jersey Department of Transportation! -- "a $1 per month membership fee will be instituted."

Now, lemme get this straight. E-Z Pass exists so that motorists can pay tolls to government, these tolls being for use of roads the motorists' taxes funded in the first place. Motorists will now be charged for the privilege of paying tolls for the privilege of driving on roads that taxes from the motorists funded. A monthly fee to pay tolls to use something financed by your taxes! And TMQ is laying 5-to-1 odds that the $1 a month "membership fee" ends up lining assorted pockets of assorted cronies of the Honorable James P. Fox.

Speaking of Jersey … The Falcons' road uniforms look so much like the Giants' road uniforms that the Atlanta-Jersey/A game at the Meadowlands appeared to be some kind of intersquad scrimmage. The Giants played like they thought it was a scrimmage, too.

TMQ thought for the day: Has a single person in the whole of human history attended a party that is actually like the parties depicted in Coors ads?

Rob Konrad, Olindo Mare
Miami kicker Olindo Mare, right, was clutch at the always-tough Please Don't Buy From Invesco Field.
Like Churchill said, "Never give up": The Marine Mammals won in Denver, hardest place in the league to win, despite a terrible first quarter and twice failing to convert third-and-one in the third quarter.

The football gods did not chortle: When Kenoy Kennedy knocked Chris Chambers cold with a helmet-to-helmet hit in the Broncs-Marine Mammals game, TMQ had some sympathy for Kennedy regarding the flag he drew. Pro football happens so fast you can't necessarily control contact; it may not have been deliberate. But TMQ had no sympathy for the Mike Shanahan sideline tirade the flag ignited. Shanahan was blowing his stack about his petty little 15 yards while Chambers was lying motionless and might have been seriously injured. Mike, let's speak to a clergyman or therapist about our priorities in life. And TMQ had no sympathy for the loutish crowd at Please Don't Buy From Invesco Field, which booed while Chambers lay motionless.

The football gods take a dim view of such poor sportsmanship as displayed by Shanahan and the Denver crowd, and have already exacted some revenge -- 53-yard Miami field goal to win as time expired. More retribution may follow.

Doesn't anyone at Black Rock ever, um, how shall I put this, look at the scoreboard? One of TMQ's ongoing complaints against Sunday afternoon coverage of the NFL is failure of the networks to switch from a boring blowout to a hot game going down to the wire.

Never was this problem on display more plainly than Sunday. CBS had the doubleheader slot and scheduled Raiders at Mouflons. The contest was engaging through the early fourth quarter, but then St. Louis pulled away and at 7:02 Eastern, the game became a blowout with a score of Mouflons 28, Raiders 13, six minutes remaining and St. Louis having just intercepted a pass. Yet CBS did not switch to the fantastic Kansas City-San Diego game, to which it had the rights and which was going down to the wire, ultimately won by the Bolts 35-34 on a dramatic touchdown pass with 19 seconds left.

In the waning moments of the Rams-Raiders broadcast, the audience constantly saw a KC-SD score box in the corner of the screen -- essentially, CBS making sure viewers knew there was a much more interesting game they would not be allowed to watch. Meanwhile, CBS announcers never said a word about the exciting rival game in progress, doing their utmost to pretend no other game existed. Nor did CBS show Rams-Raiders viewers the winning play of the Bolts-Chiefs contest, which occurred while Rams-Raiders had gone into garbage time. Ye gods.

Reader haiku: Fiona Parkes' seerlike haiku was posted before the Mouflons' Sunday win. Julie Cidell's refers to the Coors impossible-party ads:

Intercept, fumble;
"D" oft laterals for score.
Why won't "O" do same?
-- Michael Burns, Charlotte

Rams to go winless?
Record year for Tom and Drew?
Which is more likely?
-- Fiona Parkes

Readers demand hunks.
Follow this simple advice --
TMQ, say "no!"
-- Frank Orr, Portland, Maine

Please not like beer ads,
where women are just "short skirts."
Give us guy pics too!
-- Julie Cidell, Minneapolis

Don't bother with male
Cheerleaders. Just post a nice
belly shot of Brett
-- Lisa Smith, Montclair, Virginia

TMQ, counsel
Mike Martz to plead for a new
alien QB.
-- Joel Hart, Nashville, Tenn.

Joel, your wish was granted. You don't seriously believe "Marc Bulger" is from this Earth, do you?

Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith can't sack anymore, but he can dance.
Bruce Smith in twilight: Bruce Smith will be a unanimous first-ballot Hall of Fame entrant, but it's starting to get a little awkward watching him hang around trying to break Reggie White's all-time sack record. Smith had little in the tank last season, and is running on fumes this year. In the Persons-Saints contest, at one point he pressured Aaron Brooks and almost got the sack; Brooks escaped but was stopped for the loss by LaVar Arrington, with Smith joining the pile an instant later. Bruce then leapt up and did his post-sack dance -- seemingly for the crowd, but actually for the Elias Sports Bureau, hoping to get the credit. Arrington was credited with the sack, which Smith, a crafty veteran, knew perfectly well he didn't make.

Bengals pregame motivational speech: Bruce Coslet reminisces about the day they only lost by 20: In preseason, Chris Berman called Cincinnati his "sleeper" team of the year. Perhaps he meant to say his "suspended animation" team -- the winless Bengals, pasted 34-7 by the Steelers on Sunday, have now been outscored 181-51. Berman has company: On Sunday, Boomer Esiason declared that Cincinnati "will surprise" Pittsburgh. Strictly speaking, this statement may be correct, since the Steelers probably expected the Bengals at least to make a token effort to win.

After claiming to have written the script to "AI," Steven Spielberg now claims to have run Project Ozma: OK, so the Nobel Prizes came out last week. Far more importantly, nominations just closed for the Frank Drake Award, to be presented by the SETI Institute of Mountain View, Calif., and intended to recognize "outstanding research or innovative student work in the fields of SETI and/or life in the universe."

The Drake Award criteria focus on "past contributions and potential for future contributions of new knowledge to the body of scientific work focused on understanding the origin, nature, prevalence and distribution of life in the universe." But wait -- no research has found any indication of any life anywhere beyond Earth. How can there be "knowledge" or "understanding" of that which, so far as is known, does not exist? Anyway, TMQ nominated Marc Bulger, most recent arrival on a starcruiser.

Drake, a radio astronomer, ran Project Ozma, a 1960s effort that was the first systematic attempt to detect artificial radio signals from other worlds. Click here for an extremely well-written, insightful Atlantic Monthly article (by an author with animal magnetism and a color-coordinated smoking jacket) on Drake's project, the failure of all SETI attempts and what it may mean if humanity is alone in the cosmos.

Zoned out: A few columns ago, TMQ explained that the reason the zone blitz sometimes involves a lumbering DL dropping into coverage is that the quarterback never expects a DL roaming the slant lanes into which most teams automatically throw during a blitz. On Sunday night, Denver zone-blitzed Jay Fiedler on second and long. Fielder threw it directly into the hands of DE Montae Reagor, who had dropped into the slant lane.

Byron Leftwich
Byron Leftwich nearly had as many yards passing in one half (447) as Jon Kitna did in Cincy's last two games (466).
This is like saying there are lots of people in the world, but only one is referred to as Vincent Yafnaro: "There are over 70 makes of automobiles on the road today," BMW says in full-page newspaper ads this week. "Only one in the world is referred to as The Ultimate Driving Machine." That's because The Ultimate Driving Machine is a registered trademark. BMW has taken legal action to prevent other cars from being referred to using these words!

Hidden indicator: In the weeks since playing the Bills, the Bears, Broncos, Jets, Raiders and Vikings have gone a combined 2-10. 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: Westfield State 54, Massachusetts Maritime 0. Cadets at Mass Maritime are organized into "regiments"; first-years are called "youngies." The student newspaper, the General Alarm, is published aboard ship! The school's training ship displaces 21,000 tons and is operated by students; TMQ advises that small craft give this vessel a wide berth. The training ship was once called the Cape Bon, then called the Velma Lykes, and is now called Enterprise. Two points. First, ship names are usually changed when the former name is associated with something untoward, such as operator bankruptcies or scandal at sea. Second, the best the students at Mass Maritime could come up with was Enterprise? They might as well have named the ship Battlestar Galactica.

Bonus obscure score: Wisconsin Stevens Point 17, Wisconsin Whitewater 14. One of the things one finds in browsing websites of obscure colleges is that, seemingly, every single one of them ranks high in the infamous U.S. News rankings. How can this be? The rankings have many, many categories. At the homepage of Wisconsin Stevens Point, a banner proclaims, UWSP sixth in best colleges 2003! Click to the details and discover the school "sixth in top public Midwestern universities -- master's level."

Another of those campuses that looks like a movie set of a college campus, Stevens Point has all the usual stuff plus an Environmental Health and Safety Committee, whose members include,

1. Radiation Safety Officer.
2. Hazardous Materials Officer.
3. Employee Wellness Coordinator.
4. County Environmental Specialist.
5. Risk Manager/Worker's Compensation representative.
6. Environmental Health & Safety Director.
7. Director of Protective Services.
8. A Counseling Center representative appointed by the Assistant Chancellor for Student Affairs.

Radiation Safety Officer? What's going on at Stevens Point that the parents have not been told about?

TMQ has fond memories of passing through Stevens Point during his college days, owing to the pretty campus and Stevens Point Brewery, one of the country's top microbreweries. Stevens Point Brewery was decades ahead of the microbrew fad and will prove it by selling you one of "the last remaining wood aging tanks in the country" for $3,640. Presumably, these oak tanks have already been drained of beer by thoughtful volunteers.

TMQ obscure college game of the year arrives! It was Indiana of Pennsylvania 54, Edinboro 35 and California of Pennsylvania 34, Lock Haven 19 as the two mini-giants had successful tuneups in preparation for the incredible Tuesday Morning Quarterback Obscure College Game of the Year -- California of Pennsylvania at Indiana of Pennsylvania this Saturday, October 19th. Kickoff is 1:30 at George P. Miller Stadium. If you can't make it in person -- and what, exactly, are you doing on Saturday that is more important than attending the incredible Tuesday Morning Quarterback Obscure College Game of the Year? -- listen live here.

The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Western Division has never seen the likes of this game, pitting 6-1 Indiana of Pennsylvania, headed by record-setting receiver Carmelo Ocasio, tied for the NCAA lead with 13 touchdown catches, against 5-1 California of Pennsylvania, which has outscored opponents 184-90. TMQ told you months ago this would be a monster contest!

Buy a copy of the Indiana of Pennsylvania football media guide here. Unfortunately the guide does not clear up the nickname mystery. Indiana of Pennsylvania is called the Indians -- supposedly because of Indiana -- but evidently is just as uncomfortable with this as TMQ is, and uses a suspiciously cuddly little bear as its athletic symbol.

Watch video highlights of California of Pennsylvania games here. TMQ reader Mike Bihary of Pittsburgh, an alum of California of Pennsylvania, notes that the CUP team name Vulcans refers to Roman mythology, not Mr. Spock's homeworld. Damn -- I was hoping to see them mind-meld in the huddle, and cheerleaders chanting, "Live long and prosper!"

Not your father's Ultimate Driving Machine™.
Bonus college stat: Byron Leftwich threw for 447 yards in the first half as Marshall beat University of Buffalo 66-21.

New York Times final-score score: Once again the Paper of Guesses goes 0-14 in its quixotic attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 0-608 since TMQ began tracking. There was gnashing of teeth on West 43rd Street, as the Times had predicted Niners 27, Seahawks 23 and the actual was Niners 28, Seahawks 21. But close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Reader animadversion: Many readers objected to TMQ's statement that since 56 of the 108 NCAA Division I-A football teams would attend bowl games this season, "this means that 52 percent are above average." Apparently BSC-qualification has become the key detail, and there are now 117 Division 1-A football teams for BCS purposes. As Adam Pavlik of East Lansing, Mich., notes, Troy State and University of Connecticut are now classified as Division I-A schools for BCS purposes because they play more I-A than I-AA games, and the seven-member Sun Belt Conference, which debuted in 2001, is now BCS-qualified. So 108 plus seven plus two equals 117. This means a mere 47.9 percent of Division I-A schools will be deemed above average at bowl time! Ryan David of San Antonio adds that, "While the overall win-loss record of division I-A games will be equal (i.e. .500), some teams will come close to losing all their games, which may allow more than 50 percent of Division I-A schools to have a winning record" and thus claim to be above-average.

Apropos the mega-babes of Miss Universe, Frank Belford of City of Tampa, Fla., made the wonderful discovery that if you go to the Miss Universe site and click on "Become Miss Universe," you find a questionnaire that includes the query, "Gender: male or female?" Were you thinking of applying, Frank?

Many, many readers pointed out that Da Bears are playing this year in Champaign, Ill., not Champagne. "Believe me, Champaign isn't a bubbly place," reader Ryan T. of Madison, Wis., noted.

More on the running debate about the state of Vulcan technological development in the 23rd century. TMQ has contended that in the original Captain Kirk episodes, the Vulcans were depicted as "technologically modest," yet in the current Captain Archer prequel episodes, which are supposed to happen a century earlier, enormous Vulcan starcruisers course the galaxy. Last week, many readers countered by pointing to the giant amoeba episode of the original Captain Kirk serials, in which Spock telepathically hears the screams of the crew of a Vulcan starship swallowed by the creature: this, readers contended, proves Vulcans were technologically advanced in the original serial. Comes now Laura Desrochers of Nottingham, N.H., to point out that in the giant amoeba episode, what Spock says is that the creature swallowed the only Federation starship crewed by Vulcans. So the technologically modest Vulcans were borrowing Federation designs, kind of like Pakistan buying our F-16s! I rest my case.

Still more on the continuing debate about the state of 22nd century Romulan technological development. Reader Dan Lowe of Raleigh, N.C., was one among many who objected to TMQ's statement that in order for the cloaking device to enable you to see through a starship -- which is what "Star Trek" serials always depict when a Romulan or Klingon ship cloaks -- the metal and everything else aboard would have to become transparent. Rather, Lowe says, the cloaking device bends the light traveling around the ship, creating an illusion of transparency. (Hmm … an illusion of transparency is what they had at WorldCom.) Lowe recommends to readers the book "The Physics of Star Trek" by Lawrence Krauss, who holds a chair in physics at Case Western Reserve University. Krauss' book, Lowe says, explains how the cloaking device could work by bending light. A reader haikuizes,

Cloaking bends starlight
Read "The Physics of Star Trek,"
page fifty-seven.
-- Shawn Laughlin, Salt Lake City

If you've never seen "Witchblade," don't worry. The first season never happened.
The bending of light was one of the testable predictions of Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, and confirmed in 1919 by a famous experiment conducted by Sir Arthur Eddington. But Einsteinian bending of light requires extremely strong gravity, such as from the mass of a star -- how could a Romulan ship simulate the gravitational output of the mass of a star? And if Arthur Eddington was able to detect the light-bending effect using instruments that existed in 1919, wouldn't super-advanced future gizmos easily identify light bending, making this a sure giveaway of the location of a cloaked starship?

More on the continuing debate about time travel. Reader Rick Osborn of Johnson City, Tenn., noted that although many events in the new Captain Archer "Star Trek" series appear to make no sense compared with what we've already seen in the Captain Kirk and Captain Picard serials that come "later," since time travel had been introduced as an everyday event in the new Captain Archer serial, then of course continuity means nothing. "Star Trek"'s producers are rewriting history by altering time! (See an upcoming TMQ item on how this scriptwriter's excuse has taken over the BS -- that is, Beyond Stupid -- sci-fi series "Witchblade," whose second season premiere used time travel to nullify all the events of the show's first season.) Osborn haikuizes,

Futile objections:
time travel breaks all Star Trek

Regarding TMQ's current hobby horse -- that if you're going to play-fake near the goal line, do it on first down when the defense is thinking run, not on second down after the defense has stuffed a run and is thinking pass -- Don Martin of Grand Rapids, Mich., writes, "You need some schmucks to actually run on first down ... if everyone started play-faking on first, it wouldn't be a surprise anymore." Agreed, the point is not to waste a down by play-faking on second or third down. Play-fakes on fourth-and-goal from the 1 are often productive, though, because the defense is a bundle of nerves.

Reader Eldon Thrush of Houston asks, "Since a run is a play and a pass is a play, why isn't a disguised run that develops into a pass called a run-fake?" Here's the sophisticated insider answer: I have absolutely no idea.

On last week's question of whom Paul Quinn University is named for, Carl Lazarone of Atlanta reports that William Paul Quinn was present at the founding of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 1816. Born in Calcutta, Quinn ended up as a missionary and anti-slavery activist in the American West, and died in 1873.

On last week's question regarding the identity of Harold Schafer, eponym of the Harold Schafer Leadership Foundation at the University of Mary in Bismarck, N.D., Carl Lazarone further explains that Schafer was the inventor of Mister Bubble. See his 2001 obituary -- Schafer's, not Mister Bubble's -- here. A reader memorizes,

Pink round orbs of fun:
Harold Schafer brought to us
happiness in tub.
-- Noe Maldonado, Eagles Pass, Texas

On the question of which of the many Marys the University of Mary was named for, a reader answers in haiku,

That big cross on the
Mary logo is a hint.
The Virgin Mary.
-- Gus Faucher, West Chester, Pa.

Finally Hector Soto of Caguas, Puerto Rico, writes that the correct Spanish is "ay caramba," not "ay carumba." Oy veh!

Got a comment or a deeply felt grievance? Register it here.

Last week's TMQ Challenge: Last week, in anticipation of the new book "Harry Potter and the Global Marketing Campaign of Doom," TMQ decreed that Dan Snyder will henceforth be known to this column as Lord Voldemort. The TMQ Challenge was to suggest, if Snyder is Lord Voldemort, which Potter character would Steve Spurrier be?

Many readers proposed Lucius Malfoy, sinister father of Harry's schoolyard antagonist Draco Malfoy. Brian Hunt of Charleston, W.Va., called on the presumably authoritative "Harry Potter Lexicon" to support Spenser as Malfoy: "Once a Death Eater (U of Florida coach), Lucius Malfoy (Spurrier) revived his old allegiances when Voldemort (Snyder) rose to power. He has a variety of illegal Dark Arts objects and artifacts (no less than six U of Fla. coaches now on Redskins staff) at his disposal. He is strongly against admitting nonpureblood wizards (players who did not attend U of Fla.) into Hogwarts (Fed-Ex Field)." Georginna of Seattle adds of the Malfoy comparison, "Both enjoy torturing those weaker than themselves, including by shamelessly running up scores against Muggle or Division I-AA opponents."

Also popular was Spurrier as Professor Gilderoy Lockhart, the obsequious self-promoter played by Kenneth Branagh in the second Potter movie. Gordon Reid of Haltom City, Texas, proposed that Spurrier should be Lockhart, because Lockhart taught Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts, and the Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher disappeared on an annual basis, just like Persons coaches. Amanda Hazelwood of Falls Church, Va., seconded, noting, "Like Gilderoy, Spurrier is famous, people swoon over him, he's an egomaniac, he loves himself, and he's sure to be fired." Spurrier as Gilderoy Lockhart was the plurality choice of voters.

Robin Wise of Quincy, Mass., proposed that Spurrier would be Fang, the wolf-dog pet of Hagrid, half-giant gamekeeper of Hogwarts. "The reasoning behind this: Fang seems scary to people smaller than him (the lesser teams Spurrier easily beat while at Florida), but those on his level are not afraid of him (other NFL coaches)."

Michael Mesarch of Crofton, Md., opines that Spurrier would be Peter Pettigrew, aka "Wormtail," who is Lord Voldemort's sniveling henchman. Mesarch notes that despite Wormtail's total loyalty, Voldemort cut off Wormtail's hand, as Snyder will surely betray Spurrier and do something horrible to him.

Sharon Wright of Charlottesville, Va., proposes that Spurrier should be Professor Severus Snape: "Ambiguously sinister, and you're not entirely sure which side he's on," as, at the end of the most recent Potter book, you're not completely sure whose side Snape is on.

Roy Swonger of Merrimack, N.H., proposes that Spurrier most resembles Professor Remus Lupin, the noble werewolf tormented by inability to stop himself from changing to an animal. TMQ would add, can't you imagine Spurrier sprouting claws and fur when the moon is full?

Brian McNichols of Lexington Park, Md., compared Spurrier to Ludo Bagman, "a boisterous, silly man who probably means well but ends up aiding Lord Voldemort's evil plans."

Another reader proposed in haiku Harry Potter's ultra-spoiled relative Dudley Dursley,

Pampered, pouting putz:
Spurrier most resembles
vile cousin Dudley.
-- Anna Hoover, Lexington, Ky.

Tom Wilk of Columbus, Ohio, see Spurrier as Peeves the Poltergeist: "For one thing, the reaction of Peeves in any given situation is to break something, which reminds me of Spurrier's attitude toward starting QBs. Also, people at Hogwarts put up with Peeves, but no one really likes him."

Mike Siegel of Baltimore proposed that Spurrier would be Quirrel, the first Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, whose mind was taken over by Lord Voldemort, leaving Quirrel nothing but a drone: "I feel certain what Snyder really wants with Spurrier is an arrangement similar to the one Voldemort had with Quirrel."

As a bonus, Justin of Worcester, Mass., sees Marty Schottenheimer in the role of Sirius Black, wrongfully imprisoned in Azkaban just as Schottenheimer was wrongfully blamed for the Persons' 2001 season. (Schottenheimer was brought in to fix the team's sal-cap disaster, did so and went 8-8 with many unknowns, then was fired so that Spurrier could spend the savings on big names.)

Who wins? Logically, Spurrier ought to be Wormtail, Lord Voldemort's cowering minion. Culturally, Spurrier ought to be Draco Malfoy because at Florida, Spurrier liked to bully helpless smaller schools, and Draco Malfoy is a petty bully. From an employment-security standard, Spurrier ought to be Gilderoy Lockhart, as Spurrier's firing is all but assured.

Dobby, Steve Spurrier
The "childish and hyperactive" Dobby, left, and Steve Spurrier.
But TMQ just has to go with this entry from Russ Petti of Los Angeles, that Spurrier is Dobby the house-elf. Petti notes that "Like Spurrier, Dobby is perfectly capable of working for the forces of darkness," since Dobby was originally the elf of the sinister Malfoy family. Chris of Arlington, Va., also nominated Dobby, noting the comparisons with Spurrier: "Both are childish and hyperactive. They will both inevitably embarrass you when you are in their presence."

Spurrier and Dobby the elf, TMQ would add, both have impossible grand schemes -- Spurrier believes he can score 45 points in every NFL game, Dobby believes he can make elves equal to human beings. Both have high, irritating, squeaky voices. Both flutter around their masters trying to please. Both are poor dressers. Both occasionally do something well (Dobby, after all, found the magic substance that saved Harry from drowning during the Second Task), but both are so incredibly grating you can't stand more than a minute of them. Whenever Dobby appears in the Potter saga, TMQ thinks, "Get this guy off the page!" And whenever Spurrier appears at a press conference …

This week's TMQ Challenge: As Bruce Smith fades into the sunset, TMQ wonders who was the best defensive end ever. Reggie White, Bruce, Deacon Jones? Somebody less well-known? Propose your answer and clever reasoning here. (Note -- Howie Long not eligible to submit entry.) Be sure to include your name, hometown and e-mail address in the unlikely event your submission is chosen.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 5:02 PM



I love you. You have preserved forever my legacy....posting Star Trek knowledge to TMQ.

Posted by: Dan Lowe at August 10, 2004 11:16 AM

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