November 12, 2003

The Official Hat of TMQ

POST #    564


I wonder if this hat will look good with my mop-like hair.

Since this site hosts the archives of Tuesday Morning Quarterback (as mentioned by TMQ himself), the site owner now possesses the hat of TMQ - including signature. How very exciting.

- Read here for links to all the TMQ coverage you could possibly want.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 6:58 PM

2
Comments

 
 

November 11, 2003

TMQ back and Seems to Enjoy the "little read book"

POST #    559

The football gods have shown their mercy (even though Disney has not) and TMQ is back! An entire column written by Mr. Gregg Easterbrook himself! This week, it resides on Football Outsiders (which happens to be a great site), next week, who knows.

If you read on, there is some cool stuff that TMQ says about my site. I'll just paste it here for you to read in case you don't get to the TMQ column.

"Note: thanks to the efforts of Tien Mao, a New York City construction guy with a severely cool personal website, you can still read my Maroon Zone column here. Mao has rescued everything the Ministry of Bristol tried to drop down the memory hole, though without the cheesecake and beefcake photos, sadly. Isn't this just the beauty of the Internet? One guy working alone in an apartment in New York, greatest city in the world, single-handedly frustrates the attempt of a huge corporation to make something disappear."

I just want to thank Gregg and Aaron for their kind words (Aaron in his maroon zone analysis). It should also be noted that I am not really a "construction guy" even though I work in the field of construction. I am more of an "office guy."

- previous communiqué with Gregg
- the TMQ controversy
- the TMQ archives

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 1:50 PM

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November 4, 2003

TMQ Thanks the "little read book"

POST #    544

This morning, after voting, I came into work, checked my email and to my surprise, I had an email from a "geasterbrook." With my curiosity piqued, I opened this email first. It was from none other than Gregg Easterbrook - TMQ himself!

The email:

Dear Tien,

Many thanks for archiving the TMQs -- I was starting to wonder how I myself would ever get them, until I realized you had done this.

You have no legal worries. My ESPN contract says that on termination the rights revert to me, and I'm definitely terminated.

Send me a mailing address and I will send you one of the last Slate-era TMQ baseball caps. Let me know if you want it signed.

It's really nice of you to have saved all these from the scrapheap of history.

Best,

Gregg Easterbrook

I've posted plenty about this, but if you didn't know, Easterbrook lost his job at ESPN.com about a month ago over some things he wrote on his blog on The New Republic site. I then archived all his old ESPN columns on my site as a service to his fans, many of which appreciated the efforts. Good to know that Easterbrook also liked the thought. It's also good to know that I will not be getting sued by Disney.

- The original TMQ controversy.
- The TMQ archives.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 11:05 AM

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October 30, 2003

TMQ - Thursday Morning Quarterback

POST #    516

Ever since the sad day that ESPN.com fired TMQ, his loyal readers have looked for a source of amusement. Some, have come to the "little read book" (my most traffic ever), others have sounded off on other sites. Last week, TMQ writer Gregg Easterbrook surfaced on Football Outsiders, which will serve as his temporary home, with some news about the TMQ column. Football Outsiders also started a TMQ contest for the public. The column by the fans has been posted, including some writing by TMQ himself.

- Read the column.

***This just in. From the end of the column, I am mentioned***
"Hidden TMQ Archives of the Week: Earlier in this column, we joked about the TMQ archives disappearing from ESPN.com. Actually, blogger Tien Mao has taken it upon himself to try to archive as many 2002-2003 TMQ columns as possible. Please go visit and bookmark his site. "

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 12:11 PM

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October 25, 2003

TMQ Archives

POST #    476

In a quest to serve the public, I'm going to try to put all of the old TMQ articles as entries on my site. I finally finished with all the articles I found. The links that were in the articles are gone, as are the pictures. Unfortunately, no pictures of cheesecake.

They will be linked from this entry.

***TMQ update: All my "coverage" on TMQ news.***

New key to success: the Maroon Zone (10.14.03)
TV policy causes TMQ more pain (10.7.03)
Run amok: Soldier Field, Terrell's ego (9.30.03)
Cowboys' win better than ice cream (9.16.03)
Highlights, lowlights and ugly unis (9.9.03)
Hangin' with the cheer-babes (9.9.03)
Most accurate NFL predictions anywhere (9.2.03)
NFC preview: Pass the potatoes(8.26.03)
AFC preview: not blacked out(8.19.03)
I am back with offseason highlights (8.12.03)
Divine intervention (7.01.03)
Next stop, avoiding reality (6.17.03)
The Rust Age of the NBA (6.10.03)
Life in the NFL doldrums (6.3.03)
Wiz choose err over Air (5.9.03)
Making the grade ... with ease (4.29.03)
Making a mockery (4.22.03)
Near naked and not complaining (2.21.03)
LeBron-gate (2.13.03)
Derelict predictions (1.29.03)
Why are you punting? (1.28.03)
The weekend the gods winced (1.21.03)
Blitz happens (1.7.03)
Affiliate follies frustrate NFL fans (12.31.02)
NFL's 88 percent solution (12.24.02)
NFL talking heads stuck in reverse (12.10.02)
Pass the turkeys out of Dallas, Detroit (11.26.02)
Don't say you haven't been warned (11.19.02)
Muddling along the NFL's middle (11.12.02)
Dishing out the dirt about DirecTV (10.29.02)
There's nowhere to run to, baby! (10.22.02)
Honk if you're from St. Louis (10.15.02)
Shrink-wrapped help for your teams (10.8.02)
Always read the fine print (10.1.02)
Losing is alien to Rams, Steelers (9.24.02)
Florida foibles and football fumbles (9.17.02)
Dumb, dumber ... and Dwayne Rudd(9.10.02)
Haiku me? No, haiku you!(9.3.02)
New map points to NFC treasures(8.27.02)
Previewing the fall line for the AFC (8.20.02)
Delusions of grandeur in preseason (8.13.02)
Offensive and boring(6.4.02)
Lies, Damned Lies and Hundredths (4.23.02)
A real mockery of a draft(4.16.02)

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 9:18 AM

4
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October 14, 2003

New key to success: the Maroon Zone

POST #    517

New key to success: the Maroon Zone
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

Football purists obsess over the red zone, but what about the Maroon Zone? Often it is where the manly men are separated from the individuals who merely have XY chromosome pairs.

The Maroon Zone is the area from the opponent's 40-yard line to 30-yard line -- where logic usually dictates going on fourth down, since it's too far for an easy field goal, but too close to punt. Once in the Maroon Zone, make a first down and you've converted a mere possession into a scoring opportunity; fail to get the first and it's either an embarrassing turnover on downs, a long-shot figgie try that gives the opponent great field position if it fails or, worst, launching a ridiculous, mincing fraidy-cat punt. In the Maroon Zone, the team that wants to win simply must get a first down.

In Sunday action, Denver had three Maroon Zone possessions, from the Pittsburgh 30, 34 and 38. Result? Two scoring drives, one for a touchdown and one for the winning field goal as time expired. Winning Maroon Zone performance!

Kansas City had three Maroon Zone possessions, from the Green Bay 31, 32 and 38. Result? Two scoring drives, one for a touchdown and one for the tying field goal at the end of regulation. Winning Maroon Zone performance!

In the same game, Green Bay seemed Maroon Zone invincible -- its four touchdowns followed Maroon Zone possessions at the Kansas City 31-, 35-, 40- and 40-yard lines. Then in the middle of the fourth quarter the Packers entered the Maroon Zone for the fifth time, ball spotted on the Chiefs' 36. An interception returned for a Kansas City touchdown made it Packers 31, Chiefs 28 and this (plus Mars and Uranus being unusually close to Earth) spelled eventual home-team defeat.

Chiefs-Packers
As the Chiefs showed the Packers, it's all about the Maroon Zone.

When Maroon Zone penetrations fail, calamity follows. Leading 3-0 late in the first quarter at Jersey/B, Buffalo reached third-and-inches in the Maroon Zone at the Jets' 32. Pass incomplete on third down; run stuffed on fourth down; Jersey/B, energized, drives the length of the field to take the lead. Trailing 20-3, the Bills reached third-and-3 at the Jets' 30 early in the third period, comeback hopes on the line. Sack, turnover on downs. Maroon Zone failures doomed the Bills to humiliating 30-3 defeat by a previous winless team.

Last night on Monday Night Football, the Atlanta Typos trailed 10-0 late in the second quarter and faced a critical Maroon Zone moment, third-and-1 on the Rams' 32. Incompletion, incompletion, blocked field-goal attempt. Maroon Zone failure doomed the Typos to a humiliating 36-0 defeat on national television. (Note: TMQ calls Atlanta the Typos because their new all-black uniforms look like a printing-press error.)

Yes, things can go well in the Maroon Zone and defeat still knock on the trainer's-room door. The Colts had three Maroon Zone possessions for three scores against Carolina, yet left the stadium mumbling "&%$#@!" Tuesday Morning Quarterback does not claim the Maroon Zone is a flawless predictor of outcomes. But it is the place where possessions either become scoring drives, or end badly. Time to start tracking the Maroon Zone.

In other NFL news, the evil Lord Voldemort (Dan Snyder) got to watch Brad Johnson, the quarterback whom Snyder personally ordered discarded by the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons, pound on Snyder's team in its house. Since Voldemort's canny decision to discard Johnson -- in order to start the always-failed-everywhere Jeff George! -- the Persons have gone 19-23 and made no postseason appearances. The Bucs, starting Johnson, have gone 27-14 and won the Super Bowl. Once again TMQ asks, how did Dan Snyder become a multimillionaire? Every management decision he has made with the Persons has been a boneheaded blunder.

And in still other NFL news, this Sunday was the worst-ever for programming gaffes by network affiliates. Local affiliates showed a menu of cringe-worthy woofer games while the two marquee contests of the week, Panthers-Colts and Chiefs-Packers, both of which turned out to be overtime thrillers, went unseen almost everywhere: details below. What's the solution? Move to Canada or Mexico, where, unlike in the United States, NFL Sunday Ticket is available to anyone. Or move to Iran -- where, it turns out, NFL Sunday broadcasts are better than in United States! Iranians get better NFL games than the American taxpayers who make NFL profits possible? See below.

Steve Smith
Who thought the Panthers would be celebrating like this every week?

Stat of the Week: Stretching back to last season, the Panthers are on a 9-1 run.

Stat of the Week No. 2: Stretching back to last season, Oakland has followed a 9-1 run with a 2-5 run.

Stat of the Week No. 3: Arizona held Jamal Lewis to 131 yards rushing.

Stat of the Week No. 4: Dick Vermeil has reached 6-0 with the Eagles, Rams and Chiefs.

Stat of the Week No. 5: Buffalo has gone four consecutive games without scoring a touchdown in the first half.

Stat of the Week No. 6: Green Bay, Jax and the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons surrendered a combined 55 points in the fourth quarter, all at home.

Stat of the Week No. 7: The Panthers and Ravens, combined record 8-2, have run 356 times and passed 249 times, a 59 percent rushing percentage.

Stat of the Week No. 8: The Bills and Persons, combined record 6-6, have passed 415 times and run 297 times, a 42 percent rushing percentage.

Stat of the Week No. 9: For two consecutive weeks, Oakland has scored a touchdown on its opening possession and then not scored another touchdown in the game. The Raiders lost both.

Stat of the Week No. 10: Brett Favre is 0-3 against Kansas City; he has at least one win against every other team the Packers have faced during his tenure.

Stat of the Week No. 11: Tiki Barber has fumbled eight times in his last seven regular-season outings.

Stat of the Week No. 12: Miami lost more yards on penalties (149) than it gained passing (143).

Holli
A nurse and a Colts cheerleader! Holli makes TMQ wish he were suffering from the same injuries as Edgerrin James.

Cheerleader of the Week: Many readers including James Etling of Indianapolis have proposed Holli of the red-hot (actually, blue-hot) Indianapolis Colts, so here she is. The Colts don't put much about their cheer-babes into cheerleader bios, though we do know that Holli is a nursing student. A nurse and a cheerleader -- fantasy overload.

Sweet Play of the Week No. 1: Leading 3-0 late in the second quarter, Les Mouflons faced second-and-goal at the Atlanta Typos' 3. St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger came to the line and saw that the Typos had no middle linebacker on the field -- they'd gone to a dime defense despite a likely-run situation -- and that both Atlanta defensive tackles were on the outside shoulder of Rams guards. This meant there was no defender directly in front of him. Bulger called the "instant sneak," the high-school play on which the QB taps the center's butt and just takes the ball himself, while the rest of this team stands there. Uncontested three-yard touchdown, and Les Mouflons never looked back.

Sweet Play of the Week No. 2: Trailing Oakland 7-3 in the third, the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.1) lined up for a field-goal try. The holder flipped the ball to kicker Phil Dawson, who ran 14 yards for the first down. Cleveland scored its only touchdown, the winning points, on the next snap.

Sweet Play of the Week No. 3: Game scoreless, the Seattle Blue Men Group faced third-and-7 on the San Francisco 24. Seattle formed a screen right, Matt Hasselbeck pumped right, and then Hasselbeck threw left to Bobby Engram behind a second screen. Engram got the first down, and Seattle scored a touchdown on the next snap. What made this play so sweet? The pump-faked-screen is a San Francisco play! It comes directly from the Niners' playbook, and once was Steve Young's favorite call. Niner acolytes in Green Bay also used the pump-faked-screen play for Ahman Green's 11-yard touchdown against Kansas City.

Sour Play of the Week No. 1: Trailing 17-3 early in the fourth quarter, Jersey/A faced fourth-and-8 on the New England 16. The Giants took the field goal. Accomplishing what? Instead of being down 14, they were still down 11. Trailing big in the fourth quarter on the road, you've got to take some chances and cause some pressure on the home team. Fourth-and-8 from the 16 isn't bad considering that if you miss, the opponent is pinned deep.

New York Giants
Kerry Collins was distraught after Jim Fassel called for the FG instead of going for it.

Then, having chosen tactics based on cutting the margin to 11 points -- meaning a field goal and a touchdown plus a deuce are required -- on its next possession, Jersey/A reached fourth-and-6 on the New England 26. The Giants went for it. Interception, and Jersey/A never threatened again. Having chosen tactics based on cutting the margin to 11 points, aren't you locked in to the field-goal try at this point?

Sour Play of the Week No. 2: Leading 17-10, the Blue Men Group faced second-and-24 on their own 24. Hasselbeck played-faked a run, then threw an interception; San Francisco scored a touchdown on the possession, setting up the close ending. Who's going to fall for a play fake on second-and-24?

Oh, What Might Have Been: Two plays before Kansas City's winning touchdown in overtime at Green Bay, Darren Sharper of the Packers dropped an interception with nothing but grass in front of him. One play before Denver's winning field goal at double-zeros, Steeler safety Brent Alexander dropped an interception. And the pass that Ricky Manning intercepted and returned to the Indianapolis 28, setting up the touchdown that started the Carolina comeback, was perfectly thrown to Colts' back James Mungro, off whose hands it bounced into the air.

Where Was the Defense? One of TMQ's immutable laws is Play-Fake on First. Reaching the goal line, play-fakes work on first down because the defense is thinking run; they rarely succeed on second down, when the defense has just stuffed a run and is thinking pass.

Trailing the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons 3-0, the defending champion Bucs reached first-and-goal at the Persons' 1. The run on first down was stuffed. On second down, Tampa play-faked; easy touchdown pass to tight end Todd Yoder. After stuffing a run, why wasn't the defense thinking pass? Later, leading 14-13, Tampa reached first-and-goal on the Persons' 6. The run on first down was stuffed. On second down, Tampa play-faked; easy touchdown pass to tight end Will Heller. After stuffing a run -- and after seeing a run followed by a play-fake in the identical situation earlier -- why wasn't the defense thinking pass?

Stupid Movie Physics: A consistently delightful Internet site is Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics, which details how Hollywood represents flight, explosions, space travel and other phenomena in ways that violate physical law. Guns that fire hundreds of rounds without being reloaded are a staple complaint. The site often harps on how falling and jumping are depicted in the movies in physically impossible ways, regardless of strength.

A review of the BS (Beyond Stupid) dragons-attack-London movie "Reign of Fire" pointed out that if the dragons had scales so thick that modern surface-to-air missiles bounced off, they'd be much too heavy to take wing. And go ahead and assume that fire-breathing animals can exist; but if they do, "any energy transferred out of the dragon in the form of flames must first go into the dragon in the form of food." The scene in which a dragon melts an entire tank convoy would require, the Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics reviewer calculated, the equivalent of at least 100 gallons of petroleum for flame energy, which in turn would require the dragon to ingest the equivalent of 12,000 milkshakes. Ridiculously, we are told the dragons subsist by consuming ashes from the fires they ignite. But ashes have, by definition, already lost most of their energy content.

Spider-man
The only thing more insulting than stupid movie physics are teams that always pass on third-and-short.

Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics also took apart a scene that represents, to TMQ, the epitome of movies depicting something impossible in physical terms, regardless of superpower. In "Spider-Man," the sinister Green Goblin is standing atop the Queensboro Bridge, holding the comely Mary Jane in one hand and a cable supporting a cable car full of tourists in the other hand; Spider-Man is supposed to choose which the Goblin will drop and which he will spare. Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics calculated that if the cable car weighed two tons and the cable is at a five-degree angle to the horizon, the side force at the Goblin's arm would be 23,000 pounds. "Even if we suspend our disbelief that the thin material in the Goblin's armor could support 23,000 pounds," there's no way this force, counterweighted only by the nubile Mary Jane, could fail to pull the Goblin sideways off the bridge.

What happens next is one of the "endless falling" scenes that drives TMQ crazy -- people in movies plummeting downward through the air for far longer than physically possible, often calmly doing something as they plummet. When Spider-Man refuses to choose, the Goblin drops both the cable car and the charming Mary Jane. Spider-Man executes a series of dramatic web-swings to catch both. Set aside that the cable car, now accelerating under gravity, when grabbed by Spider-Man would transfer hundreds of thousands of pounds of force to Spidey's arm. Set that aside and just count the seconds. The Queensboro Bridge is 350 feet high. Free-falling objects in Earth's atmosphere accelerate at 9.8 meters per second per second. This means Mary Jane and the cable car would take four seconds to fall from the top of the Queensboro Bridge to the surface of the East River. The scene in which Spiderman swings into position to catch them is 15 seconds long.

Best Use of TMQ: Tuesday Morning Quarterback advised in its NFC preview, "Tip to Eagles opponents: Philadelphia onside kicks in unexpected situations," especially to start games. Three years ago, the Eagles onside kicked to open their game at Dallas. On Sunday they did the same; Cowboy Randal Williams snagged the rock and ran it 37 yards for the touchdown. Cowboys' sideline gentleman Bruce DeHaven, one of the best special-teams coaches in football annals except for one play -- his Buffalo charges gave up the "Music City Miracle" at Tennessee -- knew about the Eagles' onside tendency, surely from reading TMQ! DeHaven had the Dallas return unit in the up position, expecting an onside; Philly failed to notice this. The football gods chortled.

According to the official Game Book, Williams ran the ball 37 yards in three seconds. That's the equivalent of a 3.2 time in the 40-yard dash.

Revenge of the Chicks, Part Two: Reader Amy Botello of New York City has conducted an incredibly scientifically advanced of cheesecake and beefcake in Tuesday Morning Quarterback columns this season and found, "So far your stud-to-hot-chick ratio is 3-to-16. And I have to say even though that was a great display of abs and pecs, Terrell Owens is soooooo obnoxious he can't be considered truly yummy, so it's really a 1-to-8 ratio. Not good." She protests in haiku,

Where is the beefcake,
what about the promised studs?
Eye-candy for all!

-- Amy Botello, New York

Brad Pitt
Amy, this is for you.

Amy requests shirtless poses of "Brad Pitt, Matt Damon or Ashton Kutcher, not the aging Harrison Ford or Sean Connery. For every Britney, give us a Justin." Amy, I'd trade you Britney for Justin, just to get rid of Britney! At any rate, your wish is my command -- here's your beefcake.

Best Blocks: All highlight reels showed Miami QB Jay Fiedler cleaning the clock of Arleigh Burke-class Jax DE Tony Brackens on the Ricky Williams reversed-field run that was the Marine Mammals' initial touchdown. TMQ counted one-thousand one, one-thousand two, one-thousand three, one-thousand four, one-thousand five, one-thousand six on Steve McNair's first touchdown pass to Derrick Mason; one-thousand one, one-thousand two, one-thousand three, one-thousand four, one-thousand five on McNair's second TD to the same gentleman. On Mack Strong's 21-yard touchdown run for the Blue Men Group, blocking was magnificent, especially by guard Steve Hutchinson. It's pretty fun to run when everyone in your path has already been knocked to the ground.

Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed At All: Trailing 13-7, the Raiders faced third-and-1 on the Cleveland 24 with 33 seconds left, holding a timeout. Pass incomplete, pass incomplete, game over.

Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed At All No. 2: Last December the Dolphins' season crashed and burned when they went incompletion, incompletion, incompletion on their final possession at New England, rather than running into the line for no gain and keeping the clock moving; the Patriots tied the score with mere ticks to spare, and won in overtime. This season, TMQ continues to feel spooked that the Marine Mammals are not simply handing the ball to Williams in clock-grinding situations. Leading 17-10 at Jax, Miami threw incomplete on third down on each of its last two possessions, twice stopping the clock and leaving 2:18 for the Jaguars' last-ditch attempt from their own 21. Had Miami simply run into the line for no gain on both snaps, Jacksonville's last-ditch attempt would have begun with the clock nearly drained.

The Hulk
Amy, does a shirtless, computerized Hulk count as beefcake? (See, we could have taken the sleazy route and ran a partially nude Jennifer Connelly.)

Moviegoers Learned Why Producers Took the Word "Incredible" Out of "The Hulk": Disclaimers for "The Hulk" warned of "partial nudity." What is "partial" nudity -- aren't you either naked or not? Mega-babe Jennifer Connelly is the one who was partially naked in the movie. TMQ would have preferred to pay $8 just to look at her, with the rest of the movie deleted.

The concept of "partial nudity" recalls the Department of Agriculture concept of the "partial whole" strawberry. According to this USDA manual for grading strawberries, "a partial strawberry is a berry in whole style that is less than three-fourths of a whole strawberry." This means some shipments of strawberries are labeled "contains partial whole strawberries."

Worst Blocks: The extremely overpriced Potomac Drainage Basin offensive line -- three of the highest-paid linemen in the league, and most sacks allowed in the league -- gave up four sacks to Simeon Rice alone. On one play, extremely overpaid tackle Chris Samuels turned inside to double-team the rarely-sacks Warren Sapp, leaving only a tight end to block Rice, who blew in for the sack. On another play, extremely overpaid tackle Jon Jansen turned inward to help extremely overpaid guard Randy Thomas double-team rarely-sacks Anthony McFarland, leaving only a running back to block Rice, who blew in for the sack.

The Football Gods Promised An Investigation: I don't wish to alarm you, but not only are the Dallas Cowboys third overall in offense, they are third overall in defense.

TMQ, Grammar Snob: Amtrak advertising for the new Acela train boasts "faster travel times." Time is a means of measurement, neither "fast" nor "slow." Trains can be slower or faster, trips can be shortened or lengthened, but times cannot be faster, no matter how flashy Acela looks.

Amtrak
If you read TMQ on the Acela, would it mean you finish it faster?

Exception: Einstein showed that at very high velocities, time passes more slowly from the perspective of the fast-moving observer. This sort of thing doesn't apply to Amtrak, which presumably does not reach relativistic speed. Outrunning bicyclists is normally Amtrak's velocity goal.

The Bank of America branch near the Official Office of TMQ, in downtown Washington, D.C., has a giant banner in the window reading, LONGER HOURS. Longer than 60 minutes?

Any Physics Post-Doc Who Inadvertently Destroys the Universe Will Receive an Incomplete for the Course: Relativistic effects are rarely observed outside the particle accelerators found in physics labs. Sir Martin Rees, the noted British astronomer, declares in his new doomsday book "Our Final Hour" that it might be possible for an error at a particle accelerator to destroy the entire universe by converting all 50 billion galaxies into a single, minutely small "strangelet." Alternatively, Rees writes, an accelerator experiment might inadvertently create a zone of the mysterious nothing-anything condition that existed before the Big Bang: the inadvertently created not-anything would spread outward at the speed of light, eventually deleting the entire cosmos. A minor accelerator error, Reese muses, might merely convert the Earth into "an inert hyperdense sphere a hundred meters across."

Best Clocking-Grinding Drive: Leading the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons 14-13, the defending champion Bucs took over on their own 9 late in the third quarter. Tampa held the ball for 12 plays, scoring for a 21-13 lead and grinding so much clock the Persons were forced to go pass-wacky, to their woe.

Best Nine-Straight-Passes Drive: Trailing by a touchdown with three minutes left, the Lucky Charms got the ball on their own 9. They moved to the tying touchdown, Peyton Manning to Reggie Wayne with 25 seconds remaining, improbably passing on nine consecutive snaps.

Best Nine-Straight-Runs Drive: Trailing by three, Kansas City took over the ball with 2:43 remaining in regulation. For the remainder of the contest, won in overtime by Kansas City coming back from a 31-14 deficit, the Chiefs ran 22 offensive plays to one for Green Bay. What changed? The Chiefs switched to the run -- the last thing you'd expect from a team trailing late on the road. To the moment Kansas City took over with 2:43 in regulation, the Chiefs had more points (31) than rushing yards (30). Nevertheless they ran several times on the tying drive. Getting the ball on their own 29 to start overtime, Kansas City ran Priest Holmes on nine consecutive downs, moving the ball to the Green Bay 30. Next came an exchange of turnovers. The Chiefs' field-goal attempt was blocked, then the Packers fumbled the ball back; Trent Green threw the winning touchdown strike on the next play. The nine-straight-runs drive put the overtime into Kansas City's control.

Shorna
Shorna loves talking forestry with Peyton Manning in her spare time.

Assistant Professor Cheerleader of the Week: Speaking of the blue-hot Colts, many readers, including Stephen Terry of the Plasma Physics Laboratory at Princeton University, have pointed out that one of the Indianapolis cheer-babes is Shorna Broussard, an assistant professor of forestry and natural resources at Purdue University. According to the Colts' cheerleader profile -- which dryly notes, "occupation: professor" -- Broussard's most recently read book is, "Wilderness and the American Mind." This is slightly north of the "Who Moved My Cheese?" titles that dominate cheerleader reading lists.

This Associated Press article dryly declares of the Colts cheer-babes, "Broussard is the only assistant professor on the squad." The article further explanations that Broussard tried out for the Colts' cheerleaders because she had been taking dance classes since childhood, and wanted a hobby that was different from teaching natural-resource management. Broussard told the Associated Press she "is interested in the political aspects of environmental policy." Shorna, I've written a book about environmental policy, so maybe you and I could ... oh, forget it.

Disturbing sidelight: they're reading Tuesday Morning Quarterback in the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. They're gawking at cheer-babe pictures at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. Please be sure to keep an eye on the dials of the particle accelerators, OK?

Programming Outrage of the Week: Undefeated Carolina at undefeated Indianapolis, the last pairing of unbeatens in the 2003 season! (Unless you believe Kansas City and Minnesota can both be 15-0 when they meet Dec. 20.) So did New York City, largest city in the nation, see this monster game? New York did not. Did Los Angeles, second-largest city in our great nation, see this monster game? Los Angeles did not. Did Chicago, third-largest city, see this monster game? Chicago did not. Did Washington, capital of our great nation, see this monster game? Washington did not. The list goes on in awful detail.

Did Fox, which had the call, even feature Carolina at Indianapolis as its game of the week? Fox did not. Fox sent its lead announcer team to the Bucs at Persons collision, combined record 5-4, which it beamed to most of the country rather than Panthers at Colts, combined record 9-0. Bucs at Persons turned out to be a snorefest, Panthers at Colts an overtime thriller; no, there's no way to know in advance which games will be good, but combined record is the best leading indictor. Last week, CBS had a chance to show two undefeateds, Denver at Kansas City, and instead chose a lesser game as its nationally featured contest. This week, Fox passed on what was almost surely the final pairing of undefeateds that will occur in the 2003 season, in order to air a lesser pairing. Ye gods.

Jennifer Connelly
Just because: thought we'd slip in a photo of Jennifer Connelly anyway (although not a partially nude one).

At times, TMQ has promoted the notion that Los Angeles is the best place in the United States to watch the NFL on television because, lacking a home team, City of Angels local affiliates can pick the best games. This Sunday, Los Angeles became the City of Woofers. Instead of Carolina at Indianapolis, combined record 9-0, Los Angeles Fox affiliate KTTV showed Eagles at Cowboys, combined record 5-3. Instead of Kansas City at Green Bay, combined record 8-2, Los Angeles CBS affiliate KBCS showed Oakland at Cleveland, combined record 4-6. Ay caramba.

Many cities did not see Carolina-Indy because the home team was playing at the same time on Fox. Did cities at least see the excellent Kansas City at Green Bay pairing -- another overtime thriller, and which involved no network conflict? Most did not. In Washington, rather than show the excellent Kansas City at Green Bay pairing, to which it had the rights, local CBS affiliate WUSA showed: infomercials! Wait, isn't there a NFL league-promotion spot in which Zach Thomas of the Dolphins declares that if it weren't for pro football we would have to watch infomercials on Sunday? That's what our nation's capital saw on Sunday, infomercials, rather than the Kansas City at Green Bay overtime thriller.

Baltimore beheld the woofer Oakland at Cleveland pairing, combined record 4-6, rather than the excellent Kansas City at Green Bay pairing, combined record 8-2. This is an example of the local affiliates' absurd habit of showing bad divisional games -- the Browns (Release 2.1) are in the same division as Baltimore's Ravens -- rather than the best contests.

Did most major cities see the solid Pittsburgh at Denver pairing, a down-to-the-last-second thriller which came in the 4 p.m. slot and involved no home-team conflict in most locations? Chicago, at least, saw this game. But instead of Pittsburgh-Denver in the late afternoon slot, our nation's capital got the woofer Baltimore at Arizona pairing, combined record 3-6. That's the third Arizona Cardinals game to air in our nation's capital this year. Does WUSA, Washington's CBS affiliate, even know that the Cardinals have been moved out of the NFC East? Only 24,193 people who live in Arizona wanted to see the Cardinals' game, based on attendance; but all of the nation's capital was assumed, by WUSA, to wish to behold this contest. Meanwhile Washington has yet to get its first glimpse of the Panthers, who are not only 5-0 but located 2,000 miles closer than the Cardinals.

I'll spare readers repetition of TMQ's grievance that the NFL stages fabulous games like Carolina at Indianapolis and Kansas City at Green Bay, then elaborately prevents people from seeing the fabulous games. The NFL prevents most Americans from seeing the best games by limiting NFL Sunday Ticket to the satellite monopoly DirecTV: which only 10 percent of American homes get, and huge numbers cannot receive for technical reasons. And I'll spare readers repetition of TMQ's grievance that, while access to the top games is elaborately denied to most Americans owing to the DirecTV monopoly, Canada and Mexico forbid such monopolies; there, anyone can order Sunday Ticket on cable. This means Canadians and Mexicans have far better opportunity to view the NFL than Americans.

Iran football
And we don't mean Iranians are watching this kind of football!

No, I won't repeat those complaints. But I will add -- now even Iran gets better access to NFL games than Americans! Numerous readers including Diana Sophronia of Cyprus have flagged TMQ that Middle East TV, which broadcasts to Iran, Egypt, Turkey and other nations, has a much better track record of picking NFL games than do most U.S. local network affiliates. On Sunday, for example, the Middle East TV pro football doubleheader was Chiefs at Packers followed by Steelers at Broncos . That's a far better Sunday card than was shown in New York, Los Angeles, Washington or most major American cities. Mullahs sipping Arabian coffee in Tehran got better viewing access to NFL games this Sunday than people living in the United States!

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! Leading 24-10 in the third, the Flaming Thumbtacks faced second-and-9, pinned on their own 3. Since the average pass attempt yields about six yards, all the Texans needed to do was played straight defense -- anyway, it's a blitz! A 44-yard completion to Justin McCareins, touchdown two snaps later. The Titans go 98 yards in five plays, and the rout is on.

Yes, the blitz sometimes works -- Dallas blitzed six on the Donovan McNabb fumble that sealed the Cowboys' win, and New Orleans blitzed six to cause the Kordell Stewart fumble that set up a Saints' field goal. My point is that the blitz backfires at least as often as it works. Most of the time, you're better off playing straight defense.

Those Who Fail to Learn From Game Film Are Doomed to Repeat It: For two consecutive columns, TMQ has noted Buffalo's pass-wacky tendency in the Maroon Zone. Three times in Weeks 4 and 5, the Bills faced third-and-1 or third-and-2 on an opponent's 32 or 33. In no instance did they pound, pound for the 90-percent-likely first down. Each time the third down call was a pass; each time (incompletions, fumble, missed field goal) the possession ended without points. Did the Bills coaching staff learn the lesson of the last three failures in this situation, and on Sunday pound, pound in the Maroon Zone situations noted at the column top? Pass attempts on both third and shorts; incompletion, sack.

Want to See Good NFL Games? Move to Iran ... or Portland, Ore.: Reader Alison Fowler of Portland, Ore., reports that the top matchups are usually aired by her local network affiliates. "Portland is not much of a football city, so maybe indifference is the key to getting the good games," Fowler suggests. On Sunday, Portland saw Chiefs at Packers, Steelers at Broncos and Bucs at Persons -- TMQ would have settled for that card in a heartbeat. Fowler also gloats, in haiku, that Portland got the monster Week 5 games that went unseen throughout most of the United States:

City of Roses
saw Broncs-Chiefs, Seahawks-Packers.
No Ticket needed.

-- Alison Fowler, Portland, Ore.

Making Reality TV Worse Was a Big Ratings Success, So Why Doesn't Making the NBA Worse Attract Viewers? Today the San Antonio Spurs are at the White House. Good for them, but the Spurs-Nets NBA Finals was the lowest-rated NBA championship ever in prime-time. The Nielsen mark for the series was just 6.3, terrible for prime time: a top series like "Friends" rates about 15, while NFL Sunday afternoon broadcasts rate around 10. In the last five years alone the "share" -- the percentage of turned-on television sets that are tuned to a particular broadcast -- for the NBA Finals has fallen from 32 percent to 12 percent. Every other denominator of NBA popularity is in free-fall, too. And what is the response of the league? So far as TMQ can tell, the NBA thinks the solution is to dumb the game down even more, chucking out quality and emphasizing hype: though it's the dumbing-down that started the NBA ratings slide.

All this is worth bearing in mind as Maurice Clarett sues to overturn pro football's rule that draftees must be at least 20 years old. If the doors are opened to immature me-me-me players such as Clarett, an inevitable cycle of dumbing-down, declining quality and lost ratings will arrive for the NFL, too.

As this column has pointed out, the drop in NBA popularity coincides with the league's decision to start admitting high-school players en masse. Every year the quality of NBA play goes down, owing to more callow athletes who lack schooling in the fundamentals, who'd rather strut and point at themselves than listen to coaches. Every year, the NBA response is to draft still more high-schoolers and dumb things down further. The NBA thinks fans are too stupid to notice the ongoing decline in pro basketball product quality. Check the ratings: fans have noticed!

The solution for the NBA is to get the high school kids off the court and back into college, which would be good for the sport and good for them personally. As regards the NFL, it is essential that the league fight Clarett with everything it has. Ruin the kid's life if necessary: Clarett's I-don't-care-about-anything-in-the-world-but-me-me-me act begs for a retaliatory strike. Clarett is the carrier of a deadly disease. Keep him out, and prevent the cycle of product-quality decline from coming to pro football, too.

Did I Hallucinate This? On ESPN's Monday Night pregame show, correspondent Chris Mortensen delivered, without a hint of irony, a report saying that in the wake of the Philadelphia loss at Dallas, Eagles players "are beginning to question Donovan McNabb's ability."

Oh Ye Mortals, Trifle Not With the Football Gods: During the offseason, Buffalo DT Pat Williams boasted, "No one will run against the Bills this year." Buffalo is 23rd against the run, and Sunday allowed 118 rushing yards by Jersey/B, which entered the contest as the last-ranked rushing team in the league. During the offseason, Bills coaches, criticized as pass-wacky, promised a commitment to running. After running for just 53 yards against the Jets' 32nd-rated rushing defense, which entered the game surrendering 174 yards per contest, Buffalo now takes over from Jersey/B as last-ranked in rushing.

Wacky Food of the Week: According to this article, trendy New York City eateries have begun to offer grilled chocolate sandwiches: "At the Chickenbone Cafe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Zakary Pelaccio grills bittersweet chocolate between slices of rich brioche, creating a density akin to the most elegant cake." Grilled chocolate sandwiches are promoted as a breakfast option.

Volvo
If it's a truck, where's the gun rack?

"Swedish Wagon of the Year" Just Didn't Have the Same Snap: If it weren't SUV-like, I would name the Volvo XC90 the Official Car of TMQ. Why? Volvo is promoting the XC90 as winner of the "North American Truck of the Year" award. The XC90 is neither a truck nor built in North America.

TMQ Insider Exclusive! Tuesday Morning Quarterback has learned on an exclusive basis that Jon "I Was Teenaged Coach" Gruden was asked to leave a Tampa-area Hooters -- Gruden carries a Hooters VIP card http://espn.go.com/page2/s/tmq/030114.html -- when he declared he "was groping for answers to the Bucs' problems." Remember, this is a Tuesday Morning Quarterback exclusive.

Running Items Department

Obscure College Score of the Week: McKendree 59, Iowa Wesleyan 13. Located in Lebanon, Illinois, McKendree's slogan is "Where Quality Matters". Its previous slogan, "Where Quality Doesn't Matter," failed to test-market well.

Bonus Obscure College Score: Northwestern State 87, Southeast Louisiana 27. Northwestern State, which has outscored opponents 146-27 in its last two games, recorded 12 touchdowns, including five on runbacks of interceptions or blocked kicks. Postgame speech of Southeastern Louisiana coach Hal Mumme:

"Well, boys, you held them under 90."

Located in Hammond, Louisiana, Southeastern's slogan is, "We Have A Place for You". So if you can't get into McKendree because of that quality thing, call Southeastern.

Double Bonus Obscure College Score: Edinboro 28, Indiana of Pennsylvania 20. TMQ's favorite obscure team fell from the undefeated ranks as the Indianans of Indiana of Pennsylvania were caught looking ahead to next weekend's monster showdown against California of Pennsylvania. You can listen to the Indiana of Pennsylvania at California of Pennsylvania monster showdown over Web radio here. And really, is there anything more important that you would be doing on Saturday at 3 p.m. Eastern than listening to Indiana of Pennsylvania at California of Pennsylvania?

The Football Gods Guffawed: Since being on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the Oregon Ducks have lost three straight and been outscored 131-43.

New York Times Final-Score Score Once again, the Paper of Guesses goes 0-14 in its quixotic attempt to predict an exact NFL final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 1-921 since TMQ began tracking. The goal of 1,000 inaccurate predictions, once just a dream, comes ever-closer to reality for the Multicolored Lady.

Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or deeply felt grievance? Register it at TMQespn@yahoo.com.

Recently, TMQ proclaimed another immutable law, Clang on First Bars Run on Second. My contention, backed with seemingly airtight stats from games played in Week 3, was that teams that feel they must run on second down after an incomplete pass on first down "might as well tell the refs they are waiving second down and proceeding directly to third-and-10," because a second-down rush after a first-down incompletion is routinely stuffed. Stats from Week 3 showed that runs on second down, following first-down incompletions, averaged less than one yard gained.

Comes now the Football Outsiders website, a wonderful new stats-obsessed site run mainly by sports nut Aaron Schatz. The Football Outsiders crowd has come into possession of some kind of incredibly scientifically advanced database of every conceivable stat from every NFL game. Let's hope this technology does not fall into the wrong hands! Using its database, Football Outsiders scanned every game played in 2002 for rushes on second down following an incompletion on first. The numbers show an overall average of 4.6 yards gained per rush attempt, somewhat higher than the league average for all carries.

So does this disprove TMQ's immutable law? Not necessarily; Football Outsiders also found that 38 percent of second-down rushes following first-down incompletions were stuffed, gaining two yards or less, while only 28 percent of second-down rushes following a completion were stuffed. Of course, the offenses that throw lots of incompletions also tend to be the offenses whose runs are stuffed. At any rate, the Football Outsiders scan of the entire 2002 season seems to support TMQ's contention that a second-down run after a first-down incompletion is a predictable play that often leads to a third-and-10. And readers are advised to keep an eye on Football Outsiders, a stat-lover's paradise.

On the subject of Arnold Schwarzenegger's height -- he calls himself 6-foot-2 but is surely less -- reader Michael Kovaka writes, "A few years ago, I had a locker next to him in the fitness center at the ANA Hotel in Washington, D.C. Both of us were buck naked, thereby ruling out any aid either of us might have received from footwear. Arnold was vastly more buff than I; however, at 6-1, I loomed over his 5-10-or-so frame. Modesty prevents me from making any further physiological comparisons." Michael, if only you had your camera-equipped cell phone at the ready, TMQ could now be satisfying the beefcake-demanding chick reader faction.

Last Week's Challenge: How does one become a "celebrity chef?" TMQ asked readers to pose a test.

Nicholas Scrivani of Downers Grove, Illinois, proposed that "to become a celebrity chef, one must learn how to cook and marinade everything with Cristal Champagne. Every celebrity I have ever seen on MTV Cribs has Cristal stocked in the refrigerator."

Three readers proposed tests in haiku:

Celebrity chef?
Create disgusting entrée,
get people to pay.

-- David Bouchillon

Lighting food on fire;
keeping hair-piece free of flame;
knowing fowl from fare.

-- Sam Pfeifle, Portland, Maine

Celebrity chefs
have but one prerequisite:
a zany accent.

-- Jeff Marion, Eugene, Oregon

Tim of Minneapolis supposed, "To become a celebrity chef, you must cook something that Calista Flockhart would eat." But there is no such thing!

Many readers proposed that that making food for, or perhaps waking up next to, Paris Hilton would cause one to graduate to celebrity chef. One reader haiku-ized,

Paris Hilton
Is Brian Urlacher ready to pop out of one of the cakes?

Celebrity chef:
one who has prepared breakfast
for Paris Hilton.

-- Shayan Hussain, Chicago

Check this brief bio of Hilton at the Ask Men website; it calls her a "high-society party girl, part-time model and quasi-actress." Quasi-acting -- isn't that how you become wealthy in Hollywood?

Reader Jean-Pierre Gagick of Paris, France, wins this Challenge by declaring that to become a celebrity chef, one must do a turn in the kitchen of the Hotel les Mouflons in southern France. Previously featured in TMQ, the Hotel les Mouflons -- "hotel of sheep" -- is the official resort hotel of the St. Louis Rams, known to this column as Les Mouflons. According to the Babel Fish automated translator, the first paragraph at the center of the Hotel les Mouflons web page declares,

At the exit of the medieval citè of Besse in Chandesse, at five minutes of Super Besse and its ski pistes, you will be able to combine the pleasure of the old stones and inheritance with that of the great extents and the sport.

The pleasures of the old stones! Can't wait. Again according to Babel Fish, the hotel also promises,

The truffade, the trout and beef de Salers are here the specialities, declined on several simple receipts and of quality. We also propose a chart to you where gastronomy and soil will be accompanied by best believed.

Only a celebrity chef could prepare trout declined on simple recipes, so the Hotel les Mouflons must be the place.

This Week's Challenge: "Partial nudity" makes no sense -- you're either starkers or you are not. What other phrases, in everyday usage, make no sense? Submit your witty proposal to TMQespn@yahoo.com.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 4:27 PM

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October 7, 2003

TV policy causes TMQ more pain

POST #    502

TV policy causes TMQ more pain
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

The hottest four minutes of football this season was on national TV for anyone to see -- not that anyone did, all right-thinking people having switched off Monday Night Football last night when it was Tampa 35, Indianapolis 14 with four minutes remaining. Heidi was still watching! Special Colts' comeback analysis below.

But though the best moment was out there for all to see, NFL Week 5 otherwise was an all-time low for bad network choices. Two marquee games highlighted the Sunday card: undefeated Seahawks at Green Bay, and undefeated Broncos at undefeated Chiefs.


So New York City, our nation's largest metropolis, the greatest city in the world, must have seen these monster games? New York City saw neither.


Washington, D.C., our nation's capital, must have seen these monster games? Washington saw neither.


Los Angeles, our nation's second-largest city, must have seen these monster games? Los Angeles saw Hawks-Packers, but not Broncos-Chiefs.


Chicago, city of Big Shoulders, third-largest city in the nation, must have seen these monster games? Chicago saw neither.


Houston, fourth-largest city in the nation, and Dallas, ninth-largest city in the nation, must have seen these monster games? Houston and Dallas saw neither.

Let's see: two undefeated teams or ... the Jets!


Fast-growing Phoenix, seventh-largest city, must have seen these monster games? Phoenix saw neither.


While Fox showed about half the country the Blue Men Group at Packers, much of the rest of the nation was forced to endure the woofer Arizona-at-Dallas pairing (combined record 3-4 before Sunday). Washington, DC, was among the victims of Arizona at Dallas, while Baltimore was also hit, reader Marc Nelson Jr. writes.


The Southwest, reader Zach of Scottsdale writes, saw Arizona vs. Dallas, San Diego vs. Jax and Detroit vs. San Francisco -- teams with a combined record of 4-18 going into Sunday.


CBS showed much of the country the Dolphins-at-Jersey/A game, not a bad pairing (combined record 4-2) but one that paled in comparison to Broncos at Chiefs (combined record 8-0) and paled further when considering that Kansas City is so far the season's most entertaining team. CBS even put the Dolphins-Giants game in HDTV and sent its number-one announcing team, Greg Gumble and Phil Simms, to New Jersey rather than to Arrowhead. That is to say, CBS passed on a battle of undefeateds in order to show a lesser pairing.


This season, the Washington area, where TMQ lurks, has witnessed every tedious snap of every tedious Cowboys game -- and Washington hates Dallas! -- plus every tedious snap of every tedious game of the winless Jets, while still getting no glimpse of the Seahawks or Panthers (combined record now 7-1) and just one look each at the Chiefs and Vikings (combined record 10-0). Other major cities have been similarly afflicted with bad pairing after bad pairing, while monster games go unseen.


It continues to amaze Tuesday Morning Quarterback how the NFL spends billions of dollars to field a high-quality product, then prevents viewers from actually seeing the games. This doesn't even make economic sense: Surely the propensity for showing woofer games when great games are available drives down ratings, and hence drives down advertising revenue.


And, as Tuesday Morning Quarterback may possibly have mentioned, the solution to the problem of local affiliates airing woofer games -- NFL Sunday Ticket, which allows viewers to pay $209 per season to watch any contest -- continues to be available strictly on a monopoly basis to subscribers of DirecTV, the satellite service. Only about 10 percent of American households subscribe to DirecTV; many millions of American households cannot receive the DirecTV signal for technical reasons, regardless of willingness to pay. (TMQ keeps a running count: Of those people I personally know who have tried to subscribe to DirecTV, three have been able to get the signal and eight found it impossible to sign up, including yours truly.) Bad pairings air on free TV; the best games are often shown only via a monopoly service that 90 percent of Americans can't or don't get.


The Sunday Ticket part seems like total lunacy until you take into account that DirecTV is in the process of being sold to Rupert Murdoch, who thrives on establishing media cartels. Murdoch is paying the league about $400 million a year to maintain this particular monopoly. So the NFL gets many dineros, and Murdoch adds a monopoly to his portfolio. But with all the talk of Congress being opposed to media consolidation, TMQ continues to wonder why Congress doesn't investigate the DirecTV monopoly over Sunday Ticket. The primary effect of the NFL's deal with the DirecTV devil is, after all, to shaft American taxpayers whose tax monies make NFL stadiums and profits possible.

"Peyton, who says we can't win a big one!"


Now, because of the Colts' comeback, there is another battle of the undefeateds this weekend -- Panthers at Indianapolis. Please, please tell me the local affiliates won't screw up yet again and not show this monster collision. Only one other battle of undefeateds is possible in the 2003 season: The Chiefs meet the Vikings on the Sunday before Christmas, but odds are both will not be 15-0 at kickoff. (Actually the Colts or Chiefs might meet the Panthers or Vikings in the Super Bowl and both might be 18-0; but if you think that can happen, you think the Cubs and Red Sox could meet in the World Series!) Undefeated Panthers at undefeated Colts. Affiliates, don't screw up again; show this game.


In other football news, despite their struggles this year -- a combined record of 1-9 -- Dan Reeves and Marty Schottenheimer are the league's winningest active coaches, with a total of 365 career victories. They have also been fired a combined five times, and may both be shown the door at year's end. It's the coaches who have never been fired that TMQ worries about.


Special Lucky Charms Comeback Analysis: Key point: The Bucs did not switch to a prevent defense Monday night, as sports nuts have been assuming this morning. During the final, fateful four minutes of regulation, the defending champs had their corners play soft. Otherwise, it was conventional defense, including two blitzes.


Maybe Tampa should have switched to the prevent, because on the comeback's killer snap -- Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison for 52 yards to the Tampa 6 with 57 seconds left, setting up the tying touchdown -- Harrison was able to get behind the Tampa secondary. There's a minute left. The Colts are on their side of the field. They have no time outs. Where, oh where, oh where might the pass go? Maybe toward the end zone!


Yet Harrison blew by corner Tim Wansley, who made no attempt to cover him deep. The play didn't involve complex action, just a standard "up" -- Harrison ran a straight line toward the Tampa goal. Wansley, inexplicably, was busy making the high-school mistake of "looking into the backfield," watching Manning instead of watching his man. The Tampa safety on that side, Jermaine Phillips, paid no attention whatsoever to Harrison as he roared deep. Harrison only had an all-time-record 143 receptions last season; why would you think the Colts might throw to him? And Phillips ignored Harrison going deep, despite the fact that Wansley, the corner on that side, was a sub for an injured starter. Harrison was a good 10 yards past Phillips before this gentlemen started chasing him.


How is it physically possible, in a must-go-deep situation, to get behind an NFL zone defense? Here's how: if the corner and the safety both ignore the other team's best receiver. Ye gods.

Wait, Vanderjagt's jersey isn't properly tucked in! Where's the flag?!?!


Also key to the comeback: Indianapolis propitiated the football gods by running when Tampa expected passes. The Colts ran on fourth-and-one with 3:43 left, trailing by 21, and got a touchdown. Poised at the Tampa 6 with 57 seconds remaining and no time outs, the Colts ran on consecutive snaps and got a touchdown. The football gods smile on those who keep their heads and run while all others around them are losing their heads and going pass-wacky.


The Bucs, for example! Getting the kickoff to start overtime, Tampa had its chance to take back the momentum of the game by pounding straight at the surely-tired visitors. Instead, Tampa coaches called passes on seven of the Bucs' nine snaps. The defending champs punted and never saw the ball again.


TMQ agrees that the leaping call against City of Tampa, giving the Colts another field-goal try after a miss in overtime, was ticky-tacky at best. The boys should decide the outcome, not the officials. It was well after midnight, and you could tell the officials just wanted to go home. Handing Indianapolis another free shot, in hopes of calling it a night, made the zebras look bad.


But, Tampa faithful, get serious. You've got a 21-point lead with less than four minutes left, in your house, and the league's top defense. If you can't hold that lead, do not coming cryin' about no refs.


And bear in mind the two personal fouls committed by Tampa players in the final three minutes of regulation. Offensive tackle Kenyatta Walker childishly went after a Colt after the whistle; defensive tackle Warren Sapp carelessly roughed Manning after a pass was away. Both these penalties stopped the clock, preserving precious seconds for the Colts' comeback; and both had huge impacts on field position, one forcing a Tampa punt, the other moving the Colts out of a hole in their own territory when it looked like they were beaten.


The Bucs, especially Sapp, have done a lot of dancing, taunting and pointing at themselves since the start of the season. Last night, the football gods exacted vengeance. If you commit stupid personal fouls with the game on the line, do not coming cryin' about no refs.

And you thought Dante Hall was the best-looking thing on the Chiefs.


Cheerleader of the Week: TMQ always approves when an NFL cheer-squad adopts the skimpy-outfit look, and the latest to do so are the cheerleaders of the Kansas City Chiefs -- whose skimpy-outfit appearance Sunday in the battle of the undefeateds went unseen by most of the country, exactly as the Chiefs themselves were unseen.


This week's TMQ ESPN Cheerleader of the Week is Kim of Kansas City, a college student majoring in criminal justice. Kim, cuff me! Kim plays golf and tennis regularly, and says the person she would most like to meet is Garcia Burnham, the missionary who was held captive in the Philipine jungle. Kim attended Raymor-Peculiar High School, which must be the butt of unlimited jokes.


Stat of the Week: Since losing 41-0 in last year's playoffs, Indianapolis has won five straight and outscored opponents 158-82.


Stat of the Week No. 2: In their last two trips to Pittsburgh, the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.1) have jumped to a combined 30-3 lead.


Stat of the Week No. 3: Jamal Lewis was held to no yards rushing. (The Ravens had a bye.)

Stat of the Week No. 4: Carolina's Stephen Davis has more yards rushing (565) than the entire Panthers team has passing (499).


Stat of the Week No. 5: The Cardinals had more punts and penalties (11) than first downs (9).

Of course, TMQ couldn't actually see Hall's return as it happened.


Stat of the Week No. 6: Dante Hall of Kansas City now has four kick-return touchdowns in five games -- tying the NFL season record set in 16 games. (But why has the sports-announcer world not pointed out that Hall benefited from an obvious clipping no-call just as he broke away for Sunday's 93-yard score?)


Stat of the Week No. 7: Buffalo now has the most overtime wins in league history, 17.


Stat of the Week No. 8: The Chiefs, Dolphins, Panthers, Patriots and Vikings won by a combined 41 points, despite being outgained by a combined 442 yards.


Stat of the Week No. 9: The Cowboys and Dolphins are 4-0 in Giants Stadium this season; Jersey/A and Jersey/B, the stadium's tenants, are 1-4 there.


Stat of the Week No. 10: Stretching back to 2002, San Diego has followed a 6-1 run with a 2-12 run.


Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed At All: Trailing the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.1) 23-10 early in the third period, the Steelers faced third-and-one on the Cleveland 32. The home crowd was roaring at military-afterburner decibels; Pittsburgh staged a big comeback against the Browns the last time the teams met; there was almost a full half remaining in the game. Plus, this is the part of the field where logic dictates that you go for it on fourth down. So did the Steelers pound, pound for the almost-certain first?


You know what they did.


TMQ's reaction: "aaaiiiiiiiiyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeee!"


Tommy Maddox dropped back to pass, and it wasn't a 1960s-Packers-style attempt to hit the home run; no, some guys ran quick dodge routes designed for short gains. The Pittsburgh Steelers, playing at home, thought they had to throw a short junky pass because they could not run for one single yard against the team that just allowed Jamal Lewis the NFL's best-ever rushing day. Ye gods. That the pass was intercepted and returned for a Browns' touchdown, breaking open the game, was the direct intervention of the football gods: This pass-wacky moment could not have gone unpunished.


Sweet Play of the Week: With the unseen battle of the undefeateds scoreless in Kansas City, Denver took over on first-and-10 at its own 20. Receiver Rod Smith took the end-around running right, then threw a pass 30 yards in the air to tailback Clinton Portis; Portis went 72 yards, setting up the game's first touchdown. Downfield blocking was superb. TMQ cannot explain why, but trick plays seem to work best if they come on the first snap of a possession.


Sweet Play of the Week No. 2: Play-faking against Denver in the unseen battle of the undefeateds, Kansas City QB Trent Green "crouch"-faked -- bent his body over to hide the ball -- then hit Johnnie Morton for a 28-yard touchdown. Crouch fakes are often effective, yet few pro QBs are coached to crouch-fake. The crouch-fake is always in style in Kansas City, though; the previous QB, Elvis Grbac, used to execute this play well under the previous coach, Gunther Cunningham.

James McKnight had 68 yards on one carry while Ricky Williams had 39 yards on 22 carries.


Sweet Play of the Week No. 3: Miami's James McKnight took a reverse from Ricky Williams and went 68 yards behind fabulous downfield blocking from the Marine Mammals receiver corps. This play is worth watching over again just for the sight of half the Jersey/A defense continuing to chase Williams long after he has surrendered the ball.


Sweet Blocks of the Week: Jax's Fred Taylor got fabulous blocking from the Jaguar OL as he went 60 yards to the house with a screen pass to give the team a winning margin against San Diego. It's always nice to run when everyone in your path has already been knocked on the ground.


Sour Sequence of the Week: Trailing Dallas 20-7 in the middle of the third quarter, the Arizona (caution: may contain football-like substance) Cardinals faced third-and-14 from their own 1-yard line. Nothing gets defensive linemen excited more than the chance for a safety. Cards QB Jeff Blake dropped 10 yards back, almost to the end-zone line, before being taken down for the safety by Cowboy lineman La'Roi Glover. On their next possession, the Cardinals faced third-and-10 from their own 1-yard line. Did Arizona learn a lesson? No. Blake dropped all the way to the end-zone line, where he was pushed out for another safety by Cowboy lineman Kenyon Coleman.


Safety Sidelight No. 1. How did Arizona get stuck on its own 1 twice in a row? The fiasco sequence began when rookie Anquan Boldin signaled a fair catch on his 5-yard line. Punt returners are taught never to touch the ball inside their own 10. By calling fair catch at the 5, Boldin only insured that the ball did not roll into the end zone for a touchback.


Safety Sidelight No. 2. Minnesota also recorded two safeties Sunday, both when Atlanta committed penalties (grounding and holding) from its own end zone.


Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! Game tied at 21, Oakland had Chicago facing second-and-20 on its own 40-yard line with 15 seconds left in regulation. Since the typical NFL pass attempt yields about six yards, and the Bears held only one time-out, all the Raiders had to do is play straight defense and the odds strongly favored overtime. Instead, it's a blitz! Six gentlemen cross the line, including a cornerback. Twenty-nine yard completion to Dez White, who went through the area vacated by the blitzing corner. Bears field goal to win on the final play.


Sidelight: Two plays before, Chicago faced fourth-and-one at midfield with 45 seconds left. Rather than play it safe and punt -- playing it safe doesn't make much sense for an 0-3 team, but six-nines of NFL coaches (that's 99.9999 percent) would punt in this situation -- the Bears went for it, setting up the fantastic finish. The football gods may smile on this display of manly manhood.


Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 2: San Francisco leading Detroit 17-3, the Niners had the Peugeots facing third-and-five at the San Francisco 6-yard line. Since the closer you get to the end zone, the less territory the defense must defend, odds favored San Francisco if they played straight defense. Instead, it's a blitz! Six gentlemen cross the line, touchdown pass to Mikhael Ricks.


Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 3: New England 7, Tennessee 6 late in the second quarter, the Flaming Thumbtacks faced third-and-10 at the Patriots' 44. Since the average pass attempt yields about six yards, all the Patriots needed to do was play straight defense, and the odds favored a stop. Instead, it's a blitz! Seven gentlemen cross the line, including a safety; Steve McNair completes a 43-yard pass to the New England 1; Tennessee scores for the lead at the half.


Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 4: Leading 16-13 with 3:31 left in regulation, the Cincinnati Fudgsicles had Buffalo facing third-and-11 on its own 40. Since the average pass attempt yields about six yards, all the Fudgsicles needed was to play straight defense, and the odds favored a stop. Instead, it's a blitz! Six gentlemen cross the line; 14-yard completion for the first; the Bills tie the game with 28 seconds left, and win in overtime.

Ahh, nothing like seeing federal power employed to preserve an offensive racial stereotype.


On the Plus Side, This Insures TMQ Can Keep Calling Them the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons: Things went well for Lord Voldemort (Dan Synder) last week. While the football world focused on Rush Limbaugh -- maybe, possibly, you heard something about that -- attention was distracted from what otherwise would have been a big story: a federal judge's inexplicable ruling that the name "R*dsk*ns" has not been shown to be disparaging to native groups.


U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly tossed out a Patent and Trademark Office finding that the name is offensive, sending the case back down for yet more consideration. Kollar-Kotelly inexplicably said it was unclear whether linguists considered "R*dsk*ns" disparaging. ("Offensive slang:" American Heritage Dictionary.) Kollar-Kotelly also declared that the Patent and Trademark Office should not have relied on a random poll of 300 American Indians, most of whom objected to the term; Kollar-Kotelly said survey results cannot be extrapolated to the population as a whole. Reader Jason Grady notes, "Apparently, the judge has never taken a statistics course. The fundamental rule is that if a population sample is random, it is indicative of the population as a whole." Judge, what was the Patent and Trademark Office supposed to do -- call up every American Indian in the United States? Anyway, some wouldn't come to the phone because they're busy watching a "R*dsk*ns" game.


Had it not been for the Rush razzle, editorialists might have focused on this decision, in which federal power is employed to preserve an offensive racial stereotype. Say what you will about Rush, he was speaking off the cuff; Kollar-Kotelly had weeks to ponder her decision.


Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! (College Edition): Many readers, including Chris Lordan, pointed out that West Virginia had No. 2 Miami facing fourth-and-13 deep in its own territory, trailing, with a minute left. Since the average pass attempt yields about six yards, all the Mountaineers needed was to play straight defense -- what they'd done well most of the night -- and the odds favored victory. Instead, it's a blitz! Six collegiate gentlemen cross the line, completion for the first down, Miami goes on to kick a game-winning field goal with 10 seconds left. Ay caramba.


Wacky Food of the Week: According to this scary article, the latest "in" dish at Manhattan's most expensive super-restaurants is -- fat. The hip, $100-a-head restaurant WD-50, is serving "the best high-end pork belly in town, with turnips and spicy-sweet gingerbread-inspired garnish." The best pork belly in town! And not just any old pork belly but "high-end" pork belly. According to the scary article, the dish consists of a large slab of fat. "Celebrity chef Wylie Dufresne" becomes upset if diners do not finish the slab of fat.

No matter how you dress the pork belly up, it's still just a piece of fat.


Meanwhile, Manhattan's high-fashion Le Cirque 2000 now serves "lardo." Lardo is pure pork fat, though at Le Cirque 2000 it is "shaved into thin slices and draped on warm toast." The ultra-trendy Jean-George's 66 of downtown Manhattan is offering "lacquered pork, a blatantly fatty dish napped in a sickly-sweet marmalade." Yum -- fat in sickly-sweet marmalade! Jeeves, ring up Bertie Wooster and we'll head over to Jean-Georges.


All this may sound like some "Magic Christian"-class parody of the absurd things the rich can be tricked into. But men and women are entering New York City restaurants and, of their own free will, paying top dollar to swallow slabs of fat. When will sautéed coffee grounds and deep-fried post-consumer paperboard become status foods?


TMQ won't even pause to point out that pure fat is awful for your health, or that pork belly traditionally has been cheap because no one who has any choice in the matter wants to eat it. The African-American playwright August Wilson once gave a moving speech about how, through history, blacks have gotten only the fat of the pig while whites dined on the ham. Attention August Wilson! The role reversal you dreamed of has come to pass. Head on over to Le Cirque, order healthful grilled fish and have a good chortle as rich white idiots wolf down slabs of fat.


TMQ Thought for the Day: How exactly does one become a "celebrity chef" -- by joining the National Association of Celebrity Chefs?


There Was a Time When Being Propositioned Was a Good Thing: California is about to elect a new governor who will serve six months before himself being recalled; state law specifies a minimum of six months between recalls. Also on the ballot is one of the state's infamous plebiscites, Proposition 53, which concerns fiscal policy. Other propositions were proposed for the ballot, but a judge ruled that only one could appear. Here is a list of propositions that will have to appear on a future California ballot:

Proposition 20. Requires that all motion pictures produced within the borders of California must open with a "tracking shot," in which the camera moves along as if the viewer were walking or driving. Critics have protested that Proposition 20 is unnecessary because all motion pictures produced within the borders of California already open with a "tracking shot."

If you lived in California, would you vote in mud wrestling as the state's official sport?

Proposition 92. Makes mud-wrestling the official sport of the state of California; grants Rupert Murdoch's DirecTV a monopoly over mud-wrestling broadcasts.

Proposition 38. Mandates that all California state employees be paid in bags of salt, as Roman soldiers once were.

Proposition 6. Requires that all future California gubernatorial candidates speak in a foreign accent.

Proposition 109. Makes survival of the fittest the law on all California freeways.


Where Was the Defense? Trailing by eight, the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons faced first-and-10 on the Eagles' 32 with 19 seconds to go. The Persons' sole hope was to score, and they held just one time out. So where, oh where, oh where might the pass go? Maybe toward the end zone! Yet Person WR Darnerien McCants got behind the entire Philadelphia secondary on an "up" route -- three gentlemen watched him go by -- for the touchdown that set up the last-second almost-comeback. How can any receiver ever get behind a defense in this situation?


What Did Jim Fassel Do In a Previous Life to Deserve This? Jersey/A suffered yet another kicking fiasco as its second starting placekicker this year went out injured, and punter Jeff Feagles hooted a short field-goal attempt.

The Football Gods Have Promised An Investigation: You may find this hard to believe -- TMQ certainly does -- but the Dallas Cowboys have the No. 1 offense in the NFL.


Dallas offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon has installed what looks like a college offense: lots of roll-outs and bootlegs, receivers dragging back across the action, basic one-man routes for deep routes. Carthon has designed the passing plays so that the formerly-erratic quarterback Quincy Carter has a simple three-step progression. Carter looks at his primary receiver, who usually is directly in front of him on the roll-out; if the primary receiver isn't open he looks at his secondary receiver; if the secondary receiver isn't open, Carter takes off running.


From the book of "TMQ didn't predict this in August": Quincy Carter quarterbacks the NFL's leading offense.


There's no standing there scanning the field, looking for a mistake to make: On every play, Carter knows where he is supposed to look and goes through the same three-step progression. This is the way college quarterbacks are coached, and Carter is responding well to it. Why don't other NFL teams try the approach?


Meanwhile, the Dallas offensive line, which had a terrible season run-blocking last year -- 16 percent of runs lost yardage, worst in the league -- is blocking well. TMQ would like to know what kind of vitamins they are taking.


Note to NFL coaches: Time to stop considering Dallas the automatic win on the schedule.


The Football Gods Chortled: The Steelers faced fourth-and-two on the Browns' 38, trailing 16-3. This is the part of the field where logic dictates that you go for it. Pittsburgh lined up, and Tommy Maddox used a "hard count" to try to get the Browns to jump offsides. The hard count made the Steelers jump offsides. Pushed back to fourth-and-seven, Pittsburgh punted and a scoring opportunity was lost.


Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed At All No. 2: As TMQ noted last week, Buffalo doomed itself against Philadelphia by passing too much on short yardage at home -- specifically, twice reaching third-and-short at the Eagles' 32, the part of the field where logic usually dictates going for it, and passing instead of just pounding the ball, both times coming away with no points.


Flash forward to Sunday. Buffalo, again at home, leading 3-0 in the second, reaches third-and-four at the Cincinnati 34. Do the Bills learn their lesson and pound, pound? Incompletion, incompletion, turnover on downs. Cascading boos from the home fans, who appear to have spent more time with game film than has Buffalo's pass-wacky offensive staff.


Purist Drive of the Week: Oakland held the ball for 16 plays to drive for a touchdown against Chicago -- and 12 of the snaps were runs.


Purist Drive of the Week No. 2:Trailing Denver 10-7 in the unseen battle of the undefeateds, Kansas City took over on its own 24-yard line in the second quarter. The Chiefs held the ball for 12 plays and moved 70 yards, recording the tying field goal -- and nine of snaps were runs.


Purist Series of the Week: Trailing New England 7-6 at the two-minute mark of the second quarter, the Flaming Thumbtacks reached first-and-goal on the Patriots 1. Did they go pass-wacky? Extra lineman into the game at tight end, pound, pound, touchdown.


Worst Purist Sequence of the Week: Beginning in the second quarter at Green Bay, game still close, the Blue Men Group passed on 11 of 12 plays.


But Since It's the 21st Century, the Bedroom Question Is Who Spanks Whom: Researchers Diana Baumrind and Elizabeth Owens of the University of California at Berkeley concluded after analyzing dozens of psychological studies that occasional spanking is not bad for a child. "We found no evidence for unique detrimental effects of normative physical punishment," Baumrind said. What's really needed is the carefully-researched University of California at Berkeley scientific study that shows that occasional spanking is beneficial for your date/spouse/significant other. Spanking should get out of the nursery and back into the bedroom where it belongs!


The Football Gods Winced: Travis Henry, who fumbled 16 times in 2001 and 2002 -- by far the most fumbles by a non-quarterback -- has already fumbled twice this season despite missing considerable time for injuries. In a terrifying temptation of the football gods, reaching first-and-goal at the Cincinnati 3-yard line in overtime, Buffalo handed off to Henry on consecutive plays.

TMQ predicts teenage boys will love "The Rundown."


The Sequel Will Warn of Adventure Marketing: Though pro-sex, TMQ is anti-violence, and considers the distinction between the two, in entertainment, too self-evident to require much further discussion. Last year, TMQ did a column on ridiculous movie disclaimers that warn of "action violence" or "science fiction violence," as if this were somehow different from "violence." Comes now the movie "The Rundown," whose disclaimer warns of "adventure violence." So it's okay to smash things and shoot people, so long as you're having an adventure!


In full, the disclaimer for "The Rundown" warns of "Action violence and some crude dialogue." Just once, it would be nice to encounter a movie disclaimer warning of "sophisticated dialogue."


"Kurt Warner," Regrettably, Reverts to Kurt Warner: Tuesday Morning Quarterback is now totally convinced that the August northeast power blackout was caused by the muon neutrino backscatter field of a starcruiser departing from the St. Louis Rams training camp to return "Kurt Warner" to his homeworld. The superpowered alien who had been pretending to be "Kurt Warner" is now back on his planet -- a place where the mega-babes have four tentacles and a vestigial proboscis -- while the actual human Kurt Warner is wearing the uniform of Les Mouflons.


How else to account for Warner selfishly demanding a trade during the season, with his team winning? The alien-in-human-form "Kurt Warner" who came from nowhere to win the Super Bowl MVP trophy was humble and team-spirited. The Kurt Warner of today is rapidly becoming a self-centered jerk, obsessed with his own stats and money, forgetting that the NFL is at heart a business -- and whoever is performing, plays.


The Kurt Warner saga could end in this once-lovable guy being tossed out of the league on his rump. Bear in mind that Warner is being pressured to complain by his wife, whom the sports media have begun to call Yoko, owing to her appearance. But behavior matters far more than appearance! TMQ will call her Leona, as in Leona Helmsley.

Since the Chiefs are 5-0, let's give them some more props.


Another Unseen Chiefs Cheerleader: Tara of the red-hot, unseen Kansas City Chiefs is a student at the University of Missouri, majoring in psychology. This means your lines would not work on her!


Weirdly, the Part About the New DARPA Website Is Actually a TMQ Exclusive: Remember the bizarre news of last July, that the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency would sponsor a website at which people could use credit cards to place bets on when the next terror attack would occur? The White House promptly ordered the bizarre project "cancelled." Well, it's baccckkkkkkkk. Check here; the Policy Analysis Market will now debut as a privately managed project in March 2004, and now accept wagers on the "future of the Middle East." Like, giving 10:1 on whether the entire Middle East will be an irradiated wasteland in a generation?


Supposedly, bets placed at the Policy Analysis Market will create useful information about whether people think bad things will happen. But that's like saying the movement of the line on a football game creates useful information about who will win. The line moves to reflect where bettors are willing to place money; the only thing the line tells you is which team bettors are leaning toward. Similarly, the Policy Analysis Market won't create useful information. It will just be a form of legalized gambling.


Turns out such legalized gambling is already in full swing! Check NewsFutures, a "powerful new tool to answer the forecasting and decision support needs of your business, organization, or governmental agency." It's Internet wagering dressed up as information prediction. NewsFutures employs the World News Exchange to allow customers to place bets -- excuse me, to "trade" -- on the outcomes of future events.


Yesterday, for example, there were 47,412 bets registered on whether Arnold Schwarzenegger would win. Bettors bid for contracts that pay $100 if Schwarzenegger wins and nothing if he loses; a rising price indicates bettors believe Arnold will prevail, a falling price a belief he'll lose. Schwarzenegger contracts were trading in the low $40s in early September, and yesterday traded at $83 -- meaning you risk $83 to gain $17 by winning $100 -- so bettors must feel pretty confident about whom the next California governor will be. But that's not "information" in any meaningful sense, except information about how people gamble.


Here, you can legally wager on whether the United States will catch Saddam. Here, you can wager on the Democratic presidential contenders, with Howard Dean trading highest at $45 (you are risking $45 to win $55) and John Edwards trading lowest at $2 (you are risking $2 to win $98, but almost certain to lose your $2).


Similar web sites now offer this legalized gambling on topics like athletic statistics. Brendan Koerner of the New America Foundation discusses the phenomena here. Joyce Berg and Thomas Reitz, two academics, analyze the development of such "predictions markets" here. At any rate, it's all gambling, and TMQ's compromise with his Baptist upbringing is to be pro-topless but anti-gambling.

No, this isn't TMQ's office -- it's a luxury apartment on the Queen Mary.


57 Tons -- That's Almost As Much As Schwarzenegger's Hummer Weighs! The newest U.S. supercarrier, the Ronald Reagan, displaces 78,000 tons. The new ocean liner Queen Mary 2 displaces 150,000 tons -- twice the weight of a Nimitz-class supercarrier. The Queen Mary 2, designed to revive the North Atlantic passenger trade between New York and Southampton (England, not Long Island), has berths for 2,620 people. That's 57 tons of ship per passenger! The 46,000-ton Titanic offered 3,320 berths, or 13 tons per passenger. So the latest luxo-liner packs 44 tons per passenger more ship than the Titanic.


All that added tonnage translates into cabin space, discos, restaurants, exercise rooms, motion-dampers and, of course, a much stronger hull. If you don't believe we are privileged to live in a favored age, just think about an ocean liner that offers 57 tons of ship for each passenger.


Of Course Arnold Has a Platform, and He Stands On It: On the question of whether Arnold Schwarzenegger is really 6-foot-2, as he claims, or much shorter, as those who have met him contend, comes now Frank Easterbrook, an Official Brother of TMQ and a scientifically confirmed 6-4, to report that he once shook hands with AHH-nold at a charity event. Frank's verdict? America's first cybernetic gubernatorial candidate is either 5-9 or 5-10.


Hidden Play of the Week: Hidden plays are ones that aren't flashy, but stop or sustain drives. Miami 10, Giants 7 in the late second quarter, the Marine Mammals faced second-and-10 on the Jersey/A 30. The call was screen left to fullback Rob Konrad; he rumbled 25 yards for a first-and-goal behind fabulous blocking from Jamie Nails and Tim Ruddy. Miami got a field goal just before the end of the half, and controlled the rest of the game.


Running Items Department

Obscure College Score of the Week: Walsh 44, Malone 36 in five overtimes. At the end of regulation, this game was knotted at 20, meaning there were 40 points scored during the three hours of the main game and 40 points scored during the brief flurry of overtimes. Located in Canton, Ohio, the shrine city of football, Malone was founded in 1892 as Cleveland Bible College by Walter and Emma Malone, two Friends -- preferred name of Quakers -- and moved to a larger Canton campus in 1957.


Friends are supposed to be pacifists, although this philosophy did not seem to have much impact on Richard Nixon, raised as an evangelical Quaker by his mother, Hannah, who dreamed Nixon would become a pacifist missionary. The Society of Friends asks members to promote a "Peace Testimony" and specifies, "Quaker practice does not permit the overcoming of some persons by other persons." So Malone has to lose to Walsh; otherwise, its persons would have overcome other persons! Pacifism is a challenging concept to work into a football pregame speech.


Bonus Obscure College Score: Indiana of Pennsylvania 24, Clarion 20. Checking in with TMQ's favorite obscure college team, we find the Indiana of Pennsylvania Indians undefeated at 5-0, aiming toward their annual clash with rival California of Pennsylvania, which will occur this season on Oct. 18. And, yes, IUP's teams continue to be the Indians -- many readers have suggested the school can solve its name problem while maintaining tradition by becoming the Indianans -- though using a bear logo.


While "Indians" is far from an ideal moniker, the term is not inherently derogatory, like "R*dsk*ns."


Obscure College Defeat of the Week: As pointed out by reader Ben Domenech, William & Mary managed to lose without even playing. Hurricane Isabel, which struck hard in the Tidewater region of Virginia on a Thursday, caused William & Mary to cancel its Saturday home date against the University of Maine. Whether the collision really needed to be cancelled was controversial, and Maine was steamed because it traveled to William & Mary despite the conditions, only to be told the host school was bailing. Atlantic 10 conference commissioner Linda Bruno awarded the victory to Maine, while handing William & Mary a "no contest," which counts as an L in the standings.


No contest? That's what Spiro Agnew pleaded after he resigned the vice presidency on corruption charges -- except he had the good taste to say it in Latin. Tuesday Morning Quarterback thinks Bruno should have written down nolo contendere in the official standings. This is, after all, college.


Obscure High School Feat of the Week: David Rosenbaum of Wilson High School in the District of Columbia kicked what may be the longest PAT of all time, a 62-yarder. After a touchdown against Springarn High, Wilson was assessed multiple celebration penalties; the conversion attempt ended up spotted in Wilson territory, at the team's own 48-yard-line; Rosenbaum's try was true. His previous longest kick had been a 27-yard field goal.


New York Times Final-Score Score Once again, the Paper of Guesses goes 0-14 in its quixotic attempt to predict an exact NFL final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 1-907 since TMQ began tracking. The goal of 1,000 inaccurate predictions, once just a dream, now comes into view for the Multicolored Lady.


Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or deeply felt grievance? Register it at TMQespn@yahoo.com.


Many, many readers, including Jarratt Clarke of Lynchburg, Virginia, wrote to note that Jerry Falwell's Liberty University is in his town, not, as TMQ said, in Lynchburg, Tennessee -- where the all-important Jack Daniels whisky distillery is located. One reader, Virginia native Rachel Borek, alluding to Pat Robertson's competing Regent University in Virginia Beach, phrased the matter in haiku:


Geographical
blunder: Liberty haunts the
Old Dominion State.

But on second thought,
Pat Robertson is enough;
Boot Falwell next door!


-- Rachel Borek, White Plains, New York


A Pittsburgh reader was one of many who noted that, while certain prima-donna NFL receivers refuse to block, this is not a problem for Hines Ward:


Wide receiver Ward
could give blocking clinic and
hand Terrell his shorts.


-- Dan Elbarto, Pittsburgh


Reader Jennifer Warzala haiku-ized that although this column is Tuesday Morning Quarterback, it usually does not appear until about 1 p.m. Eastern:


Today is Tuesday.
It's already after noon:
Where is TMQ?


-- Jennifer Warzala, Syracuse, New York


Jennifer, 1 p.m. Eastern is still morning in four of the six time zones of this great nation! The problem is that long before TMQ brought his internationally-known brand to ESPN.com, Page 2 had committed to a daily update at the highly precise "noonish Eastern" -- see the dateline at the top of Page 2. Tuesday Morning Quarterback tends to take a little longer to post, because it's time-consuming to convince all those mega-babes to unbutton their cleavage and mega-hunks to doff their shirts. (Actually, because TMQ is the longest feature on Page 2, requiring the most copy-editing attention and the most illustrations.)


Last Week's Challenge: Playing off the Chicago Bears Presented by Bank One, readers were asked to propose a corporate sponsor for an NFL team.


Bob of Wilmington, Delaware, suggests that Verizon Wireless should sponsor the Arizona Cardinals. The tester nerd could be shown at Sun Devil Stadium saying, "Can you hear me now? Of course you can because there's nobody here."


Sandra Helquist of Menlo Park, California, proposed another wireless sponsor for Arizona: "Cingular advertises its plan to rollover minutes, and the Cardinals appear to be rolling over their salary cap space into the future. Also, during games they roll over and play dead."


Kevin Gier of St. Louis proposed that the Chiefs' Dante Hall be sponsored by Kansas City's American Century Mutual Funds, whose slogan is, "We're Small But We Promise Great Returns." Check the photo of Hall running one back -- he makes the ball look big!


Andrew Sroufe suggests the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.1) be sponsored by First Energy, the Ohio utility that may have trigged the August blackout in the Northeast. In haiku,


First Energy Browns.
Another blackout would help:
We won't have to watch.


-- Andrew Sroufe, Athens, Ohio


Shane F. of Rich Hill, Missouri, suggests the New Orleans Saints be sponsored by the Kroger supermarket chain: "Would you like paper or plastic to use to hide your head?"


Martha Meldrum of Raleigh, North Carolina, suggested the New England Patriots be sponsored by the United States Department of Justice, in order to promote the USA Patriot Act. "Of course, John Ashcroft would have to monitor all conversations in the huddle," Meldrum notes. "Players would have to agree to government cameras in their bedrooms, and implantation of mind-control chips. But isn't loss of freedom a small price to pay for preserving our freedoms?"


Steven Levy suggests the Tennessee Titans be sponsored by Staples: "Your source for thumbtacks."


Rob Caldwell of St. Francisville, Illinois, suggests San Diego be sponsored by MasterCard, using this script:


Ticket to the game: $45
Hot dog and souvenirs: $35
Receiver who won't play: $47 million


Listening to management excuses for David Boston: priceless


Brian Greenwald of Dallas proposes that the Denver Broncos be sponsored by Microsoft: "Denver hit with only a $25,000 fine for uniform 'error' in San Diego; Microsoft pays only a $23 million out-of-court antitrust settlement. These two are the kings of getting off easy."


Reader Amr Hiram proposes in haiku that the aging Long Johns seek out Levitra's competitor as a sponsor:


The Oakland Raiders
need an increase in blood flow.
Sponsor? Viagra.


-- Amr Hiram, Toronto


Ted Ames wins this week's Challenge with this haiku proposal:


Searching for answers:
The Cincinnati Bengals,
sponsored by Google.


-- Ted Ames, New York


This Week's Challenge: What test should you have to pass to become a celebrity chef? Submit your clever answer at TMQespn@yahoo.com.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 9:52 AM

0
Comments

 
 

September 30, 2003

Run amok: Soldier Field, Terrell's ego

POST #    522

Run amok: Soldier Field, Terrell's ego
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

Last night, Chicago unveiled the "new" Solider Field, an old field that was completely redone in order to make it more expensive. Working round the clock, sparing no expense -- $632 million, according to the Chicago Tribune -- and spending freely since most of it was taxpayers' money, anyway, the architects of the new Soldier Field managed to take a beautiful classical structure and make it an ugly modern structure. Great job!

The new public park surrounding the renovated Soldier Field is impressive, as are the walkways to the wonderful Field Museum. Seats are wide and well-spaced -- TMQ recently sat at Philadelphia's new Lincoln Field, and the seats were so narrow and squished together that they made a Southwest Airlines middle seat seem appealing.

By all accounts, what's inside the rebuilt Soldier Field is fan-friendly and very well done -- on beholding the classy interior, Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher declared, "This looks like someplace we'd travel to." Also, you have to like the fact that heated liquid glycol piped under the turf will keep the Kentucky bluegrass no cooler than 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the Chicago winters. Ethyl alcohol, some heated, will be piped into fans.

Soldier Field
$630 million? They should have used some of that money to buy a better team.

But there remains the fact that the exterior of Soldier Field was once beautiful, and is now ugly -- at fantastic expense. Presumably, if an actual flying saucer crashed on Lake Shore Drive, it would look better than this.

The original, beautiful Soldier Field was completed in 1924 at a cost of $10 million, which inflates to $101 million in current dollars. Thus, in real-dollar terms, the new, ugly Soldier Field cost six times as much as the original, beautiful one. Spending $632 million to make something look worse: how very current!

It's good to know that no matter how much is ripped out and rebuilt, Chicago tradition remains. On their first possession last night in the $632 million new venue, the Bears ran three plays and gained zero yards.

In other NFL news, Terrell Owens was a member of the San Francisco team that got punched out 35-7 by Minnesota -- but you'd never know it from listening to Terrell Owens. This gentleman threw a tirade on the sidelines; and then, after the game, denounced his teammates while mewling, "I was always open." Apparently, Owens had nothing, nothing at all, to do with his team losing. There's no "I" in team. There is also no "T.O."

What is it with wide receivers and their egos? Sunday's game was not between the Niners and the Vikings; it was between the Randy Moss ego and the Terrell Owens ego. The reason T.O. blew a gasket is that Moss' ego caught three touchdowns and his ego caught none.

Terrell Owens
TO hasn't been doing much dancing this year -- but, of course, that's the fault of his teammates.

Moss, Owens, Cris Carter -- a high percentage of football's insufferable egotists are receivers. Marvin Harrison merely sulks, which makes him seem mild-mannered by comparison. Insufferable ego even strikes receivers like David Boston and Troy Edwards, who have never done squat. And receiver ego is hardly just a recent phenomenon. On the day Andre Reed became the No. 2 receiver all-time, he denounced his teammates and threw a tirade about not being worshipped enough.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback can offer these explanations for runaway receiver ego:

First, today's WRs really do believe they are always open. Watch games in person, or watch tape, and you will see that even Jerry Rice and Moss -- the two I'd least like to face -- are covered on most plays. But receivers tell themselves they are always open; and since nobody watches pass patterns, fans don't know better. In contrast, any running back who said, "I'm always about to go the distance," would be laughed at because fans follow the ball and see that isn't true.

Second, receivers get the all-ego isolation moments. Other gentlemen on the field are engaged in complex joint efforts; fans see them performing as ensembles. When the little television tetragon shifts to the receiver, he's all alone loping through the defense. It's a perspective that places emphasis on the ego, making him appear, however fleetingly, to do something single-handedly.

Third, by the nature of the long pass, wide receivers occasionally turn in spectacular major-yardage plays. Except for the occasional runback, most long gains go to the wideout corps. This allows the egotistical receiver who catches a long pass to believe he is winning the game single-handedly.

Finally, receivers have runaway egos because they don't block.

In the contemporary NFL, wide-outs are the sole players who consistently get away with not aiding their teammates. Linemen and tight ends are expected to block on every play. The quarterback is busy on every play. Running backs who don't block the blitz soon learn the definition of "waiver wire." Over on defense, everybody pursues at full speed, even when the play is 20 yards down the field on the opposite side. But wide receivers? Go to a game and watch them during running plays. They listlessly lean on the cornerback, if they do anything at all. Some star receivers don't make any attempt to block even when the play is coming their way. (The football gods adulate Jerry Rice because he always blocks; but then, Rice is exceptional in everything.) And coaches don't compel gentlemen of the Terrell Owens ilk to block. So they think they're more important than everyone else combined, and have ego meltdowns.

Solution? Make Terrell Owens and Randy Moss cover punts.

David Carr
The football gods applaud the Texans for going for the win rather than overtime.

The Football Gods Will Reward This: Trailing 20-17 with two seconds left, the Houston Texans faced fourth-and-goal on the Jax 1-yard line. A scientifically estimated six-nines of NFL coaches (that is, 99.999999 percent) in this situation send in the field goal unit to force overtime. Taking the field goal actually is not the percentage play; NFL teams probably convert about 80 percent of fourth-and-ones, while a ticket to overtime is a 50-50 chance. But coaches kick in this situation in order to avoid blame. If the coach gambles to win and fails, then the loss is his fault. If the coach plays it safe and goes to overtime where a loss results, that's the players' fault.

Gloriously, majestically, Houston coach Dom Capers ordered the Texans to go for it. And he ordered a run -- 'tis better to have rushed and lost than never to have rushed at all! David Carr on the sneak, victory.

Actually, there is another coach who recently went for everything on the game's final play. Week 15 of the 2002 season: The 3-10 Minnesota Vikings scored with five seconds left to come within one point of New Orleans. Rather than kick the singleton PAT and go to overtime -- buying that 50-50 ticket -- Vikings coach Mike Tice went for two, got it, and departed victorious. The football gods smiled; and since then, Minnesota has won an additional six straight. Yea, verily, the football gods will now smile upon the Texans as well.

Stat of the Week: Stretching back to the moment last season when they went for two on the game's final play, the Minnesota Vikings have won seven straight.

Stat of the Week No. 2: The Kansas City Chiefs held Jamal Lewis to 115 yards.

Stat of the Week No. 3: Mike Vanderjagt of Indianapolis kicked 19 times -- 10 kickoffs, seven extra points and two field goals.

Stat of the Week No. 4: The Buffalo offense scored 62 points in the season's first eight quarters, and zero points in the next seven quarters.

Stat of the Week No. 5: The Jets had more penalties and punts (8) than points (6).

Stat of the Week No. 6: St. Louis put up 24 more first downs than Arizona.

Dante Hall
Dante Hall has three return TDs (two kickoff, one punt) this season.

Stat of the Week No. 7 Chiefs' returner Dante Hall has six touchdowns in his last nine outings.

Stat of the Week No. 8: The Tennessee defense scored nine points and returned a takeaway to the Pittsburgh 1, from where the offense recorded a touchdown. The Steelers' offense scored 13 points. Thus, the Tennessee defense effectively outscored the Pittsburgh offense.

Stat of the Week No. 9: Against Oakland in overtime, San Diego ran seven plays for a net of eight yards.

Stat of the Week No. 10: Minnesota, Tennessee and "Washington" won by a combined 48 points, despite being outgained by a combined 333 yards.

Stat of the Week No. 11: Philadelphia and Chicago, opening a combined $1.1 billion worth of new stadiums, fell behind by a combined 34-0.

Stat of the Week No. 12: Stretching back to the beginning of the 2001 season, the Bears have followed a 13-3 run with a 4-16 run.

Cheerleader of the Week: Kim Lance of the Sea Gals of the red-hot (blue-hot, in this case) Seattle Blue Men Group. With training in jazz, tap, ballet, lyrical and hip-hop dance, Lance works as a human-resources manager. So Kim, you handle the human resources -- who handles the space-alien resources? (See below.) She also picks football games. Here you'll see Lance got only five right this week. But don't despair, since that's about the same success rate as the New York Times sports page. And Kim Lance becomes the first cheer-babe to submit a haiku to TMQ! The allusion is to the proposed Seattle espresso surcharge.

Seahawks cheerleader
Kim earns high grades from TMQ for ... her haiku ability.

Holmgren's heroes are
playoff contenders! Please don't
tax our victories.

-- Kim Lance, Seattle

You can order the Sea Gals 2004 calendar here. Lance comments, "It proves you don't need to be nearly naked in a bikini or lingerie to put together a beautiful calendar." Kim, you may be missing a key point.

Here, Sea Gals cheerleader Amber Lancaster appears on the "Are You Hot?" non-reality show. She did not advance! Lancaster was not considered hot? Only possible explanation: Lighting in the room was poor. Amber's comments on the event includes this: "The judges critiqued me for a good half an hour." Remember, she's standing in front of them in a string bikini the entire time; if Amber Lancaster was standing in front of me in a string bikini, I'd drag the interview out too. Lancaster continues, "Their comments seemed a little out of sorts, and I wasn't saying too much in response. So Randolph Duke asked me if I could speak, and I said yes, I can speak!" Amber, that exchange was high eloquence by the standards of "Are You Hot?"

Sweet Play of the Week: Tied at 3 against Baltimore in the third quarter, Kansas City had first-and-10 on its own 38. The Chiefs faked up the middle as wide receivers came back toward the quarterback from both sides, so it was impossible to know which way the end-around would go. Johnnie Morton took it 36 yards to set up the go-ahead touchdown.

Sweet Play of the Week No. 2: Game scoreless in the first, the Lucky Charms sent running back Ricky Williams into the flat. He faked an out; Peyton Manning pumped; Williams went to the end zone, where he caught an "up" for six. A pump-and-go to a running back!

Sour Play of the Week No. 1: Trailing by 11 with 2:38 remaining, Jersey/B faced fourth-and-three on the Dallas 10. Wayne Chrebet ran a two-yard out, caught it and was tackled to end the contested portion of the game. He ran a two-yard pattern when the team needed three yards!

Plus, consider the situation. The Jets' last strand of hope was to record a field goal, a touchdown and a deuce conversion. Since Jersey/B had to notch a field goal, anyway, why not take the three-pointer here and then either onside -- to military-afterburner-level noise from the home crowd -- or kick away, considering the Jets still had a timeout, plus the clock would stop at two minutes? Against the Dolphins two weeks ago, also at home, also trailing by 11 with three minutes left, Jersey/B threw a reckless interception in Miami territory when it might have quietly taken the field goal and at least stayed alive.

John Carney
What, a kicker couldn't outrun a defensive back?!?!

Sour Play of the Week No. 2: Trailing Indianapolis 14-0, the New Orleans Boy Scouts lined up for a field-goal try in the second quarter. New Orleans ran a nifty fake: The ball was hiked to the snapper, who flipped it to kicker John Carney running right. Carney gained three yards. But the fake was called on fourth-and-seven! Generally, fake kicks should be called only on fourth-and-short, when there's decent hope of a first.

Wacky Food of the Week: The current global leader in food wackiness is El Bulli, a super-expensive restaurant on the Costa Brava in Spain. El Bulli is open just six months per year and claims to sell out every possible table for that six months in a single day. According to this recent New Yorker article by the food writer William Echikson, Ferrán Adrià, the chef-owner of El Bulli, is devoted to culinary absurdity:

Using a nitrous-oxide canister, he prepares foams out of cod, pine nuts, asparagus, and mushrooms; he injects warm olive oil into dinner rolls with a syringe; he gives cooking times in seconds rather than in minutes or hours; waiters at El Bulli instruct how and when and in what order to eat the food, as if choreographing a complex chemical reaction. From black-truffle lollipops to polenta ice cream -- through twenty-nine tapas-size courses that sometimes include seawater mousse and pulverized Fisherman's Friend lozenges and spaghetti noodles made from Parmesan cheese -- meals at El Bulli can last six hours. The menu is prix fixe, $150 per person, without wine.

Seawater mousse! Wouldn't that be, um, mainly water? Pulverized cough drops! (Fisherman's Friend lozenges come in many flavors, including the ever-popular "salmiak," a salted anise taste.) Pine nuts injected with nitrous oxide! Check El Bulli's weird postmodern website here.

William Echikson's estimable 1996 book, "Burgundy Stars," tells the story of one of the world's most famous restaurants, La Cote d'Or in southern France, and is a fascinating read. Nitrous-oxide injected foam is not on the menu at La Cote d'Or. Though you can order poularde Alexandre Dumaine, chicken breast baked with truffles and leeks, for $267 per serving.

Best Purist Drive: Minnesota ran on seven consecutive snaps during the second-quarter drive that put the Vikings ahead 14-0 and began the rout of San Francisco.

Reader Haiku: In honor of the reopening of Soldier Field, reader Benjamin Keys entered a contemplative state and produced the following haiku triptych. In it, Keys proposes that the Bears, known to this column as the Chicago Daxiongmao -- the Mandarin word for Pandas -- instead be the Ursa Minors.

They paved paradise,
put in a luxury box:
The new Soldier Field.

Colonnades dwarfed by
saucer. Fern-bar ambiance
no home for Monsters.

Looks like a spaceship:
bad plays visible from space.
Try "Ursa Minors."

-- Ben Keys, Oak Park, Illinois

Reader Mike Carlson of London, who toils on the UK's "NFL Update" show, notes that while football prohibits steroids and all the other stuff baseball allows -- in MLB, steroid use is now mandatory -- the NFL is simultaneously in a marketing alliance with a pretty major supplement:

NFL bans all
performance-enhancing drugs:
except Levitra.

-- Mike Carlson, United Kingdom

Kordell Stewart
TMQ boldly predicts the Bears will not one day retire Kordell Stewart's No. 10.

Early Retirement for Numbers: Most NFL teams have just a few jerseys retired. Miami has only three retired numbers, despite being the club of history's sole perfect season. Green Bay, for all its lore, has just four retired numbers. Fans in Dallas and Oakland have never witnessed the ceremony of the jersey hung from the rafters, as these franchise do not retire numbers. Seattle has two retired numbers: No. 80 for Steve Largent and No. 12 for "fans/the 12th man." Apparently, this reflects the fact that in all Seahawks annals, there's only one single player who has exceeded the accomplishments of an imaginary construct.

Then there are the Chicago Bears. In the Windy City jersey Nos. 3, 5, 7, 28, 34, 40, 41, 42, 51, 56, 61, 66 and 77 are retired -- and Mike Singletary's number isn't even on that list! Thirteen retired numbers mean Chicago has a perpetual crunch handing out jerseys in training camp. Fortunately, in order to keep the situation from getting worse, the Bears have adopted a strict team policy of not developing any more great players.

Plus, While He Was Using the Sideline ATM, Some Guy Would Stand Behind Him Saying, "Can't You Hurry It Up, Pal?" Now that the Daxiongmao are Presented by Bank One, TMQ wonders what banking-related changes will be made. Here's a possibility suggested by Frank Easterbrook, an Official Brother of TMQ. In Japan, the sumo wrestler who prevails is ceremonially handed his winnings, in cash, on the spot. Bears contracts could be re-written so that whenever a player hits a bonus milestone, say by catching a touchdown pass, he immediately runs to the sideline and gets his bonus, in cash, out of a Bank One ATM.

Of course, this plan would require Chicago players to score touchdowns.

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous: Just after Arizona scored against St. Louis to draw within 17-7 with 12 seconds left in the first half, Cards safety Dexter Jackson, a mere eight months ago the Super Bowl MVP with Tampa, intercepted a half-ending Hail Mary at his own 5-yard line. Rather than take a knee, Jackson did an extended "Look, Ma, I can dance!" number that culminated in a fumble recovered by Les Mouflons with three seconds remaining. St. Louis kicked a field goal as the half expired, and the rout was on.

Worst Defensive Play: Game scoreless in the first, the Rams came out unbalanced left on third-and-goal. The Arizona (caution: may contain football-like substance) Cardinals did not shift to that side or in any way react, leaving only two gentlemen on the defensive right to face four blockers. Easy touchdown run.

Worst Failure to Watch Game Film: Carolina has already blocked six kicks. The Panthers are overloading the center, rushing several men directly over the long-snapper -- taking into account that teams have been trending toward midsized long-snappers, such as 250-pound tight end/long snapper Derek Rackley, victimized by Carolina on Sunday. Green Bay blocked a Chicago punt on Monday night by overloading three on the long-snapper, so somebody has noticed. But since this tactic is working, why isn't it spreading internet-virus-like around the league?

Gregg Williams
"What do you mean we're allowed to run the ball on third-and-short? Now you tell me!"

'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed At All: Trailing the Eagles 10-0 in the second quarter, Buffalo reached third-and-short at the Philadelphia 33. Considering the short distance and the position -- the area of the field where logic usually dictates go for it -- did the Bills pound, pound? Incompletion, missed 51-yard field goal attempt into the wind.

On their next possession, still trailing 10-0, the Bills reached third-and-two on the Philadelphia 35. Considering the short distance and the field position, did the Bills pound, pound? Pass caught and fumbled, Eagles' ball.

Five times against Philadelphia, Buffalo faced third-and-one or third-and-two. The Bills passed every time. Results? Incompletion, fumble, incompletion, incompletion, incompletion.

'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed At All No. 2: Leading by a field goal at the two-minute warning, the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons faced second-and-six, New England holding just one time-out. Did the Persons pound, pound and advance the clock? Incompletion, incompletion; the Patriots get it back with 1:39 left and ample time to stage their almost-comeback.

TMQ Thought for the Day: Isn't "Vanderjagt" a kind of flavored schnapps served with a beer chaser?

Best Blocks: Quincy Morgan's 71-yard touchdown run with a receiver hitch screen was made possible by a great downfield block by center Jeff Faine, who hustled out from the interior line. Rod Smith's 22-yard run with a receiver hitch screen was made possible by a great downfield block by center Tom Nalen, who hustled out from the interior line.

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! Leading 17-10 in the fourth, the Denver Cursors had the Detroit Peugeots facing third-and-three. It's a blitz! Six gentlemen cross the line, 43-yard touchdown pass to Scotty Anderson.

New Jersey Schedule Quirk: Dallas has now made two trips to the Meadowlands, to play Jersey/A and Jersey/B; Buffalo and Miami must do the same this season.

A Bargain at Twice the Price: The league did not so much as slap the Denver Cursors on the wrist -- a $25,000 fine -- for their uniform ploy at San Diego.

Home teams get to choose whether to wear colors or whites; for games early in the season in warm locales, the homeboys almost always choose whites because they're more comfortable in sunlight. Going to San Diego to collide with the Bolts on Sept. 14, Denver brought along only whites; then waited 'til just before game time to tell this to San Diego. At that point, it was not physically possible for Denver to fly in its dark jerseys, so San Diego switched to dark jerseys for the sake of staging the event. Denver got the edge, since at kickoff it was 73 degrees Fahrenheit with high humidity. The Cursors won by 24.

Denver claimed a "mistake" in bringing its whites. But every single Broncos player, and every single member of the Broncos organization, knew perfectly well San Diego would want to use its home prerogative to wear white. Every high-school player in America would know this! Yet the league let Denver off in effect with no penalty at all -- in the high-stakes NFL world, where millions are spent in search of slight edges, $25,000 to improve your chance of victory is incredibly cost-effective. The Broncos should have been docked a draft choice.

We're All "Human," With the Exception of Some Linebackers: "Investigators believe the Arizona wildfire was set by humans," declared National Public Radio. So they've ruled out the Klingons as suspects! When wildfires struck British Columbia, NPR declared they were caused "by lightning and by human beings." River otters, apparently, had been cleared.

Taelons
TMQ trivia: Are these Klingons, Zylons, Taelons or Vorlons?

Saying "human" when you mean "people" is a sci-fi affectation taking over modern discourse. The august Foreign Policy magazine (that's the august magazine, not the August issue) recently headlined an article, "Why Humans Are More Vulnerable Than Ever to Animal-Borne Diseases." The droids remain immune! Scientific American magazine recently noted a study that suggested "humans may not be warming the Earth." So if it's not the humans, is it the Romulans who are driving all those SUVs? Analyzing the Northeast blackout, the New York Times declared that power plants tripped off "before any human being could react." If only the Zylons had acted more quickly!

The Times also noted of the desolate Arctic National Wildlife Refugee, "Few humans go there." But the Borg find it an ideal vacation spot! Washington's Metro transit authority recently announced a biowar-emergency plan to disinfect the parts of subway cars that "come into contact with humans." We don't care if Wookies get sick in our nation's capital? The New York City subway authority unveiled magnetic-strip farecards, replacing tokens sold by "humans in booths." Hey, I've seen some of those New York subway workers, and am not sure they are representatives of genus Homo.

Aliens note: Why do so many names of sci-fi aliens end in "on"? Klingons, Zylons, Taelons, Vorlons and on and on. TMQ always loved the Vorlons, the sinister ancient species of the "Babylon Five" space opera, because their name sounds like the secret ingredient in laundry detergent. Maybe their starcruisers say on the side in bright letters, "Now! With added Vorlon!"

Alternatively, Britney's Private-Parts Tattoo May Be a Copyright Symbol: Each autumn, TMQ chortles over the "What's Sexy Now?" cover story of the telephone-book-sized InStyle magazine, which runs more pages of celebrity fluff than the monthly page content of all intellectual publications combined.

Two years ago, InStyle pondered the question of "What's Sexy Now?" and came to the counterintuitive conclusion that what's sexy now is naked babes. The mag's cover featured Kate Hudson nude, hands strategically placed, and quoted her declaring that whenever she enters her home she immediately strips to nothing because "I love being nude!" Last year, InStyle pondered the question of "What's Sexy Now?" and came to the dreary conclusion that Jennifer Aniston, fully clothed and looking quite bored, is what's sexy now.

This year InStyle ponders the question of "What's Sexy Now?" and comes to the conclusion -- nothing is sexy now! Or, at least, the best InStyle can come up with as the epitome of contemporary erotic daydreaming is Britney Spears showing off the tops of her underpants. Like I said, nothing is sexy now.

Olivier Martinez
Olivier is turned on by boats, green underwear and cottage cheese.

This year's InStyle sex issue contains the usual preposterous attempts at a poetic touch: "As for what's positively absolutely sexy: a shy smile at the grocery store, the flicker of candlelight seen through a steamy shower." Wouldn't the steamy shower put out the candle?

In the celebrity confessions section, mega-hunk Olivier Martinez declares -- or rather, the publicist who wrote his comments declares -- "Motorboats are straight-ahead masculine, but the way sailboats move through the wind is very feminine." (Presumably, all the comments "by" celebrities are written by publicists, if not by the InStyle staff.) Olivier, you are sexually aroused by boats?

Mega-babe Liv Tyler announces, "People are sexy because of who they are." But Liv, since everyone is who they are, doesn't this mean everyone is sexy? That has not been TMQ's experience. (Disclosure: Nor has it been the experience of those who have encountered TMQ.)

Semi-babe Brittany Murphy inexplicably declares, "What's sexiest to me is the mystery and intrigue that surround David Letterman." The mystery of David Letterman? Like, the mystery of whether the monologue will come first?

Political mega-babe Salma Hayek declares, "The twenties were sexy because they were a time of experimentation." The main experiment of the 1920s was Prohibition, which created organized crime.

James Bond hunk Pierce Brosnan opines, "I'm not sure why Hollywood has gotten puritanical, but the movies aren't very sexy right now." What recent movie does he think qualifies as sexy? "The Thomas Crown Affair," starring Pierce Brosnan.

Britney Spears
What's sexy now? This is the best InStyle can come up with?

Mega-babe Rebecca Romijn-Stamos allows that she finds humor "an aphrodisiac." Rebecca, this column is pretty funny. So would you consider -- oh, forget it.

And finally, Britney, pulling down her cutoffs to show her underpants and the upper half of a nether-region tattoo that looks distressingly like a Universal Product Code, declares, "I love to light some candles and have my boyfriend over, if I have one, which I don't right now." Britney, we all know who you're having over. And wait a minute, there's the answer. Girls kissing girls is what's sexy now! How did InStyle miss that?

Best Use of TMQ: Last week, TMQ complained that zebras were watching the ball, rather than the knee, when calling goal-line dive-ins for touchdowns or dive-outs to avoid safeties. On Sunday, the officials first called good and then overturned a Deuce McAllister non-touchdown on which his knee came down outside the end zone, and he lunged forward. Officials correctly called, on the first try, a safety as Tommy Maddox's knee came down inside the end zone, and he lunged the ball out.

Best News I've Heard In Years! TMQ was much pleased by last week's decision of the Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall the ridiculous Segway, which TMQ calls the Segway Sidewalk SUV. But there won't be many to recall. As this story details, the Segway is a complete flop in the marketplace.

Last year, TMQ noted that if the Segway Sidewalk SUV actually became popular, this would ruin the urban walking experience by placing smug, selfish riders atop metal monstrosities roaring down sidewalks at 12 miles per hour, the smug, selfish riders expecting everyone to jump out of their way. TMQ further noted that "being struck by a Segway roaring down the sidewalk will be significantly worse than being popped by an NFL linebacker," owing to metal and total weight. Bicycles are not allowed on city sidewalks, though they weigh far less and contain far less metal than the Segway Sidewalk SUV. Yet 44 states have been strong-armed into enacting special-interest legislation allowing selfish Segway riders to hog the sidewalk. Thank goodness the things are so expensive, and have so little utility, that no one is buying.

Segway
And the good points of the Segway are ...

TMQ also reiterates that the Earth-friendly marketing of the Segway Sidewalk SUV is a complete sham. If somehow Segways did catch on, their main effect on society would be to make strolling so unpleasant and risky that people who presently use the subway (TMQ, for example) will resort to driving in order to be off the sidewalks and safe from Segways. Discouraging people from walking in order to get them to ride a dangerous $5,000 hulk of metal that consumes energy! How very Earth-friendly.

The article linked above notes that Segway was initially backed by a venture capitalist who predicted the company would take in $500 billion in five years. In order to do so, Segway would need to reach almost the same level as the global sales as General Motors. Yet, tech-stock shills didn't giggle at this projection. Segway was even hyped by Harvard Business School, whose press published a book predicting the Segway Sidewalk SUV would be bigger than the Internet, antibiotics, and so on.

Segway LLC, the manufacturer, is close enough to going out of business that it is resorting to the time-honored dodge of sweetheart government contracts -- the company wants to sell Segways to police departments. Government contracting is the last refuge of scoundrels: The product emphatically rejected by the marketplace is often the product trying to trade campaign donations for no-bid government funding. Segway, the sooner you join the eight-track tape deck in the Hall of Discarded Ideas, the better off we'll all be.

Worst News I've Heard In Years! In what this story weirdly describes as "a breakthrough," scientists in France cloned a rat. Memo to French Academy of Sciences -- the world already contains sufficient rats. We are not interested in enhancing their reproduction! We do, however, feel cloned rats should be kept in France, where they would be naturals for the French diplomatic corps.

But Then, As the World Knows, Lisa Looks Good in Leather: At the Bears-Packers game on MNF, Lisa Guerrero prowled the sidelines clad in a leather jacket with leather gloves. Kickoff temperature was 58 degrees! TMQ regularly chides coaches for over-dressing for games that aren't really cold. Don't let's see this habit spreading to the network crowd, too.

This Week's Anti-Canada Item: When ABCs Jeffrey Kofman filed a story from Iraq asserting that troop morale is low, the Drudge Report denounced him as an "openly gay Canadian." Kofman is both gay and Canadian. In fact, openly Canadian!

Think of the shame he must have felt growing up, knowing there was something about him that was not normal -- a terrible secret he had to hide from others. I refer to the Canadian part, of course. Canadians should adopt a don't-ask, don't-tell policy about their national orientation.

See this story from the Toronto Globe and Mail for the identities of other Canadians who are busily infiltrating the American media. Pretty soon, when some ABC executive announces at a programming meeting that the CFL will be taking over Monday Night Football, America will learn the shocking truth. By then, it will be too late.

HAL
"It can only be attributable to human error."

My Budget, Dick. Approve My Budget, Dick: The Pentagon actually is working on a computer system called HAL -- "Host Accessory Logic" -- for an Air Force program known as the Advanced EHF communications satellite. A word of advice to the technicians: If it starts to sing, run.

Hidden Indicator: Six teams -- Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, San Diego and San Francisco -- lost despite outrushing their opponents. 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: Nicholls State 64, Texas Southern 5. Located in Thibodaux, Louisiana, Nicholls State University is named after Civil War hero Redding Nicholls; the school's official bio of him neglects to mention that Nicholls served on the Confederate side. The school refers to its students as "clientele."

Bonus Obscure Score: Youngstown State 34, Liberty 3. Located in Lynchburg, Tennessee, Liberty University is the preserve of the Rev. Jerry Falwell. The school's home page boldly announces a sweepstakes, the "2002-2003 Liberty University Jeep Giveaway!"

Obscure College Score Flashback: Concerning the game that ended Washburn 28, Fort Hayes 4, several Fort Hayes students or alums, including Heather McKesson of Savannah, Georgia, wrote in with variations on this lament -- if only we'd gotten 13 more safeties!

New York Times Final-Score Score: Once again, the Paper of Guesses goes 0-14 in its quixotic attempt to predict an exact NFL final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 1-893 since TMQ began tracking.

Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply felt grievance? Register is at TMQespn@yahoo.com.

Local Affiliates Outrage Watch: So far, the Washington, D.C., area, where TMQ lurks, in addition to every Baltimore and "Washington" game, has seen every game played by the Dallas Cowboys and Jersey/B Jets (combined record, 2-5). But we've yet to get our first glimpse of the Panthers or Seahawks (combined record, 6-0) and have only had one glimpse each of Buffalo, Kansas City, Minnesota and Tampa (combined record, 12-3).

Is your local network affiliate showing woofer matchups instead of hot games? Register your protests, including the specifics -- call letters of station, date and times -- at TMQespn@yahoo.com.

Miss California
Just a reminder: this is Miss California. TMQ still intends on making more trips to the West Coast.

Last Week's Challenge: In honor of Miss California -- the swimsuit-winner mega-babe at the Miss America pageant who is also a divinity student -- TMQ asked readers to propose a new Miss America competition, joining the traditional talent, swimsuit and evening gown events, that would reflect the 21st century. (Note to art staff: Have just created a flimsy excuse to append cheesecake photo from that selfsame swimsuit competition.)

Martin Newham suggested a text-messaging competition, in which contestants must rapidly send clever symbol-messages via cell phones.

Matt Janik of Barkhamsted, Connecticut, proposed, "All contestants are placed in a cubicle in an office building. The winner is the one who can finish reading TMQ first without being caught by a roving boss with cheese/beefcake pictures on the screen."

Reader Barry Negrin of New York proposes an inspectors event: "Miss America contestants should find weapons of mass destruction in a foreign country, or at least in downtown Atlantic City." Find a weapon of mass destruction in Atlantic City? That's easy, the Trump Plaza. Negrin adds, "My wife is an ordained rabbi, and she's a mega-babe in my book." Mega-babe rabbis -- this must be the 21st century!

Bart Shirley suggests a music file downloading competition: "The Miss America contestants are judged on how many megabytes they can download before they are issued subpoenas."

Kerri Barnhart suggests, "Why not a competition to judge their plastic surgery? And by the way, where was this week's beefcake?" Kerri, our staff of beefcake consultants is working on the problem.

James Terranova suggests Miss America add "a kissing Britney event." Ratings would surely rise.

Pam Mandich suggests the addition of a Miller Lite Catfight competition. This also would be good for ratings, and who might be the corporate sponsor?

The winner is Liam Feldman of Lakeside, Michigan, who proposes his new Miss America competition in haiku:

Contestants attempt
to kick an extra point for
New Mexico U.

-- Liam Feldman

This Week's Challenge The Bears are now Presented by Bank One; if Bank One's corporate performance mimics the Bears, CDs will soon yield negative interest. What other NFL teams and corporate sponsors would be a perfect match? Propose your witty ideas at TMQespn@yahoo.com.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 4:49 PM

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September 16, 2003

Cowboys' win better than ice cream

POST #    485

And Ben & Jerry's ice cream has named an ice-cream sundae after Dean.

The Ben & Jerry's pro-Dean sundae is called Maple Powered Howard. Dean supporters have begun to chant "Maple Powered Howard!" at the rallies of other candidates, trying to drown out the opposition. You won't find Maple Powered Howard at your local outlet unless you live in Vermont, however; it is not an auspicious sign for the candidate's prospects that even Ben & Jerry's thinks no one outside Dean's home state would want a product bearing his name. And Ben & Jerry's does not even list the existence of Maple-Powered Howard on its inventory of flavors. Perhaps it worries about other candidates demanding equal-time flavors.

TMQ thinks other presidential candidates should demand their own Ben & Jerry's flavors! So, as a public service, here's what they would be:

John Kerry: Very Kerry Irish-Jewish-Czech Melting Pot. Flavors from all over the world, blended together until indistinguishable.

For running this promotional picture, TMQ wants a year's supply of free ice cream.

Bob Graham: Graham's Graham Cracker Special. Eat first spoonful at 2:06. Eat second at 2:07. Wipe face with napkin at 2:08. At 2:08:30, ask for sprinkles. At 2:08:45 ...

Joe Lieberman: Joe's Macho Java. Coffee-flavored ice cream bulked up with government-financed prescription drugs.

Al Sharpton: Al's Extra-Smoothy. It's processed!

Dennis Kucinich: Denny's Leftward Lurch.. Bubble-gum pink flavor, with lots of nuts.

John Edwards: John-Boy's Trial-Lawyer Delight. Every carton contains a dead mouse; bite into it and Edwards will represent you in your suit against the dairy.

Carol Moseley Braun: Carol's Incredible Fantasy. Only one-tenth of one percent of the ice cream is flavored, representing the share of votes she will be lucky to get.

Dick Gephardt: Dick's Missouri Hometown Lemonade. When you've run for the nomination as many times as he has, the campaign takes on a lemon flavor.

Wesley Clark: The General's Four-Star Favorite. Red, white and blue ribbons of strawberry, vanilla and blueberry, with candied purple hearts.

Plus these delicious taste sensations for other prominent political figures:

Dick Cheney's Undisclosed Flavor.

George W. Bush's Ice Cream of Mass Destruction. The label lists nuclear, biological and chemical content, but inspectors have been unable to find these ingredients.

Al Gore's Dade County Surprise. Bittersweet chocolate with a sour grape swirl.

And looking ahead to 2008:

Hillary's Endless Fudge.

TMQ believes an age-based requirement for the NFL is acceptable; for example, no mere teenager could excel at writing TMQ.

In NFL news, the teenager Maurice Clarett seems increasingly likely to file a lawsuit attempting to overturn the rule that bars those younger than college juniors from playing in the league. Ohio State's official bio says of Clarett that he is "quiet off the field and keeps to himself." If only that were true! This is going to be a loud, nasty fight. And it's a fight the NFL must win.

A decade ago, the NBA was being touted as the new juggernaut of sports; all its numbers (ratings, revenue, attendance, marketing sales) had risen for years. Since then, NBA popularity has been in free-fall decline -- regular-season ratings down 42 percent in the last decade, this year's Finals the lowest-rated in two decades. What happened, exactly, when the decline began? The NBA opened its doors to a wave of teenagers.

If the NFL starts bringing in teenagers, what will happen is exactly what's happened to pro basketball. Quality of play -- by far the most important aspect of NFL popularity -- will spiral downward. Immature kids will boast and strut for the cameras but refuse to listen to coaches, turning off the paying customers who earn far less than the boasting kids. Experienced veterans who know what they're doing will be thrown overboard for sulking teenagers who end up busts, accelerating the decline in quality of play. Since football requires more cooperation than any sport, and teenagers are by nature uncooperative, fumbles, interceptions and blown plays will increase until every team looks like the Arizona Cardinals. The goose who lays the golden eggs will be tossed into the Crock Pot.

And please don't tell me the league's anti-teenager rule is a conspiracy to stop young African-Americans from becoming rich. If black adolescents are handed huge NFL contracts, veteran players will be waived to free up the funds, and the majority of veteran NFL players are black. (The inevitable release of veteran players is the reason the NFL Players Association opposes allowing teenagers in.) Net monies paid to African-American athletes would remain the same in the early years of a teenagers-allowed system -- though payments would be shifted downward from older players who have learned to be serious about their lives and families, to teenagers who would blow the money. In the latter years of a teenagers-allowed system, net monies paid to black NFL athletes would decline, as the cooking of the golden goose causes the NFL to fall into the same downward spiral the NBA is currently in. Note that the NBA contract top scale, which is earned almost exclusively by African-Americans, has gone down since the league started letting teenagers in.

Also, please don't tell me there is some kind of constitutional right to play professional football at age 19. Many occupations impose age minimums -- you don't run across a lot of 19-year-old police officers or 19-year-old airline pilots. Courts uphold such minimums if they are reasonably related to professional requirements. The reasonable relationship here is that quality of play is the NFL's golden goose, and putting kids on the field will clobber quality.

So, Commissioner Tagliabue, fight this kid Clarett with everything you've got. Keep one adolescent whiner from taking down the most popular and successful sport in the observable universe. Force Clarett north to Canada. Better still, force him back into the classroom, which is what's in his best interest, anyway.

Commish, commish, hold that line! Push 'im back, push 'im back, way back!

And in other NFL news, the Giants had yet another kicking disaster. Seeming to win the MNF game on a field goal with 11 seconds remaining, Jersey/A sailed its kickoff out of bounds; Dallas got possession on its 40; one pass moved the ball to the Jersey/A 34; Dallas hit a 52-yard field-goal as the clock went double-zeros to force overtime; the Cowboys won in the extra session, long after all right-thinking people east of the Mississippi had gone to sleep. United Nations inspectors will report to the Giants' training camp today to begin searching for evidence of a kicking team.

Running backs gone wild! Jamal Lewis' record day topped a huge Sunday for ballcarriers.

The Non-Fantastic Five: Jamal Lewis of Baltimore began his record-setting day by rocketing 82 yards through the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.1) defense on the game's second snap. TMQ had to look at the tape twice: The Browns were in a five-man line on the play. That is, they gave up a huge rushing play while in a run defense.

A non-fantastic five turned out to be the theme of the day! Consider:

Ahman Green ran 65 yards to the house on the Packers' first possession; Detroit was in a five-man line, overstacked against the run.

Deuce McAlister ran 24 yards for the first touchdown of the Saints-Texans contest; Houston was in a five-man line, overstacked against the run.

The Dolphins were backed up in their own end, leading 14-3 late in the second quarter, when Ricky Williams cracked a 22-yard rush that started a touchdown drive and left the Jets reeling; Jersey/B was in a five-man line, overstacked against the run.

Priest Holmes of Kansas City ran 31 yards for the fourth-quarter touchdown that put Pittsburgh out of business; the Steelers were in a five-man line, overstacked against the run.

Clinton Portis ran 25 yards on the Bronco's first rush attempt, setting the tone for the Denver rout of San Diego; the 'Bolts were in a five-man line, overstacked against the run.

Non-fantastic five note No.1: Good thing San Diego got rid of that washed-up Junior Seau! The 'Bolts surrendered 197 yards rushing at home while the Dolphins held the Jets to 21 yards rushing on the road, with Seau having a superb game.

Non-fantastic five note No. 2: Lewis' record-book day included rushes of 82, 63, 38, 23 and 18 yards. So if you just take away those five runs for 224 yards, Cleveland otherwise shut Lewis down! In the offseason, Cleveland released its entire starting linebacker corps. Sunday's replacements looked like they were auditioning for the Arena League -- interior linebackers Andra Davis and Kevin Bentley repeatedly bounced off Lewis, or sailed through the air in one direction as Lewis went, technically speaking, in the other direction. Two weeks ago, a TMQ reader foresaw presciently in haiku,

Release 2.1
Cut too many linebackers
Six and 10 this year
-- Brent L. Hasseman, Cleveland

It appears Martin Gramatica did not leave his tithe to the football gods this week.

Clang! Clang! Clang! Carolina defeated defending Super Bowl champion City of Tampa 12-9 in overtime at Tampa, by virtue of blocking two Bucs' field-goal attempts, then blocking a Bucs' PAT kick that would have won the game on the final play of regulation. Delightfully, Carolina players scooped up the blocked PAT and got most of the way down the field as zebras whistled madly. In college, a blocked PAT runback scores a point for the defense; thus, in college, Carolina could have won by running the conversion attempt back after the clock expired. In the NFL, a conversion try simply ends the moment the defense takes possession of the ball.

The game snapped the champs' eight-game winning streak, stretching back to last season, and left City of Tampa reeling with the thought that a defending Super Bowl victor could manage only 9 points at home. Last week, TMQ noted that the Bucs gracelessly taunted the Eagles when beating Philadelphia in the MNF opener, and predicted, "The football gods will exact a vengeance on Tampa." Didn't take long! Oh ye mortals, trifle not with the football gods.

Resistible Forces: At 3:26 PM Eastern on Sept. 14, the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.1) scored their first touchdown of the 2003 season. At 5:03 Eastern, the Philadelphia Eagles scored their first touchdown of the 2003 season. At 5:21 Eastern, the New England Patriots scored their first touchdown of the 2003 season.

Stat of the Week: Jersey/A and Jersey/B lost games on consecutive days in the same stadium.

Stat of the Week No. 2: Stretching through the first five quarters, Buffalo opened the season on a 45-0 run.

Stat of the Week No. 3: The Browns had more punts and turnovers (11) than first downs (9).

Stat of the Week No. 4: The Dolphins, Ravens and Vikings outrushed the Bears, Browns and Jets by a combined 571 yards.

Stat of the Week No. 5: The Chiefs, Raiders and Rams won by a combined 27 points despite being outgained by a combined 389 yards.

Stat of the Week No. 6: Donovan McNabb attempted 48 passes for an average gain of 3.5 yards. His longest completion, 21 yards, was to a running back.

Stat of the Week No. 7: Stretching back to last season, the Eagles have had three consecutive home losses and been outscored 75-20.

Stat of the Week No. 8: Stretching back to last season, the Giants have played three consecutive home games in which Tiki Barber and Kerry Collins have fumbled a combined 11 times.

Good Seats Always Available! The Arizona (caution: may contain football-like substance) Cardinals opened at home before an announced crowd of 23,127. The figure included ticket give-aways, with actual attendance estimated at a Double-A-like 15,000. If we accept the official gate number, the Cards committed one turnover for every 3,854 customers. It is impossible to calculate how many points Arizona scored per customer, because in mathematics, you cannot divide by zero.

Best 99-Yard Drive Leading Jacksonville 28-10 in the third quarter, Buffalo took over on its 1-yard line. In this situation, it's not unreasonable to go conservative and then launch a field-position punt. The Bills flew the length of the field in eight plays, breaking Jax's will.

Little known fact: TMQ picked up a minor in dance education while in college.

Cheerleader of the Week: This week's is Trisia of the Miami Marine Mammals, a college student majoring in dance education and coach of the Miami Carol City High School Diamond Dancers. Trisia's bio says she has been "a Dolfan since birth." Since before she could talk? Maybe her bottles were teal and orange.

I Predict This Week's TMQ Will Be the Most Popular Ever! Congratulations to Jamal Lewis, but enough already with the gushing that he predicted he would set the NFL record. Even the normally level-headed Tom Jackson gushed on Prime Time, "It's amazing! I can't believe he actually predicted it!"

NFL players endlessly predict incredible things for themselves. Listen to standard trash talk and half the gentlemen in the league are predicting they'll run for 300 yards or catch five touchdowns or get four sacks. A scientifically-estimated 99.999999 percent of these predictions turn out null and void. Lewis' prediction is receiving attention because of his monster day, but it's no more amazing than if the New York Times predicted that every single NFL game this year would finish 23-20 (see below) and then, when one did, cried, "We predicted it!"

Note further that Lewis' incredible prediction happened in a phone call with a friend; presumably, he wasn't taping. When Babe Ruth "called his shot," he did so in public. If instead, after that game, Ruth had said, "You know, I was talking on the phone with this guy and I predicted I'd hit one over the centerfield fence in the fifth inning," people would have said, "Yeah, right."

Best High-School Play: In overtime, the Cowboys lined up heavy left. Quincy Carter rolled left, and the line pulled left. Then Carter pivoted back to the right and threw to Dan Campbell, who was dragging right against the flow of the play; the 26-yard completion put Dallas into range for the winning field goal. This play is High School Football 101, and the Giants defenders looked like they'd never seen it -- or even been watching Sunday Night Football on ESPN, because this was the key play of Tennessee's win over Oakland last week.

Sweet Play of the Day No. 1: Leading 7-0 in the first quarter, Buffalo lined up "trips" right -- three receivers on that flank. Jax defenders scrambled like mad to overload the trips side. Drew Bledsoe then threw deep to the sole receiver on the left, Eric Moulds, for a 29-yard gain. The Bills scored on the possession and the rout was on.

Sweet Play of the Day No. 2: In goal-line situations, Minnesota often goes five-wide to spread the defense, then nose-tackle-sized quarterback Daunte Culpepper draws up the middle. Leading Chicago, 17-13, in the fourth quarter, facing third-and-goal from the 11, the Vikings lined up in an empty backfield. Culpepper took the snap and started forward as if to draw; the Bears bit, and came up. Culpepper then stopped on a dime and lofted a pass to tight end Jim Kleinsasser for the game-clinching points.

A Spokesman for Pepsi Vanilla, the Official Flavored Cola of the Washington Monument, Denounced the Move As Crass Commercialism: Snapple will pay $33 million a year to be "the official iced tea and water" of New York City. "The mayor has long insisted that New York City is not just an important megalopolis but a powerful brand name with strong revenue potential," this report explained.

Meanwhile at the White House, Vice President Dick Cheney declared that "America is not just an important regional power but a brand name with strong revenue potential, too." Cheney said negotiations to call the country "the United States presented by ExxonMobil" are not yet complete.

What would T'Pol look like if she were wearing a Philadelphia Eagles' cheer-babe costume?

Now Accepting Volunteers: A UPN coming-attraction trailer for a repeat of "Star Trek Enterprise" declared, referring to the space babe T'Pol: "When T'Pol prematurely experiences severe symptoms of Pon Farr, the Vulcan mating cycle in which she has to mate or she will die, she begins to make advances on Phlox and Reed, and the crew is forced to find a way to help her." TMQ can think of a way they could have helped her!

Reader Haiku: The last refers to Pittsburgh's new digs, which TMQ calls Ketchup Field.

Pats versus Eagles:
Football fans wonder who will
score first this season.
-- Rick Desper, Bethesda, MD

Seahawks, Bengals, Bills:
The XFL has folded --
dress accordingly!
-- Justin Isaac, Omaha

Which Ram was concussed:
confused, fumbling quarterback
or idiot coach?
-- Don Mecoy, Edmond, Okla.

Ketchup Field? Not quite.
Many thousand yellow seats
are the Mustard Bowl.
-- Jerry Wolper

Where Are the Ice Creams of Yesteryear? TMQ sheds a tear over some great Ben & Jerry's discontinued flavors from ice cream history. My departed favorites include Berry Kaboom, Blackberry Cobbler, Cherry Amour, Concession Obsession, Peach Melba, Raspberry Cheesecake and Vanilla Caramel Fudge. And word is you'd better snap up the best-named Ben & Jerry's flavor of all time -- Karamel Sutra -- because it's on the way out.

You can read Ben & Jerry's congratulating itself for being socially responsible here. By the strangest coincidence, you have to go deep into the Ben & Jerry's site via search engine to find any mention of the fact that the company is owned by Unilever, an enormous conglomerate. Unilever itself, under its brands index, pretends not to own Ben & Jerry's. TMQ's favorite fact about Unilever: It markets the waistline-expanding Ben & Jerry's and Hellman's Mayonnaise, and also SlimFast.

Note to Jets Coaches: the Preseason Has Ended: Trailing the Marine Mammals 21-3 at home, Jersey/B got the ball on its own 20 with 14 seconds left in the first half, holding all three timeouts. Jets' coaches called a listless handoff to Curtis Martin, then trotted into the locker room without making the slightest attempt to do anything about the scoreboard. You've got all three timeouts! Two intermediate completions followed by instant timeouts, and at least you can heave-ho a Hail Mary. On MNF, Dallas had the ball in its end, just 11 seconds and one timeout left at the end of regulation, and scored.

Were Jets' coaches anxious to get the game over with? They certainly acted that way. Jets coaches did not allow Vinny Testaverde to go no-huddle until four minutes remained and the situation was hopeless. One of the great comebacks ever, Jets back from 31-7 in the fourth to beat Miami in the Meadowlands, began when Testaverde went no-huddle at the start of the last quarter.

Note to Jets' Coaches: Before Conversion Attempts, Look at Scoreboard: TMQ doesn't like going for two early in the game, cleaving to the immutable law: Take One 'Til the Fourth. Unless it's the fourth quarter, coaches should forgot those cards that say to go for two when ahead by five, behind by nine and so on. Twist and turns of scoring are too unpredictable; the forgone singleton early may mean the difference later. If the goal is most points, it's better to take a 99-percent chance of one than a 40-percent chance of two.

All this changes in the fourth quarter, once the endgame is coming into view. Trailing Miami 21-3 at home, Jersey/B scored to make it 21-9 with 12:42 remaining. Jets' coaches went for one. Look at the scoreboard! A two-pointer would have cut the margin to a touchdown and a field goal; the singleton left the margin at two touchdowns. Had the Jets gone for two and missed, the margin still would have been two touchdowns, which is the hole they ended up in, anyway. There was no downside to going for a deuce at this point, and considerable upside. Forced to play only for touchdowns in the endgame, Jersey/B lost when Vinny Testaverde pressed and threw an interception with the team in field-goal range. Ye gods.

The R44: It's loud and it pollutes! Kind of like Jeremy Shockey.

Fortunately for Everyone, Streisand Was Not Nude Sunbathing at the Time: Last year, TMQ did an item on the California Coastal Records Project, a husband-wife team (pilot Gabrielle Adelman, photographer Kenneth Adelman) flying the California coast, taking pictures of wealthy people's homes and offering the photos for sale on the Internet. Supposedly, this is done in the name of environmental awareness. According to the Project, photos of every meter of the California coast must be available for sale because structures there "include facilities like power plants and refineries that are enormously destructive to the environment [and] because access to these sites is in some cases restricted." Restricted access to power plants! Now, there's a sinister plot against the public. Why shouldn't anybody be able to enter any power plant?

Last year's TMQ item made sport of the fact that these environmental crusaders are protecting our precious planet by flying around in a helicopter, the most polluting, fossil-fuel-slurping mode of transportation known to man.

While auto tailpipe emissions are very tightly regulated, helicopter air-pollution emissions are unrestricted -- see this page from the New York League of Conservation Voters objecting that helicopters spew air pollution without limits. The more fuel your chariot burns, the more greenhouse gas it emits; and helicopters make SUVs seem like econo-boxes when it comes to fuel consumption. The Project's helicopter is a Robinson R44. According to the manufacturer, this bird burns 14 gallons of fuel per hour. In an hour of steady highway driving, the repulsive Hummer ultra-SUV would burn about five gallons of fuel. So from the standpoint of greenhouse gases, the environmental crusaders at the Coastal Records Project are buzzing around in the equivalent of three Hummer SUVs strapped together.

There are also no noise restrictions on helicopters, another longstanding compliant against rotary aircraft. In their pursuit of environmental protection, the Adelmans are merrily making a deafening racket, spoiling the ability of others to enjoy the California coastline. Why is it when environmental crusaders waste fuel or make noise it's noble; but when anybody else does the same, it's evil?

Comes now Barbra Streisand, who recently sued the Adelmans for posting on the Web highly-detailed aerial photos of her coastal estate. Is this a violation of privacy?

Random thought: What are the odds Babs reads TMQ?

The Adelmans cite California v. Ciraolo, a 1986 Supreme Court ruling that marijuana growers could not claim a privacy right against police aircraft spotting their fields from the air. But this isn't really the proper citation, since it involved criminal behavior. Presumably, being Barbra Streisand is not in itself a criminal offense. Note: recent movies excepted.

It turns out that most private property receives little protection from distant cameras. Courts have held that the Fourth Amendment protects what you do inside a home or similar private area. Being enclosed behind walls and a roof is the key; what happens outside the walls of a home or similar property generally does not receive privacy protection. A realtor can photograph the exterior of your home from the street, for example; if you're standing on the lawn at the time, you can't claim a privacy right. Nor does light or heat emanating from a home or similar place qualify as privacy-protected. Photons bouncing off the backyard gazebo, revealing its appearance to distant cameras -- or infrared signatures emitting from the basement and signaling sun-lamp marijuana growing, to cite an actual Supreme Court case -- are not shielded by privacy law.

Even outside areas enclosed by fencing are not considered private, relative to the sky. If you're out back in the hot tub with Miss Slovenia, anyone flying overhead may legally snap your likeness. (Note: have just created an excuse for the ESPN.com art department to append a swimsuit photo of Miss Slovenia. Flimsy justification: A swimsuit is what she'd wear in the hot tub!)

It's a shame they don't play American football in Slovenia.

This is why satellite companies lawfully market space-taken photos of the entire face of the Earth. Terraserver.com lets you enter a latitude and longitude intersection of almost any place of Earth, and sells you a satellite photo of same. At no cost, I checked out this eight-meter resolution view of a randomly selected section of Tokyo. For cash, Terraserver will improve the view to one-meter resolution. That means you could buy a photo of the ESPN headquarters complex in Bristol, Connecticut (sorry, you'll have to look up the coordinates yourself) and actually see Mike Golic working over lunch in his rooftop cucumber garden.

Aircraft are legally little different than satellites, meaning someone flying a helicopter near your beachfront estate and taking pictures is lawful. Only federal rules on minimum altitude -- generally, civilian aircraft may fly no lower than 1,000 feet except during takeoffs and landings -- apply. Staying out over the water on the coastline may allow the Adelmans to skirt altitude minimums.

In two instances, aerial photographs are restrained by law. One is trade secrets being stolen from the air. A relevant case concerned a helicopter that snapped pictures of the interior of a Dow Chemical factory before the roof was put on; courts held this to be a violation of Dow's intellectual property rights, as there are manufacturer's trade secrets involved in the layout of chemical plants. So if there is anything proprietary about Streisand's home -- perhaps, patented fountain-of-youth technology -- she stand a chance against the Adelmans.

The other restriction against prying aerial cameras is that no one may make commercial use of your name or likeness, taken in private circumstances, without consent. If Sean Penn gets his picture snapped at a public rally in support of Saddam Hussein, that likeness belongs to the metasphere. If someone takes Penn's picture in a private home, permission is required for commercial use.

So is the California Coastal Records Project engaged in a commercial use of the photo it took of Bab's manse? Well, said photo is being offered for sale, which sounds kind of commercial to TMQ.

Terrell really needs to start working out, doesn't he?

Warning! Beefcake! As part of TMQ's continuing attempt to appease female readers, here is a shirtless pose of Terrell Owens that appeared in the New York Times. Those ab muscles look like the shield of a Roman centurion! They're probably stronger, though.

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 1: Trailing by a touchdown with 23 seconds left in regulation, the Squared Sevens faced fourth-and-eight at the Mouflons' 13. Since the typical NFL pass attempt averages six yards, all St. Louis had to do was play straight defense and the odds favored victory. Instead, it's a blitz! Six gentlemen cross the line, Terrell Owens is single-covered, touchdown, overtime.

San Francisco then recovered a Rams' muff of the kickoff; and with nine seconds left had the ball on its 45, holding a timeout. Quick pass down the middle into field-goal range and instant timeout, right? Cedric Wilson caught the ball at the St. Louis 30 with four seconds left. Take a knee! Form your hands into the letter T! Instead, Wilson did one of those "Look, Ma, I can dance!" routines at center field, the clock expired and San Francisco lost in overtime.

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 2: Game tied at 20, the Cincinnati Fudgsicles had the Raiders facing third-and-10 beyond field-goal range. Since the typical NFL pass attempt averages six yards, all Cincinnati had to do was play straight defense and the odds favored taking the defending conference champion to overtime. Instead, it's a blitz! Eight gentlemen cross the line, a tactic TMQ had never seen before and hopes never to see again. Eight Raiders blockers take out the eight gentlemen -- this was the best blocking moment of the weekend, other than Carolina's kick blocks -- and Jerry Rice is streaking to the end zone behind everyone. Fudgsicle cornerback Artrell Hawkins grabbed Rice's jersey to prevent the easy touchdown; the interference penalty put Oakland into field-goal range; the rest was a typical Cincinnati outcome.

Worst Block: Game tied at 24 at the end of the third quarter, Atlanta faced first-and-10 at its own five against the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons. Doug Johnson dropped back. No one blitzed, but Atlanta formed the pocket all wrong, right tackle Todd Weiner turning inward while tight end Alge Crumpler turned outward, leaving an undefended lane directly to the passer. Persons' linebacker Jesse Armstead, whose assignment on the play was to cover Crumpler, saw the open lane and simply sprinted in unmolested to drop Johnson for a safety. The two points ended up as the Persons' victory margin.

Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All, No. 1: Trailing the Broncos, 27-10, with 10:26 left in the fourth quarter, the 'Bolts reached first-and-goal at the Denver 6-yard line. A field goal this late against a big deficit means nothing; San Diego must score a touchdown. So did the 'Bolts -- who averaged 6.7 yards per rush attempt in the game, versus 4.4 yards per pass attempt -- just pound, pound, pound the ball, especially knowing it was a four-down situation? Incompletion, run, incompletion, field goal. TMQ writes the words "game over" in his notebook.

Note to Jets' Coaches: White Reflects Sunlight: Home teams choose whether to wear their colored or white looks; visitors wear whatever's left. This is supposed to mean that for early-season or hot-weather games, the home team wears its whites, forcing the visitors to sweat in sun-absorbing colors. But on Opening Day, at home in early September in 70-percent humidity, Cincinnati debuted what TMQ now calls its Fudgsicles look -- all-black. The visiting Broncos wore comfortable whites, and pounded the Fudgsicles. This Sunday, Miami played at Jersey/B: The kickoff stats showed 79 degrees and 96-percent humidity, as if the Marine Mammals had brought their weather with them. The Jets choose to wear their greens, ceding the visitors the advantage of white jerseys.

Speaking of the Jersey/B look . . . It's 2003, Jets. When are going to fix your look? Black shoes make the Jets seem like they are trying to run through excelsior. Aircraft designers say, "looks good, flies good" -- a reason the Lockheed Martin F35 beat out the Boeing contender for the next huge Air Force program, Joint Tactical Fighter, is that the F35 is a great-looking airplane that inspires confidence in pilots, while the Boeing contender was utt-bulgy, as they say. In football, looks fast, plays fast; looks slow, plays slow. Jets, get white shoes! Even green would be better.

Clarett's Special Guest Star: A complication of the Maurice Clarett situation is that he is being advised by Jim Brown, one of the greatest NFL players ever, but one who has long been bitter against the league. Brown may be projecting his own anti-NFL feelings onto Clarett, and this is unlikely to be in Clarett's interest.

Brown believes the NFL has shunned him since he got involved in black-power politics, and there's an element of truth to this. On the other hand, nobody made Brown appear in those ridiculous blaxploitation movies, which changed his image to a goofball. Brown bears ill-will toward the NFL, and may subconsciously long to screw the league. A confrontation that results in the collapse of the draft rules would certainly have that effect, but the end result would only be to kill the golden goose for both white and African-American players. Meanwhile, someone who really had Clarett's best interests in mind would counsel him to transfer, study, keep his nose clean and step up to the NFL when his turn comes.

Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All, No. 2: Trailing the Packers, 14-0, on the road, the Detroit Peugeots had first-and-goal on the Green Bay 6-yard line in the second quarter. Did Detroit pound, pound, pound the ball, especially knowing that even if four straight runs failed, the Packers would be stuck on their own goal line? Rush, incompletion, dump pass for no gain, field goal; Detroit never threatened again.

The Football Gods Chortled After calling Dallas coach Bill Parcells a "homo" in the offseason -- TMQ interjected that he must have meant to say a "homo sapiens" -- in the MNF game against Parcells' Cowboys, Jeremy Shockey dropped a touchdown pass. Shockey also dropped a perfectly-thrown bomb, and made no effort to break up an interception directly in front of him.

Note to Jeremy Shockey: This is only your sophomore season and you're already wearing out your welcome. Unless a player is consistently great -- this is the Randy Moss exception -- the football gods punish vanity.

Fine Whine of the Week: Jax failed to sell out its season opener, meaning no local broadcast. The team became angry when local CBS affiliate WTEV, denied the chance to show the home team, instead aired in that time slot Dolphins at Jets, a contest with obvious Florida appeal. Jaguars management wanted WTEV to show no game at all while the Jaguars were playing. So, Jax . . . Local residents should have been punished for failing to sell out the opener? Ay caramba.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback Insider Exclusive! Tuesday Morning Quarterback has learned on an exclusive basis that 40-year-old Raiders receiver Jerry Rice has tested positive for Visine. Remember, this is a Tuesday Morning Quarterback exclusive.

Running Items Department
Obscure College Score of the Week: Linfield 49, Redlands 10. Located in McMinnville, Oregon, Linfield offers "small classes which emphasize experiential and collaborative approaches to learning." Collaborative learning -- doesn't that mean that students have to pay the tuition and then teach themselves?

One of TMQ's theories of small colleges is that somehow every one of them -- every last one -- advertises itself as highly-rated in the influential U.S. News & World Report college rankings. This can be possible because U.S. News creativity lists more categories than there are Academy Awards. Linfield's home page trumpets, "Ranked No. 1 by U.S. News!" Click to the details, and you find that Linfield finished tops in the category "Western comprehensive colleges -- bachelor's," besting Oklahoma Baptist, Texas Lutheran, Carroll, Master's College and Brigham Young of Hawaii.

Obscure College Quirk of the Week: There were three contests -- West Virginia Wesleyan 29, Lenoir-Rhyne 2; Concordia Moorhead 24, Gustavus 2; Martin Luther 16, Waldorf 2 -- in which the loser scored only a safety.

New York Times Final-Score Score Once again, the Paper of Guesses goes 0-16 in its quixotic attempt to predict an exact NFL final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 1-865 since TMQ began tracking.

Reader Ben Auer of El Cerrito, Calif., checked last year's NFL results and found that the most common score was 23-20, which happened on nine occasions. Auer therefore suggests that the Times and anyone else attempting to predict an exact final score endlessly forecast that every game end 23-20. And it was, in fact, on a prediction of Detroit 23, Chicago 20 that the Times last season recorded the sole correct exact final score forecast in the three-plus years that TMQ has been tracking the Times' quixotic quest.

Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or deeply-felt grievance? Register it at TMQespn@yahoo.com.

Apropos TMQ's contention that French kissing should be renamed Freedom kissing, reader Scott Charlton of Albuquerque notes that 3,000-year-old Bible book Song of Solomon says at verse 3:11,

Your lips, O my spouse,
Drip as the honeycomb;
Honey and milk are under your tongue;
And the fragrance of your garments
Is like the fragrance of Lebanon.

Charlton interprets this ancient verse as the first written record of tongue hockey, which he therefore suggests should be called Hebrew kissing.

The HMS Dreadnought weighed over 18,000 tons and featured a steam turbine powerplant that pushed the ship to a maximum speed of 21 knots.

Apropos TMQ's contention that the unsightly new Bills uniforms are dominated by a color that should be called Nineteenth Century Rusting Russian Dreadnought Aft Bulkhead Cyanic, a truly spooky number of readers -- including Jennifer Clarke of Fort Lauderdale -- knew that the HMS Dreadnought, which gave the class of warships its name, was not christened until 1906.

Many readers, including Eric Meyerson of San Francisco, protested TMQ's assertion that the politics of sometime-football voices Dennis Miller and Rush Limbaugh "roughly cancel each other out, netting Pat Summerall." Meyerson wrote, "Miller has turned his politics around 180 degrees, and now performs at George W. Bush fundraisers." See this story.

Reader Christopher Randolph of Glenn Dale, Maryland, wrote asking for more African-American cheerleader photos. He laments in haiku,

TMQ softcore
lacks enough integration;
More chocolate cheerbabes!
-- Christopher Randolph


I've got the high ground here, because this request came in just after this September column featured a black Cheerleader of the Week. But anyway, see above.

Last Week's Challenge: Apropos the numerous television shows and movies in which characters at secret military installations or aboard starcruisers crawl through air shafts large enough to accommodate paddlewheel riverboats -- reader Jimmy Fleck noted Obi Wan and Qui Jon scramble into an enormous air shaft to escape droids on the Trade Federation flagship in Star Wars Episode One -- TMQ asked if any reader had ever really crawled through an air shaft.

Reader Evan from New Orleans, a test-and-balance technician, writes, "You can in some instances crawl inside an air shaft. The problem is not the size but that it can't support the weight," since air shafts are usually made of thin ductwork. Evan recommends this site, which contains voluminous technical information on the proper construction of air shafts.

Reader Bill Z., who has worked in the heating and AC industry since 1976, cautions, "Do not crawl inside ducting. The inside of ducting is usually coated with insulation, has numerous sharp pins and edges, and square ducts have 'turning vanes,' essentially a rack of airplane-like wings that help air turn through corners without losing speed. You can also run into AC coils, large fans and other machinery."

Reader Bob Mulks of New Jersey says he and some friends actually crawled through an air shaft in the abandoned Capitol Theater of Passaic, New Jersey: "The main shaft took us out over the stage and about 10 rows out into the theatre, but 40 feet up! We were standing on thin aluminum that we could feel sway. Not a pleasant experience." Reader Coray Seifert of New Jersey says he and some friends actually crawled through an air shaft in the abandoned North Princeton Psychiatric Hospital. So -- it's Jersey, it's a Saturday night. Let's get some beer, find an abandoned building and crawl through an air shaft.

Reader Justin Favela of Riverside, California, once entered an air shaft aboard the USS Nimitz -- an aircraft carrier that is slightly bigger than Patriots DT Ted Washington -- to perform a wiring repair. "I can't say I was really crawling, though. I was more stuffed in and pulled out by my co-workers," Favela reports.

We'd follow Jennifer Garner into an air shaft any time.

Vince Keenan of Seattle notes that the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., has, as an exhibit, a large air shaft that museum-goers can crawl through, just like in secret-agent movies. It's even padded. "For my money, nobody does the air-shaft crawl shimmy like Jennifer Garner on TV's 'Alias'," Keenan proffers. "Please feel free to run a photo."

And the winner is Ryan Brown of Pittsburgh, who reports, "My friends and I recently went down to Washington, DC. My friend Katie kept mentioning how she always wanted to climb into an air shaft -- she didn't have a reason, it was just a lifetime goal of hers. After a day of exploring the city, we eventually came to an accessible air shaft and she satisfied her goal. A picture of this experience can be found here." This, it turns out, is the air shaft exhibit at the Spy Museum. Supposedly, picture-taking is banned there, but do the Spy Museum's managers seriously think that a highly-trained operative, equipped with the right miniature camera, can be stopped? Meanwhile -- a woman whose lifetime goal was to crawl through an air shaft! She'd be popular in New Jersey.

This Week's Challenge: Propose names and flavors of ice creams for NFL players or personalities. Submit your witty concepts to TMQespn@yahoo.com.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 8:51 PM

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February 21, 2003

Near naked and not complaining

POST #    475

Near naked and not complaining
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

BRISTOL, Conn. -- Publisher John Skipper today unveiled the first nude lapdancer issue of ESPN The Magazine, available in stores everywhere on Earth The Planet.

"This is the logical progression of events in magazine marketing," Skipper said. "First Sports Illustrated started its swimsuit issue, rationalized by the fact that female athletes compete in swimsuits. Then, in 2003, National Geographic published a swimsuit issue, rationalized by the fact that mega-babes were photographed draped across rocks or near trees, which are part of nature. We noticed that big-screen sports is often playing in some of your finer topless and exotic-dance clubs, so that gave us a legitimate editorial reason to publish the first annual nude lapdancer issue."

It all began innocently enough in 1964 with a skin diver's guide to the Caribbean. Emphasis on skin.

ESPN personnel fanned out across the country to visit some of your finer striptease and exotic-dance clubs and identify women eligible for the issue, using a rigorous criteria based on appearance, height, ability to maintain balance in six-inch heels, 40-yard dash times and reps of 225 pounds. Skipper said that having ESPN The Magazine full of naked women was sure to be controversial, but clearly related to sports, since every woman had lap-danced for at least one NFL, NBA or MLB player.

A spokeswoman for Sports Illustrated, which started the swimsuit-issue fad, called the ESPN The Magazine nude lapdancer issue "crass exploitation, nothing like our tasteful magic-glasses issue." This year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit number features mega-babes wearing special swimsuits that disappear when the reader puts on magic glasses. (Glasses sold separately.) A spokesman for National Geographic called the ESPN nude-lapdancer edition "unbelievable pandering, nothing like our tasteful topless hiking issue." This year's National Geographic swimsuit issue features mega-babes hiking through the Peruvian rainforest wearing nothing above the waist but backpacks.

A spokeswoman for Foreign Policy magazine called the ESPN nude-lapdancer issue "cheap sensationalism, nothing like our tasteful hot diplomats in bondage issue." This year's Foreign Policy magazine swimsuit number features scantily clad women, bound and gagged, tied to chairs at the United Nations' Security Council. A spokesman for Reader's Digest called the ESPN The Magazine nude lapdancer issue "extremely gratuitous, nothing like our tasteful 'Girls of the PTA' issue." This year's Reader's Digest swimsuit issue features alluring elementary-school teachers grading homework in lingerie.


Page 2's Swimsuit Edition

Trying to sneak a peak at the SI swimsuit issue without getting in trouble? Eric Neel has some helpful advice.
SI undressed: Jeff Merron tracks down the stories behind the photos.
Photo gallery: Yes, we have our own revealing swimsuit edition that you won't want to miss!
National Geographic just put out a swimsuit edition as well. We're hearing other mags may jump on the bandwagon.
Vote for your favorite Sports Illustrated cover girl.

Dancers for the first annual nude lapdancer edition of ESPN The Magazine were photographed by famous photographers in exotic locations of particular interest to sports enthusiasts, such as the Rose Bowl parking lot, the tunnels of Lambeau Field, McSorley's Tavern in Manhattan and lounging by the fuel-rods cooling pool of the Millstone atomic reactor station, located in Waterford, Connecticut, which supplies the electricity for ESPN headquarters.

OK, so I'm exaggerating, but not by much. In 1964, Sports Illustrated placed itself at the cutting edge of cheesecake technology by declaring the fact that women wear swimsuits during competitive swimming events justifies a mega-babes swimsuit issue in a general-interest sports magazine -- not that anything worn in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue would stay on during actual competitive swimming.

Over the years the suits have gotten smaller, the breasts more augmented, the photographic premises more strained -- coral reefs, the source of the Nile -- and the pretense of relationship to sports has declined. This year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue adopts a jokey self-mocking tone and drops the pretense altogether, with the entire issue being near-naked babes. A few babe wives photographed with their professional jock husbands represents the closest thing to sports coverage in 220 pages.

Did I say coverage? Sorry, poor choice of words.

"Near naked," meanwhile, is the choice of words that models and photographers actually use for the kinds of poses in the new Sports Illustrated ... not, of course, that I am complaining. Most of the models wear triangle tops and high-cut or thong-style bottoms that leave only a few square centimeters covered ... not, of course, that I am complaining!


Sports trivia: Is this photo of Catharine Bell in this year's SI swimsuit edition?


Actually, lately even "near naked" has not been near to naked enough. Last fall, tomato actress Catherine Bell posed for FHM magazine in a minimalist bikini with her thumbs hooked around the bottom strap as if she were just about to strip. This year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model, the luscious Petra Nemcova, poses untying the strap on her bikini bottoms. Inside the issue, model Ana Beatriz Barros poses in almost nothing, and she's starting to pull down the bottom nothing. Can a Page 2 porn starlet picture feature really be that farfetched? (Yes, but only because we'd have to pay the models.)

This year's locations: Kenya, Turkey, the Florida Keys, trout streams of Colorado, Barbados, Grenada, a racetrack and, I am not making this up, Vietnam. And Ho Chi Minh thought he won that war! Little sidebar features tout the lavish five-star resorts that Sports Illustrated staff stayed in while shooting at the exotic locales -- now we know the real reason AOL Time Warner profits have plunged. (Thus, another reason the Page 2 porn starlet picture feature really is farfetched -- resort hotel bills.)

This year's best cutting-edge-of-cheesecake-technology views: model Reka Ebergenyi in a Kenyan expedition tent wearing nothing but underpants and a man's safari shirt quite widely spread; near-naked babe sports star wife Debbie Clemens posing with a baseball bat; and model Molly Sims, shot from behind, fly-fishing topless in Colorado. Why, the next thing you know some crass, exploitive network will actually broadcast a show premised on mega-babes in bikinis doing deep-sea fishing! No, that's way too far-fetched.

Even the advertising for the Sports Illustrated issue has gone swimsuit. Numerous ads specially prepared for the edition feature bikini babes. Miller Lite binds into the issue a multi-page foldout which opens into a pinup poster of very well endowed model Sofia Vergara. There are seven total views of Vergara in the fold-out, which means a total of 14 ... oh, never mind. There's even a (non-swimsuit) ad for ESPN The Channel, broadcast using Microwaves The Force of Nature. So Sports Illustrated accepts advertising for ESPN? Well, it's a slack economy.

Plus there's a article on body painting -- a serious journalistic look at body painting -- recalling Sports Illustrated's famed photo of model Heidi Klum in nothing but body paint. Maybe body painting will become the next Olympic sport. Who at the International Olympic Committee would we pay off to arrange that?

And for your shopping convenience, there is a two-page index explaining where to buy any of the swimsuits shown in the issue, setting aside that there are perhaps 5,000 women in the entire world who can wear these suits, which would seem to limit the tie-in marketing somewhat. A few weeks ago, I estimated that the material in the micro bikinis featured in the surfer-babe movie "Blue Crush" cost $390 per pound. These suits are even smaller, and thus even more expensive per pound.

Not that I'm complaining!

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 7:11 PM

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February 13, 2003

LeBron-gate

POST #    477

LeBron-gate
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

A high-school referee who posed for a photograph with schoolboy basketball star LeBron James after a game Saturday night is being investigated for the incident by the group that oversees officials for the sport. Bloomberg News, February 10, 2003

THE WHITE HOUSE, February 10, 2007 -- President Arianna Huffington resigned today amid controversy over revelations that she had once passed the butter to schoolboy basketball phenomenon LeBron James during a dinner. "I received bad legal advice," President Huffington complained, noting she consulted three attorneys before passing the butter to James at a charity event in Ohio in February 2003. Two of the lawyers told her that handing butter to a high-school athlete would not violate Ohio amateur athletic rules, while the third advised her to consult a federal judge before touching the salt or pepper. The Ohio High School Athletic Association later ruled that because butter has value, schoolboy athletes are forbidden to eat it -- or anything.

"We have subpoenaed LeBron's babysitter, who reportedly gave him animal crackers."
President Huffington resigned moments after the Cable Newschannel Filler Division of the federal Office of the Permanent Temporary Prosecutor issued a 24,542-page report on its two-year, $696 million investigation into allegations of Huffington's involvement with LeBron James. Permanent Temporary Prosecutor Kenneth Starr called the case "especially shocking, because there was no pretty young woman involved whose sex life I could pry into."

President Huffington becomes the latest in a long line of coaches, referees, administrators, physicians, agents, investors, owners, humanitarian aid workers, Catholic bishops and justices of the Supreme Court to be fined, fired, forced to resign or jailed for brief brushes with James.

It began in 2003, when James' own mother was investigated for buying him a car. Then James was briefly suspended from high-school play for accepting two souvenir jerseys in return for posing for a photograph. In February 2003, the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials, citing an "unwritten policy," sanctioned referee Tony Celantano for having his picture taken with James following a tournament game. "We take violations of unwritten policy very seriously, especially when officials violate the exact wording of our unwritten policy," a spokesman for the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials said at the time. As punishment, Celantano was forced to watch a DVD of the movie "Men in Black II."

From that point, incidents regarding James became more common. A deli clerk was fired for putting extra cheese on James's steak-and-cheese but not charging him extra. His high-school coach was permanently banished from Ohio coaching when it was revealed he had given James a ride home once when practice ran late. An academic tutor who had urged James to pay more attention to homework was fined a month's pay. Since good grades help a student get into college, advising James to do homework constituted "transfer of an item of value or emolument," the Ohio High School Athletic Association ruled. A pediatrician lost her medical license after it was revealed that, after giving James a vaccination when he was six years old, she handed him a lollipop. Once James walked up to a stranger on the street Cincinnati and said, "Excuse me, do you have the time?" When the man told him the time, he was immediately seized by police and dragged away.

Many college administrators expressed relief that James chose to forgo NCAA play and went directly to the National Basketball Association, as an entire university athletic department might have ended up fired owing to him. NCAA rules state at Section 8, Subsection 14, Paragraph Six:

Under no circumstances may any NCAA basketball scholarship athlete accept any cash or item of value that creates the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Taking cash or items of value is perfectly fine so long as no one finds out about it. Take all you want. It's the appearance we are concerned about!

Also, attending class is absolutely forbidden at all times. Division 1-A basketball athletes are subject to random literacy testing. Any athlete passing a random literacy test will immediately be expelled from school.

A police officer prepares to arrest anyone that accepts LeBron's autograph.
As for Huffington, she was swept into office in November 2004 after leading a campaign of popular protest against the General Motors Abrams, a 70-ton SUV based on the M1 Abrams main battle tank of the United States Army. The Abrams SUV was an instant hit with buyers, but caused problems such as blockage of intersections and interstate highways, collapse of bridges and inadvertent crushing of drivers' homes. Also, drivers found it difficult to see out of the Abrams periscope, though the eight-screen "multiplex cinema" entertainment systems, couples massage suites and tennis courts inside Abrams SUVs scored well in consumer testing.

Widespread use of the Abram SUVs entered the phrase "gallons per mile" into the national lexicon. Detroit spokesmen characterized this as inevitable. Obtaining petroleum for the Abrams SUV has not been difficult, owing to the recent admission of Iraq into the Union as the 51st state. Critics continue to object, however, that Iraqi oil may be contaminated by residual radiation from the uninhabited regions formerly known as Israel and Palestine.

Huffington became the first female president, the first major-party presidential candidate to give a nomination acceptance speech on "Larry King Live" and the first president to plant biomass crops in the Rose Garden. Her decision to invade Belgium constituted a breakthrough in United States-European relations, since all other Western European nations strongly supported the action. Her administration was dogged by controversy, however, beginning when she was caught backstage making out with Vice President Denzel Washington moments after they took the Oath of Office. Republicans were shocked; Democratic party officials expressed relief that it was not with Hillary Clinton. Later, President Huffington was criticized for naming Kenneth Lay to head the United States Olympic Committee.

Speaking from the federal minimum security facility in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, former president George W. Bush -- Bush left office and was jailed in "Upgrade-Gate," after it was revealed he had once accepted a free airline upgrade but not listed the value of the upgrade on financial disclosure forms -- said of Huffington's resignation, "This great nation must stop persecuting public officials for their private foibles. Really, aren't our official decisions bad enough?"

LeBron James, who was the first player chosen in the 2003 NBA draft, went on to be league MVP in his rookie year, as he guided the Los Angeles Clippers to the championship title and sole undefeated season in NBA history. He retired at age 19, discovered a cure for cancer, negotiated the peaceful reunification of the Koreas and then ascended directly to a higher plane of existence. James has not been seen, though millions of followers contend they can hear his instructions through boom-boxes, and refer to him as Baba Baha LeBron.

Gregg Easterbrook is a senior editor of New Republic, a contributing editor of The Atlantic Monthly and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is believed to be the first Brookings scholar ever to write a pro football column. You can buy his book, "The Here and Now" here ... and now.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 7:20 PM

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January 29, 2003

Derelict predictions

POST #    521

Derelict predictions
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

How sportswriters and TV broadcasters love to dash off NFL predictions, confident no one will remember what they foretold. Tuesday Morning Quarterback remembers. I have a mind like a steel vault -- that is, rusty -- but also write these things down. Welcome to my annual Bad Predictions Review.

Bad Predictions, Category One: Category One is offseason predictions, and "off" is the operative word.

ESPN.com's Len Pasquarelli was early to the gate with his offseason prediction that the Bengals are a franchise "with more talent than people perceive." This is rather like saying "J-Lo sings better than people think" or that Merrill Lynch stock analysts have "more integrity than people perceive." Pasquarelli certainly was not the only one touting the Bengals in the offseason. Chris Berman of ESPN named Cincinnati his "sleeper" team of the year. Perhaps Berman meant to say his "sedentary fossilized" team of the year, as the Bengals finished with the worst record in the league.

Vinnie Iyer of The Sporting News declared in the offseason that "no team did more to improve its defense than the Cowboys." The Cowboys defense plummeted from fourth-ranked in 2001 to 18th-ranked in 2002. Iyer further predicted that "Terry Glenn is an early candidate for Comeback Player of the Year" -- sure, and Howard Dean is an early candidate for Democratic nomination for president. Also, "the Chiefs have the talent to sneak away with the AFC West." The Chiefs finished last.

Dan Pompei of The Sporting News joined the early-predictions swirl by declaring that Miami's signing of tackle Leon Searcy "will be one of the steals of the offseason." Searcy was cut in training camp.

Dr. Z of Sports Illustrated devoted an offseason column to predicting Dwight Freeney would end up with more sacks than Julius Peppers. This turned out to be right, but Z couldn't resist predicting exactly how many sacks both gentlemen would record, and both predictions were wrong. It's one thing to predict that Player A will be better than Player B, quite another to predict that A will rush for 137 more yards than B. Trying to predict exact player season statistics is like those global warming computer models that try to predict what the atmospheric pressure will be in La Paz, Bolivia, at 10 a.m. on March 22nd in the year 2365 -- when no one can predict what the weather will be next Tuesday.

Jon Kitna
Shhh! You wouldn't want to wake Jon Kitna and the sleeping Bengals.
Bob McCollough of MSNBC warned in the offseason that "the Dolphins face an early playoff exit." Very early, since Miami failed to make the postseason. McCollough foresaw that the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons would win 10 games; they won seven. McCollough forecast Kansas City would be the first team in the AFC West to win nine games (K.C. won eight), but that after winning nine games, the Chiefs would be "knocked back" to a .500 record. This is one of TMQ's all-time favorite bad predictions, since it is impossible for an NFL team to have nine victories and a .500 record.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated declared during the offseason that Buffalo would make the playoffs (the Bills did not), and that St. Louis would be the NFL's top team. King was hardly alone in touting the Mouflons, who finished with a losing record. Pete Prisco of CBS Sportsline had St. Louis his No. 1 club, declaring, "The Super Bowl hangover will drive this team." Well, at least St. Louis played as if it had a hangover.

Hmm, What Realistic Premise Could Justify a Movie About Wet Cheerleaders? Many readers including Maya Gutierrez of Laguna Beach, Calif., have pointed out that TMQ missed a flimsy excuse for the ESPN.com art department to ad cheesecake to the column by failing to praise the surfer-babe movie "Blue Crush." Maya, it's never too late for a flimsy excuse for cheesecake!

Surely "Blue Crush" was the date-night movie of the year, since double-Xs could appreciate the plot, which concerned a woman's attempt to break into the male-dominated realm of competition surfing, while their YX escorts could focus in on the crucial detail that most of the movie features wet bikini scenes. Mega-babe and real-world competitive surfer Sanoe Lake, who appeared in the film, told interviewers that during real-world surfing her top often comes off. Why was this critical realistic detail missing from the movie?

Michelle Rodriguez, Kate Bosworth, Sanoe Lake
Page 2 doesn't just show photos from "Blue Crush" -- we do entire stories on the movie.
The surfer-gear shop Pacsun.com now sells triangle-top suits inspired by "Blue Crush." Check a representative sample here. Note that it's $73 for a micro swimsuit containing perhaps three ounces of material -- not that TMQ is complaining -- which makes these bikinis $390 a pound.

Bad Predictions, Category Two: Then there are predictions that turn on the word "could." A lot of things "could" happen. North Korea could become paradise on Earth. An alluring woman could invite me to ride in her limousine. (Oscar Goodman, mayor of Las Vegas, said the Super Bowl ad that the NFL vetoed wasn't about gambling but rather about "an alluring woman on a limousine ride through Las Vegas.") George W. Bush could be misunderestimated.

Before the season, Chris Mortenson of ESPN declared the Bengals "could make a playoff run." ESPN.com's Greg Garber foresaw that the Bills "could rise to the top." Peter King of Sports Illustrated predicted Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell of the Bucs "could" both make the Pro Bowl; neither did. Pete Prisco said the Bills "could move up in a hurry" while one or the other of the Bengals and Cowboys "could" make the playoffs. Pro Football Weekly declared the Patriots "could make another playoff run, or fall flat." That about covered it. ("And in Wall Street news, stocks could rise or fall, unless they remain unchanged.")

David Carr
Try telling David Carr that the Texans "could" have made the playoffs.
Best of this group: Sporting News devoted an entire preseason article to predicting the expansion Texans "could" make the playoffs.

Disclaimer of the Week: If you look up a route with the Yahoo driving-directions utility, at the bottom of the page this insight appears: "When using any driving directions or map, it's a good idea to do a reality check and make sure the road still exists." Please, don't sue Yahoo if you drive on a road that does not exist.

Bad Predictions, Category Three: Now it gets interesting: predictions made on the eve of the season start.

ESPN The Magazine's preseason forecast said that the Broncos, Dolphins and Rams would win their divisions; none even made the playoffs. Meanwhile, TMQ The Columnist still doesn't understand why this publication is not just ESPN Magazine. Or go the other way and make it ESPN The Company, a division of Disney The Conglomerate, located on Earth The Planet. ("ESPN The Magazine, Published on Earth The Planet.")

The New York Times ran a group forecast in which four sportswriters made dueling predictions of the final standings. Three of the four Times predictors had the Persons in the postseason; San Diego, Chicago, Miami, Kansas City and New England were all non-qualifiers the Times projected for the playoffs. The four Times sports nuts were unanimous on the Rams winning their division; St. Louis did not make the postseason. Times chief football writer Thomas George forecast that neither the Raiders nor Bucs would make the playoffs. They were, of course, the Super Bowl pair.

Deion Branch
"We also predict Deion Branch will eat Cheerios on the morning of the big game."
King of Sports Illustrated forecast the Bills to finish 8-8, just a few weeks after predicting they would make the playoffs. He predicted New England would take the AFC East over Miami via tiebreaker -- which seems another fit of excessive specifics but wildly, the Pats would have taken the division over Miami via tiebreaker had the Jets lost to Green Bay on the final day of the season. King then added a ridiculous specific-player prediction, that the Patriots would beat the Marine Mammals on the season's last day on a touchdown pass to Deion Branch. Branch had no receptions in that game. Yeah, someone actually took issue with that prediction, and it was TMQ.

Stretching prophesy toward Delphic highs, King forecast, even before the season began, the pairings and results of all playoff games. He divined that the wild-card round would be Cleveland over Tennessee, Jersey/B over Oakland, Tampa over the Persons and the Niners over the Eagles; the divisional round would be Cleveland over Pittsburgh, New England over Jersey/B, Green Bay over Tampa and the Rams over the Niners; the championships would be New England over Cleveland and St. Louis over Green Bay. Ten projected games -- all wrong!

Sports Illustrated's Dr. Z dueled his colleague King with a second attempt to forecast in advance every playoff game. The doctor predicted a wild-card round of Packers over Bears, Niners over Eagles, Dolphins over Raiders and Patriots over Colts; a divisional round of Rams over Packers, Bucs over Niners, Dolphins over Titans and Steelers over Patriots; a championship round of Rams over Bucs and Steelers over Dolphins. One of 10 actually right! (Bucs over Niners in divisional.) In compiling prediction lists, TMQ has learned that one-fer-10 is spectacular success by the standards of preseason forecasting.

Then there was the incredible ESPN.com meta-forecast. ESPN.com broke all records and bested all comers by having an astonishing 17 assorted experts forecast every aspect of NFL outcomes.

Did any one of the 17 ESPN.com meta-forecasters call all division winners correctly? Nein; the ESPN.com meta-forecast went oh-for-17 on that score. How did ESPN.com do on calling the conference champs? Terrible, too. Here were the ESPN.com NFC and AFC champion forecasts: Rams (10 votes), Steelers (eight votes), Niners (three votes), Titans (three votes), Jets (two votes), Eagles (two votes), Colts (two votes), Pats (one vote), Packers (one vote), Raiders (one vote). Not one single ESPN.com expert forecast City of Tampa to win the NFC, and just one of the 17 ESPN.com powerful insiders correctly forecast the Raiders as AFC champs.

The ESPN.com gentleman who did call the Raiders, and sees all and knows all, was NFL editor James C. Black. Though Black was wrong about practically everything else; he had the Dolphins, Rams and Vikings in the playoffs, and Mike Tice as Coach of the Year. Also in the ESPN.com meta-forecast, not one but two insiders -- Merrill Hoge and Russell Baxter -- predicted Dick LeBeau to be Coach of the Year. LeBeau's team went 2-14, and he was fired seconds after the season concluded.

Kurt Warner
Kurt Warner's Rams were a popular Super Bowl pick ... popular and very wrong.
In his preseason preview, Prisco of CBS Sportsline foresaw Kurt Warner as MVP, the Broncos, Saints and Rams as division winners (all failed to make the playoffs) and the Bengals and Cowboys as wild-card teams (both failed to make the playoffs). Prisco said "the surprise team in the NFC" would be the New Orleans Boy Scouts; they surprised only him, by staying home. And Prisco takes the trophy in this category for his canny prediction that the "biggest disappointment" of the season would be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "There are simply too many questions for Jon Gruden to fix," Prisco prophesied.

How Am I Supposed to Satire This? National Geographic magazine will publish its first swimsuit issue. The cover, depicting a luscious young mega-babe whose breasts are only marginally covered by a sea-shell top, represents "nature, because they are sea shells," a magazine spokesperson told the Washington Post. Look for these other upcoming magazine covers:

Foreign Affairs: "The Girls of the State Department."

Journal of the American Medical Association: "Tan Lines: A Pictorial Analysis."

For female readers:

Architectural Digest: "Who Will Be the Next Joe Millionaire? Construction Workers Shed Their Shirts."

Sorry, I can't go on with this, except to say that since National Geographic is run by a tax-exempt foundation, the people who are working hard to produce honest, law-abiding free-market cheesecake now must compete with federally subsidized near-naked mega-babes.

Bad Predictions, Category Four: Then there's the midseason forecast. It's one thing to be way off when calling results before anything is known; to be way off when calling results after eight games have been played takes special flair.

At midseason, Allan Barra, sports columnist for the Wall Street Journal -- one of history's odder job descriptions -- predicted that the division winners would include Denver, New England and New Orleans. All failed to make the playoffs; remember, the prediction came halfway through the season, with 50 percent of game outcomes already known. Barra also declared there was no point in forecasting which team would take the AFC North because "No matter who wins they're going to lose in the first round of playoffs." Pittsburgh, the AFC North champion, won in the first round of the playoffs.

At midseason, Barra further divined that the Super Bowl winner would come from this group: the Broncs, Bolts, Saints, Dolphins, Eagles, Packers, Bucs and Niners. Aside from the fact that four of the eight did not even make the playoffs, what sophisticated system was used to single out these teams? They had the eight best records on the day the column was published! Barra added that he could "pretty much guarantee" that Cleveland, the Jets, the Colts, the Giants, the Falcons, Oakland and Tennessee would not make the playoffs. All did, with Oakland advancing to the Super Bowl.

Bill Parcells
Bill is also not picking the D-Rays and Expos to meet in the World Series.
In a similar feat of midseason clairvoyance, Bill Parcells declared in November that "circumstances would lead you to believe that there's very little chance" that Carolina, Cincinnati, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Minnesota or Seattle could make the playoffs. What circumstances would "lead you to believe" this? The teams were a combined 15-41, all cellar-dwellers, when Parcells made his bold forecast. Is this the kind of canny insider's grasp of football Parcells now brings to Dallas? Come to think of it, by recent Cowboys standards this is canny insider grasp of football.

Barra of the Wall Street Journal came back at the end of December to declare that City of Tampa possessed "the best defense in the history of the NFL," making it a sure Super Bowl winner. Oakland, Barra declared, was the only Super Bowl-quality AFC club -- never mind that one month before, Barra said the Raiders would miss the postseason -- but the Raiders "can't stay on the field long" against Tampa. Hmmm, maybe Barra really does see the football future.

Then, having in late December called the Bucs the best defensive team ever, in his January columns Barra strangely waffled, saying Tampa merely "may well have one of the best" defenses. What, exactly, had happened to the Bucs defense in just a couple of weeks? And in late December having said the Bucs would win the Super Bowl, come January, Barra proceeded to predict Tampa would lose to the Niners in the divisional, lose to the Eagles in the NFC Championship Game and to lose to Oakland in the Super Bowl by the exact final score of Raiders 23, Bucs 16.

Barra claims to be in possession of an incredibly scientifically advanced computer program that allows him to predict game results. His incredibly scientifically advanced computer said Oakland would win the Super Bowl because Tampa would be incapable of running against the Raiders' line. The Bucs gained 150 yards rushing. Also, Barra's incredibly scientifically advanced computer said Oakland would jump to a quick lead, forcing the Bucs' slo-mo offense to play catch-up. It was Tampa 34, Oakland 3 in the third quarter.

Act Before Midnight Tonight and Get a Sierra Club Sticker for Your SUV: Join the Sierra Club and you actually will receive -- a free backpack! That offer appeared in TMQ's mailbox the other day, of a Sierra Club backpack "not just for trailblazing" but with "rugged good looks at home on the city streets." Surely this recognizes the reality that few contemporary Sierra Club members actually hike anywhere, they just want other people to think they do: just as Sierra Club members never actually drive their SUVs off-road, but want people to think they do.

Delightfully, the Sierra Club does not allow prospective new members to complete this offer on the Web, which would save precious resources. You've got to mail in the dead-trees application form, which came to my house enfolded in about 15 pages of sales materials. Which means Sierra Club bulk junk mail is now being tossed into the trash all across America.

Bad Predictions, Category Five: Reserved for TMQ's own bad predictions. This column has often warned of its motto, All Predictions Wrong or Your Money Back. Tuesday Morning Quarterback on ESPN.com is free, get it? So that if somehow one of my predictions was actually right, you would receive -- oh, never mind.

Miller Lite catfight
Until TMQ starts calling his shots, these ladies are out of reach.
At any rate, TMQ's central prediction for the year was that the team goin' to DisneyWorld would come from among the group that did not appear on Monday Night Football. I've made the same prediction four consecutive seasons, and been right the previous three times -- Rams, Ravens, Patriots. If I could call long-shots at the track or Powerball this well, I really would be riding around Vegas in a limo with an alluring woman. (Umm, actually I'd hire two; maybe the mega-babes from the Miller Lite "Catfight" ad.) But my prediction whiffed this year. Falcons at Eagles was as far into the postseason as a non-MNF team advanced. Raiders and Bucs were both Monday Night babies.

Next, since it has been the recent pattern for almost every division winner to fail to repeat the following year, I predicted that only two of last season's six division winners would repeat. Instead three did -- Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Oakland -- so TMQ whiffed there, too.

Finally, under intense pressure from ESPN corporate management -- which promised me free ESPN Zone tokens and never delivered -- I forecast the final records of all 32 NFL teams, which seems to me more challenging than just forecasting who makes the playoffs.

Let's see, TMQ's Sept. 3 column forecast that the Oakland Raiders would finish 11-5 -- exactly as they did. TMQ was also exactly right in forecasting the final records of the Eagles, Chargers and Seahawks. I was one game off in guessing the final records of the Cardinals, Ravens, Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Packers, Colts, Jaguars, Chiefs, Dolphins, Jets, Saints, Steelers, Titans and Persons. That means I predicted the final records of 18 of the league's 32 teams either exactly, or within one game -- which, I submit, is none shabby. The teams I was totally wrong about were the Bears (off by seven games) and Rams (off by five games).

Of course, I would not be reminding you of this if I had not done so well. What was my incredible insider secret? Blind luck.

Ontologically, the Solipsism of Her Esculent Navel Tergiversates into Desuetude, Don't Ya Think? "Our readers are interested in a sophisticated exegesis of a sociological phenomenon like that." New York Times editor Howell Raines rationalizing his super-respectable newspaper devoting a front-page article to the latest repackaging of Britney Spears.

Bad Predictions, Category Six: Now let's turn to who predicted whom would meet under the F18s in San Diego.

USA Today in various preseason previews ran no fewer than five Super Bowl projections: Steelers over Rams, Eagles over Steelers, Raiders over Eagles, Packers over Titans, Packers over Steelers. All wrong! And of 10 chances to predict a Super Bowl qualifier, the paper got only one correct.

The Washington Post predicted New England over Atlanta. Wrong!

Frank Easterbrook, federal appeals court judge and an Official Brother of TMQ, predicted San Diego vs. New Orleans. Wrong! Plus, neither made the playoffs.

ESPN's on-air folks predicted Packers over Titans (Sterling Sharpe), Niners over Broncos (Steve Young), Packers over New England (Bills Parcells), Rams over Titans (Tom Jackson) and New England over Philadelphia (Chris Berman). All wrong! Plus four of ESPN's on-air predicted 10 Super Bowl qualifiers failed to make the playoffs.

Dr. Z of Sports Illustrated predicted Rams over Steelers, while Peter King of the same outfit predicted Rams over Pats. All wrong! Plus, neither of King's predicted Super Bowl qualifiers made the playoffs.

Jay Glazer of CBS Sportsline predicted Niners over Titans, Pete Prisco of the same outfit Rams over Jets. All wrong! NFL Insider, in a quasi-official prediction posted on the league's own website, offered a 10-segment meta-prediction: Steelers over Rams (predicted twice), Rams over Steelers (predicted twice), Packers over Steelers, Eagles over Steelers, Rams over Oakland, Niners over Oakland, Colts over Tampa, Packers over Colts. All wrong!

Steve Spurrier
We hope Steve Spurrier didn't clear space in the trophy case for that Coach of the Year award.
The New York Times offered four predictions: Rams over Jets (predicted twice), Rams over Steelers, Steelers over Eagles. All wrong! The Sporting News -- which predicted Steve Spurrier as Coach of the Year -- forecast Rams over Steelers. Wrong!

The CBS on-air broadcasters forecast Rams vs. Steelers (Deion Sanders, wrong), Steelers vs. Eagles (Dan Marino, wrong), Packers vs. Colts (Boomer Esiason, wrong) and Raiders vs. Bucs (Jim Nantz). To TMQ's knowledge, Nantz was the sole person in the entire space-time continuum of the local star cluster to foretell a Raiders versus Bucs Super Bowl. Note to anyone else who might have predicted Raiders-Bucs before the season started; remember, this is the annual bad predictions review.

Then there was the Chris Mortenson dividing-cell constantly-mutating Super Bowl forecast. In his preseason preview, Mortenson forecast Packers vs. Steelers. Then, at different points in the season, he changed his forecast to Raiders vs. Eagles, Packers vs. Broncos, Packers vs. Raiders, back to Steelers vs. Packers, Packers vs. "Don't Know," and Bucs vs. Raiders. This last was forecast on Nov. 26; later, Mortenson changed his prediction away from Bucs vs. Raiders to other different pairings. TMQ's guessing that Chris Mortenson has now been caught saying at least to his mirror, if not in public, "See? I predicted Raiders vs. Bucs!" But Mortenson forecast at least seven Super Bowl pairings that TMQ saw, maybe more on the air. At best he's one-fer-seven.

Finally the incredible 17-person ESPN.com meta-forecast projected Rams over Steelers (predicted four times), Titans over Rams (predicted twice), Rams over Colts (predicted twice), Steelers over Rams, Steelers over Packers, Steelers over Eagles, Steelers over Niners, Rams over Jets, Rams over Pats, Jets over Niners, Raiders over Eagles, Niners over Titans. All wrong! And of 34 chances ESPN.com's team had to forecast a Super Bowl qualifier, just one was correct.

Swelling Music Plays: The clichés, cheap shots and recycled jokes in this column are intended for the private use of the audience. All snide references are the property of Tuesday Morning Quarterback and cannot be reused or rebroadcast without the express written consent of the United Nations Security Council.

Condoleezza Rice
"Saddam Hussein copied my Super Bowl pick!"
Bad Predictions, Category Seven The seventh and final category is predictions once the Super Bowl contestants are known. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice picked the Raiders. Fun note: last week the National Security Advisor accused Saddam Hussein of plagiarism. That's worth a cruise missile right there! Suppose the inspectors catch him cheating at Yahtzee, will the bombing begin immediately?

The incredible Harmon Forecast, which boasts that it uses an incredibly scientifically advanced mathematical formula to "pick winners correctly between 72 and 78 percent of the time," forecast an exact final of Oakland 26, Tampa 21. For the 2001 season, the incredible Harmon Forecast was actually right only 63 percent of the time, and this is picking straight up, not against the spread. The Harmon Forecast continues to claim it is correct "between 72 and 78 percent of the time," and has solved the embarrassing track-record problem by ceasing to publish its cumulative performance, so no one has any idea how it did.

The joint CNN-Sports Illustrated website offered five dueling exact final score predictions, all wrong. A few clairvoyance highlights. "There is no Buccaneer who can make a game-breaking difference:" B. Duane Cross. "The key to the game will be the Raiders defensive backs, who will gamble and jump routes and come up with turnovers:" Paul Zimmerman. If only Dr. Z had written exactly the same sentence with "Buccaneers" instead of "Raiders" before "defensive backs," he'd be dining out on this for months! "The game will be low-scoring and close:" Peter King.

Newsweek, the Washington Post, The Sporting News, the New York Times MCNBC, the NFL's own website and many others offered exact final score predictions, all wrong. "The game figures to be close:" Newsweek.

Zo, Vat Deep-Seated Childhood Inadequacy Made You Vant to Become a Psychoanalyst, Ya? According to figures in this article by Erica Goode, 20 percent of the nation's psychoanalysts live in New York City. Three percent of the nation's population lives there. TMQ's theory is that the psychoanalysts all have each other as patients.

Single Worst Prediction of the 2002 Season: Many candidates are worthy, but the nod goes to Allan Barra of the Wall Street Journal. Please, don't complain that you weren't chosen!

In late December, Barra called Tampa the best team in the league, predicted it would win the Super Bowl and, specifically, would pound Oakland in any Super Bowl matchup. Mere weeks later the same columnist predicted that Tampa would lose every playoff game, then predicted Tampa would be defeated by Oakland in the Super Bowl. TMQ foresees that you will search a long time for worse clairvoyance than this.

TMQ Sign-Off: Now begins that long, lonely offseason, without any excuse to spend Sunday nailed to the couch drinking half-honey heavy-light twice-unfiltered pale triticale instant microwaved blueberry-almond ale. And with the season ended, Tuesday Morning Quarterback folds its tent and steals off into the desert till August, except for sporadic special-guest-star appearances.

TMQ recommends that you spend the offseason engaged in spiritual growth. Read the classics, Herodotus in the original Greek is particularly enlightening. Do Buddhist breathing exercises: Thich Nhat Hanh advises repeating to yourself, Breathing in I relax, breathing out I smile. Take long hikes through scenic nature preserves and don't think about mega-babes or ultra-hunks. Read Deborah Tannen on why men and women have such difficulty communicating and then, if you are a woman, spends hours discussing her work and, if you are a man, say, "Yeah, that book was OK." Join a faith-based organization. Eat a healthful diet of fresh foods, avoiding fats and sweets. Slowly sip decaffeinated herbal tea. Do these things and you will feel justified racing back to the couch, the beer, and the swimsuit calendars when the NFL resumes next fall.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 4:47 PM

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January 28, 2003

Why are you punting?

POST #    489

Why are you punting?
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

Say this about the City of Tampa Buccaneers: They saved the best for last. Sports lore holds that great teams play their best game as their last game, and the Bucs passed that test. Some clubs arrive at the Super Bowl thinking, "Okay, we're here, better not blow it." Others arrive thinking, "This is what it has all been building up to," and play their finest game ever. That's what the Patriots did in the Super Bowl last year, what the Ravens did in the Super Bowl the year before that, what the Broncos did against the Packers a few years earlier, what the Cowboys did against the Bills a few years before that.


Great teams develop a belief that everything is leading toward one magnificent performance. Tampa showed that spirit Sunday. Coulda-been-great teams view getting to the Super Bowl as their vindication and, of course, hope to play well, but are not totally focused. The thought "oh well, we'll get the ball back" runs through the minds of coulda-been-great teams at the Super Bowl -- Buffalo of the 1990s, Minnesota of the 1970s -- while for the great teams every play, every second-and-six, is the single most important thing the players have ever done in their lives.


Great teams understand that all of their hard work transpired exclusively to create the moment of championship, and that they must leave everything on the field. Tampa left everything on the field Sunday; the Raiders left quite a bit back at the hotel, if not in safety-deposit boxes in Switzerland. The Buccaneers may never play like that again, and if they don't it doesn't matter. They saved the best for last.


These things said, to TMQ the determining factors were not the Tampa zone nor the big interceptions, but the Tampa offensive game plan and the breakdown of the Raiders' offensive line. Throw in rookie coach Bill Callahan going fraidy-cat with what may be the Single Worst Call in Super Bowl history, and you've got a formula for being punched out. Let's take these in turn.


Tampa's Offensive Game Plan: A top defense stopped a top offense for the nth consecutive time in the Super Bowl. But the performance of the Bucs' offense was as important.


Bear in mind that it was Tampa 6, Oakland 3 in the middle of the second quarter, very much anybody's game. Jon "I Was A Teenaged Coach" Gruden then did the smartest thing a Super Bowl coach could possibly do -- he took TMQ's advice. Last week, TMQ's Super Bowl prediction was, "The game will be won by whichever team surprises the other with a rushing-oriented game plan." At the eight-minute mark of the second, Gruden switched out of an ineffective hurry-up passing game and went to the ground game.


The Bucs put in two tight ends, while, much to TMQ's pleasure, Pro Bowl "fullback" Mike Alstott actually lined up at fullback and threw blocks. For the remainder of the half, Tampa rushed 11 times for 49 yards, threw five times for 43 yards and picked up three first downs on Oakland penalties, as the Raiders defense, expecting a pass-wacky look, seemed to have no idea how to respond to power running. Tampa scored touchdowns on both these second-quarter possessions when it went to the ground, making the count 20-3 at halftime. Everything about the switch to running worked. Two touchdowns in two possessions; Oakland's offense kept off the field while the clock ground; Oakland down 20-3 at the half, its drip-drip-drip attack not designed for comebacks.

Looks like the Raiders forgot about Alstott.
Then, on his first possession of the second half -- knowing the Raiders spent halftime adjusting to the run -- Gruden went play-action, to fine effect. Tampa's first possession of the second half was an 89-yard, eight-minute touchdown drive that put the Bucs ahead 27-3 and caused TMQ to write the words "game over" in his notebook, though considerable entertainment remained. On that drive, the Bucs ran seven times and passed seven times, four of them play-action. This was masterful manipulation of an opponent. The effect carried over to help Tampa's defense; the Oakland offense lost heart trying to climb out of a scoreboard hole.


As for TMQ having called this shot -- I am available, my price is two No. 1s, two No. 2s and $8 million.


Oakland's Cover-Your-Eyes Offensive Line: Just how bad was Raiders Pro Bowl tackle Lincoln Kennedy, winner of the TMQ Non-QB Non-RB MVP award? Game tied at three in the first, Oakland on the Tampa 43. Kennedy barely so much as brushes Simeon Rice as he blows in to pressure Rich Gannon into throwing a pick; Kennedy looked like he was courteously stepping aside for the Queen's carriage. Instead of Oakland moving into scoring range, the Bucs drive for a field goal the other way. Kennedy gave up two sacks, had no push and once appeared simply to let go of Warren Sapp to give him a free shot at Gannon as the pass was released. Maybe the international publicity and nonstop mega-babes went to Kennedy's head after he was named TMQ Non-QB Non-RB MVP, but he looked seriously awful. On one snap, Tampa's Greg Spires blew past Kennedy to sack Gannon. Spires is a waiver-wire gentlemen who has bounced around the league. Kennedy made him look like Derrick Thomas in his prime.


The desertion of Raiders Pro Bowl center Barret Robbins -- see Single Worst Play below -- was treated by bobbleheads and sportswriters as an odd sidebar, but may have been the determining moment of the Super Bowl. Oakland denied that the disappearance of a key player on the night for the Super Bowl had any affect, but that's complete hooey. Pregame, the team was visibly deflated by this distraction, and by knowing it would take the field short-handed. Once the whistle sounded, the Long Johns offensive line played its worst game of the year.


TMQ has done several items on the fact that OL play is the essence of Oakland's league-leading offense. Rich Gannon was sacked on average less than twice per game during the regular season, despite the Raiders passing constantly, and as important, consistently had time to scan defenses and wait for those infuriating Oakland "rub" routes to develop. In the Super Bowl, Gannon was under constant pressure, sacked five times and forced into numerous hurried throws that went clang, or into the wrong hands.


The Oakland OL produced one of the worst blocking performances TMQ has ever winced through, in part because its schemes were disrupted. On most plays, one of the guards, Mo Collins or Frank Middleton, helped reserve center Adam Treu handle his man, leaving the Raiders' tackles "on islands." Left tackle Barry Sims usually gets guard help. With Robbins out and Treu getting the help, Sims was cover-your-eyes, too, on two occasions barely so much as waving at Rice before the gentleman blew in to paste Gannon.

Kennedy looked more like a matador than TMQ MVP.
On the first Tampa sack, for example, four minutes into game and the Raiders facing third-and-seven, Sims let Rice fly by, at best gesturing in his direction. The Raiders had five blocking four on that play, and Gannon was sacked before he could finish his drop-back. On another sack, Middleton turned to help Sims with Rice; but no one even touched Warren Sapp, who blew in to paste Gannon. Tampa blitzed eight times in the game, meaning there were usually at least five Raiders blockers on four Bucs rushers. Nevertheless, protection was awful.


Note that the game's final phase, when the Tampa defensive line was tired and Gannon had time to scan the field, the Raiders put up two fairly easy-looking touchdowns. Once Gannon had time, suddenly his offense was powerful again and the City of Tampa defense was human again. What we saw in the final 17 minutes of the Super Bowl was the tight, tense, exciting duel we would have seen through the entire game, had Robbins not flaked out and the Oakland line played per usual. In this sense, by disappearing AWOL, Robbins not only shafted his teammates, he shafted the nation, depriving us of a tight, tense, exciting Super Bowl.


Buck-Buck-Brawckkkkkk! It's 20-3 at the half and everything has gone wrong for the Raiders. But they still have the league's top offense and get the ball to start the second half. They know that if they put up two scores, the pressure will shift to Tampa's underwhelming offense.


Oakland takes the kick, runs three plays and faces fourth-and-two on its 35. Bill Callahan sends in the punting unit. No! No! A thousand times no! You're behind by 17 and must make something happen. There's no tomorrow, there is no ranking computer that gives credit for margin of victory or defeat. The Raiders have the No. 1 offense; if the No. 1 offense can't gain two yards, you might as well concede and go get a blueberry-almond martini and watch the ships put out to sea. This is the Super Bowl, there is no tomorrow. Why are you punting?


Over TMQ's house, the sky darkened and lightning flashed on this play as the football gods showed their displeasure. TMQ was screaming at the tube, "No! No!" The football gods exacted prompt revenge; Tampa took the punt and staged the 89-yard, eight-minute drive that made it 27-3 and caused TMQ to write the words "game over" in his notebook. As I wrote, I felt that the football gods were controlling my hand.

Gannon was running for dear life for most of the night.
TMQ endlessly rails against fraidy-cat NFL coaches who punt when way behind, in order to avoid criticism. (If the players lose, it's their fault, but if the coach orders a gamble and the gamble fails, it's his fault.) Sure fourth-and-two is a risk, but down by 17, you've got to take some chances, and you won't find many chances more attractive than fourth-and-two. Plus there's no tomorrow. Plus it's the Super Bowl. Why are you punting?


Callahan might have been better off gambling and losing than punting. When coaches try for it in situations like these, they are challenging their own players to win the game. When coaches go fraidy-cat in situations like these, they are announcing that the coaches have quit, so the players might as well too.


After touchdowns made it Tampa 34-9, then 34-15, then 34-21 late in the third through the mid-fourth, Callahan never ordered an onside kick, either. Sure an onside is a gamble. But you're behind and time is running out and it's the Super Bowl. Why aren't you playing to win rather than for a respectable final margin of defeat? Driven to mighty fury, the football gods denied Oakland even that.


Cheerleader of the Week No. 1: In the Super Bowl spirit, the column will name two, and the first TMQ ESPN Cheerleader of the Week is Danielle Dolen of City of Tampa. According to her team bio, Dolen is a college student whose favorite place to go is South Beach in Miami -- in this age of free-agent cheer-babes, perhaps the Dolphins will recruit her. South Beach is among the world's top gawking locations for men wishing to gawk babes; maybe there are ripped ultra-hunks there too for women to gawk, but, come to think of it, I've never noticed. Danielle admits to having once passed herself off as Britney Spears. Why, we'd know that navel anywhere!

Super Bowl champs, cheerleader of the week -- it's a dream come true.
'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All: Super Bowl tied at three at the end of the first quarter, Oakland faced third-and-two on the City of Tampa 43. It's anybody's game. The Bucs stopped a short run on the previous play, so won't be expecting another run, and they have the league's No. 1 pass defense, while their run defense is human. You can't win the Super Bowl unless you can run for two yards; plus, given the field position, if you pick up one yard, then you go for it on fourth. Run! Instead it's an empty-backfield roll-out play, Rich Gannon sprints backwards, bad pass, intercepted, Tampa scores on its possession. You can't win the Super Bowl if you can't run for two yards.


At the start of the third quarter the Raiders again faced third-and-two and again Gannon sprinted backward, this time for an incompletion. You can't win the Super Bowl if you can't run for two yards.


Single Worst Play of Super Bowl XXXVII: The Single Worst Play happened on Saturday when Robbins went AWOL. At this writing it remained unclear why. Maybe Robbins has some genuine psychological affliction that we should not judge; maybe he's an incredible jerk. Whatever the reason, he totally shafted over his team, setting up its offensive line for its collapse.


Stat of the Week: The Tampa defense outscored the Oakland offense, 21-15.


Stat of the Week No. 2: In three playoff games, the Buccaneer defense allowed three touchdowns while scoring four touchdowns.


Stat of the Week No. 3: Oakland recorded 19 yards rushing.


Stat of the Week No. 4: Bill Romanowski became the 12th player to appear in five Super Bowls. Just one gentleman has played in six: Mike Lodish. You knew that, right?


Stat of the Week No. 5: Jerry Rice acquired one of the few possible records he does not already own, most touchdowns in postseason play -- 22 -- passing Thurman Thomas and Emmitt Smith.


Stat of the Week No. 6: Tampa can't run? The 2003 NFL postseason rushing leader was Michael Pittman of the Bucs.

Sorry fantasy fans, Pittman was the man in the playoffs.
Stats of the Week No. 7: Through its 17 games, Tampa's pass defenders allowed 11 touchdown completions while recording 40 interceptions and running back eight for touchdowns.


Stat of the Week No. 8: The cumulative passer rating of Tampa opponents through all 17 games was 44.8. Ryan Leaf's career rating was 50.


But Does She Rip Off Another Alluring Woman's Clothes Over a Miller Lite? Oscar Goodman, mayor of Las Vegas, on the Vegas ad that the NFL thumbs-downed for the Super Bowl telecast: "Sure the ad is racy. It features an alluring woman on a limousine ride through Las Vegas. But this is Vegas, after all."


The Deuce Disasters: The Raiders were right to go for deuces after every touchdown. Normally, TMQ says take the 99 percent chance of one over the 40 percent chance of two, but Oakland was so far behind it needed every point.


All three Oakland deuce attempts, however, were regular passes from regular sets. TMQ's immutable law of the goal line says that you can power-run, play-fake or rollout, but a regular pass won't work because at that point the defense has so little territory to defend. Pittsburgh, for all its faults this season, was awesome on deuce plays, because every call involved rollouts and trickery. Oakland, poised at the goal line, used a regular pass from a regular set three times and went oh-fer-three. Ay caramba.


This Week's Sci-Fi Complaint: On a recent episode of "Star Trek Enterprise," the entire crew of 83 hid in an air shaft next to the warp engines while aliens took over the ship. All sci-fi fans groan in unison: How many times have intruders taken over "Star Trek" ships? It's as if anyone boarding is handed a pamphlet titled, "Helpful Hints for Seizing Federation Vessels." My favorite occurred in an episode of "Star Trek Voyager." A sinister Hirogen seized control of Voyager by pushing aside two security guards, ripping a panel off the wall and punching some buttons really fast. On the bridge, Tom immediately yelled, "I've lost helm control!" Set aside that the Hirogen knew exactly where to look, exactly how to operate a control panel designed using the technology of another planet and exactly what codes to punch in. Where was the secret master control panel located? In the mess hall, behind the wok! Apparently, Federation starships are engineered so that anyone can seize control from the kitchen.


But what really drives TMQ nuts about science fiction is the enormity of the air shafts. Eighty-three men and women hide in an air shaft; there's sufficient space for them to play cards and set up bunks. In another episode this fall, the Enterprise had been taken over by yet a different set of aliens. Hoshi had to recover control by crawling through air shafts which turned out to take her anywhere on the ship and were large enough for a person, though ostensibly all the shafts are for is ventilation. In a 1960s episode, Kirk and Spock escaped from a 23rd-century prison by crawling out through the air shaft. A prison had an air shaft large enough to crawl through, covered by a grate easily popped off.

"Don't worry guys, Ziggy will leap us out of here."
Related complaint: Countless times on the Kirk, Janeway, Sisko, Picard and now Archer iterations of "Star Trek," there have been scenes in which our imprisoned heroes discuss in detail their escape plans -- as if future societies could build faster-than-light starcruisers, but had no idea how to put a microphone in a jail cell.


Last year, in an episode of the Showtime series "Stargate SG1," the good guys were captured by the highly advanced evil species that threatens to enslave the galaxy. Thrown into the brig aboard a starcruiser of the highly advanced evil species that threatens to enslave the galaxy, almost immediately they unscrewed a huge, flimsy panel that easily popped off and led to an air shaft large enough for several people to crawl through simultaneously. The air shaft was so commodious, it might have had a hamburger stand and a drive-through car wash.


Look around your home, workplace or starcruiser. If there is forced-air ventilation, the vent is a few inches across. Maybe there's a large main shaft somewhere, but how would you get to it? We're supposed to believe that something in future engineering causes designers to build air shafts wide enough for a dune-buggy race, and to do so even on starcruisers, where presumably space is at a premium. The sole sci-fi air shaft TMQ ever found believable was the one on the alien flagship of the aliens-invade-Earth novel "Footfall," which would make a much better Hollywood flick than most of what gets produced. The air shafts were believable because the aliens in this case were highly advanced pachyderms; everything aboard their ship was gigantic in human terms.


Speaking of the "Stargate" serial, TMQ is willing to suspend disbelief on its central premise: that a highly advanced evil species threatening to enslave the galaxy uses teleportation gates on various worlds, and that the plucky, wise-cracking team of American commandos figures out how to employ the gates to travel to distant planets without the highly advanced evil species being able to stop them. But while TMQ will suspend disbelief on that premise -- otherwise, no serial -- I put my foot down regarding the recent X303 episode.


Turns out that the Air Force has built the X303, an enormous starcruiser with a faster-than-light drive system copied from an alien ship that crashed in Wyoming. What happens in the episode? Suspicious persons seize control of the ship -- though not from the kitchen -- and blast off for deep space. How do they accomplish this? The X303 is unguarded.


Now if the Air Force possessed an actual starship, and if the Earth was in danger of invasion by a highly advanced evil species that threatens to enslave the galaxy, that ship would be considered pretty important, right? Yet a handful of people with sidearms effortlessly steal the ship. (Colonel O'Neill, lead character in "Stargate," promptly bellows, "I can't believe this happened!" Colonel: in science fiction, spaceships are always getting taken over.) To top it off, the X303 hyperdrive works perfectly, though the ship has never been flight-tested and, presumably, was built by the same defense contractor who just announced the latest cost overruns and delays for the F22.

"I'm touched, eh. Beers are on me."
Peter Jennings Should Have Introduced Her: "God Bless America" was sung before the Super Bowl by Celine Dion, a Canadian. The NFL officially billed her as an "international singer". TMQ found it discordant, to say the least, to hear someone who isn't an American belting out "God bless America, my home, sweet home!" at a quintessentially American event. Was there no American citizen capable of rendering this tune?


Raiders: Don't Walk Out Over This One, Okay? Going for two after making it 34-21 with six minutes left, Oakland threw to Jerry Porter, who appeared to catch it in the air and be pushed out. TMQ thought it was a classic force-out and that the catch should have counted; the zebra on the scene thought otherwise; Callahan challenged and announcers talked about how a force-out cannot be reviewed, as by quirk, some rulings including force-out are not subject to review; after review, the play stood as called, no catch. Please, Raider Nation, don't claim this is more evidence of the international Zionist-Hindu conspiracy against you. (When TMQ lived in Pakistan, local newspapers were full of talk of "Zionist-Hindu" schemes to control the world.)


Everyone missed that the zebra on the scene did not rule that Porter was out of bounds -- he ruled pass incomplete. Porter held the ball, flew through the air and then, as he came down, the ball hit the ground and bounced. NFL rules now say that if a receiver catches in the air and appears to have possession and control, but the ball bounces when he hits the ground, it's incomplete. TMQ has doubts about that rule -- in common-sense terms, Porter's play looked good to me. Just as, in common-sense terms, Charles Woodson sure made Tom Brady fumble in the Snow Bowl. But in terms of the rules, Brady didn't fumble and Porter did not make the catch. Zebras were right both times.


The only reason referee Bill Carollo allowed the Raiders to challenge is that what they were challenging was a ruling of incompletion, not force-out: a complete/incomplete judgment can be reversed. All you had to do to know this was to watch the zebra immediately give the sign for incompletion, not the sign for receiver out of bounds.


Cheerleader of the Week No. 2: In the bipartisan Super Bowl spirit, the co-TMQ ESPN Cheerleader of the Week is Rebecca Guerrero of the Raiders. Born in Oakland to parents from Guadalajara Jalisco, Guerrero has sung the National Anthem both at Raiders games and at sports events in Mexico. According to her team bio, Guerrero's hobbies are working out, water skiing and "shopping with a fetish for shoes." Wait, a mega-babe has a shoe fetish? Isn't it supposed to be middle-aged chain-smoking French matinee actors who have shoe fetishes?

The Imelda Marcos of cheerleaders.
Sweet Play of the Day: Leading 13-3, Tampa had first-and-goal on the Oakland five with 34 seconds in the half. Receiver Keenan McCardell split right, covered by Charles Woodson. For this situation, NFL teams have fallen in love with the "fade," in which the receiver runs shallow to the pin at the corner of the end zone, looking over his shoulder back across the defender. McCardell took off as if for a fade, and Woodson turned to defend a ball coming over his head. Brad Johnson then deliberately underthrew the pass, and McCardell turned the other way to catch it behind his body as Woodson kept watching for the fade action. This is a modern variation on the old deliberate-underthrow that Joe Namath used to Don Maynard, on plays that cornerbacks thought were fly patterns, and it was the beauty play of the Super Bowl.


Sweet Play If It Had Come, Oh, Two Quarters Sooner: Oakland trailing 34-15 with six minutes left, Gannon hit Jerry Rice on beauty post route for a 48-yard touchdown and the Raiders' last-gasp. Fifty-four minutes had ticked off the clock, and this was the only the second time Gannon had thrown down the deep middle. No one has ever beaten a two-deep zone defense by throwing nothing but outs and to the short middle, which is what the Raiders had tried to this point. The post is Rice's best route -- remember how he killed the Bolts with it in the Niners-Chargers Super Bowl? -- yet Oakland had Rice spend the day running sideways. Yumpin' jiminy.


Chat Joke Saved From Dustbin of History: Here is the transcript of one exchange during TMQ's appearance on the ESPN.com live chat last Friday:



Yonaton (Buffalo): Gregg, is it fair to compare Mike Brown to Kim Jong Il? Think about it: famous dads, old-school philosophies that run their respective organizations into the ground, aloofness. What would happen if they switched places for a year? Would Brown refuse to hire spies?


Gregg Easterbrook: Yonaton, if Mike Brown and Kim Jong Il switched places, the North Korean economy would decline, while all Bengals would begin to glow from the plutonium hidden in the locker room.

Precision Blitzing: Though many local-newscast-class sportswriters attributed the dominant City of Tampa defensive performance to blitzing, the Bucs blitzed eight times on 55 Oakland snaps -- 15 percent blitzing, less than the league average of about 20 percent. But when Tampa did blitz, it was often effective because, rather than blitz on third-and-long as every NFL offensive coordinator expects every defensive coordinator to do, the Bucs blitzed when the Raiders weren't expecting it.

Don't be fooled by the ring that he's got. He's still Monte from the block.
Monte Kiffin did not call his first blitz until the 10-minute mark of the second quarter, and it came on a first-and-10. Gannon appeared so rattled by a corner blitz on a non-blitz down that he sailed the ball right to Dexter Jackson for the interception, though Gannon had time. On the first snap of Oakland's next possession, again first-and-10 and the first play after a corner blitz -- you'd never expect that twice in a row, right? -- Kiffin called the same thing, forcing Gannon to throw the ball away.


And In My Memories, I Was Constantly Being Asked Out by Hot Babes: After Oakland missed its third of three two-point conversion attempts and trailed by 13 instead of 10 points as it would have been had the Raiders taken singletons, John Madden reminisced, "When I was coaching in this league, I never went for two until the very end, regardless of the scoreboard. I believed in always taking one point unless it was the very end."


Surely, Madden is in sync with TMQ's immutable law of the conversion: Take One Till the Fourth. But John -- when you were a head coach, there was no two-point option. Madden ran the Raiders from 1969 to 1978. The old AFL two-point rule was ended when the AFL and old NFL merged in 1967. The deuce conversion option was not reinstated until 1994.


Jesus Said, "How Hard It Will Be for Those Who Have Wealth to Enter the Kingdom of God" The gift shop of the new $190 million Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles sells a house chardonnay for $24.95 per bottle. The main doors of the Cathedral weigh 25,000 pounds each, while the altar "is made from a six-ton, thick slab of Turkish Rosso Laguna marble and was fabricated, cut, polished and shipped from Carrara, Italy. Because of its size, the altar had to be lowered 128 feet into the Cathedral by crane before the roof was installed." The Cathedral's conference center is "equipped with full catering services, can be utilized for business meetings, cocktail parties, wedding receptions, galas, and seminars. Guided Cathedral tours with lunch from the simple to the elaborate are also an option. Parking is convenient and easy, located directly under the Conference Center with weekday space for several hundred cars. Valet parking is available for evening or Saturday events."


TMQ doesn't mean to offend Catholics; lots of Protestants (and members of all other religions) are hypocritical about wealth. Still, it's a good bet Jesus would look on this monument to money in horror.


New Yorker, CNBC, What's the Difference? Tina Brown, who at one point was going to rule the publishing world, will now produce financial specials for CNBC ("The Network for People Who Can't Get On MSNBC").


$72, $4, What's the Difference? Missing from Super Bowl advertising was another big-budget E*Trade chimpanzee commercial, breaking a four-year string. Remember the E*Trade Super Bowl ad that showed the chimpanzee crying while surveying a wasteland of failed dot-coms, such as TieClasp.com? That commercial ended with the legend, "INVEST WISELY." Let's hope you took the message to heart and did not invest in E*Trade, which has fallen from $72 to $4. TieClasp.com was probably a smarter buy. Last week E*Trade's CEO Christos Cotsakos resigned in disgrace -- he expropriated $59 million for himself in 2001, even as the firm was losing money. Wonder how much the chimp embezzled.

The chimp would have been a better CEO than Christos.
Anything You Bark May Be Used Against You in a Court of Law: Geneva, the Official Dog of TMQ -- a Chesapeake retriever, noble state dog of Maryland -- has a large heart and a brain the size of a walnut. She barks at everything, including blowing leaves. Recently, I received from the county a barking complaint against the Official Dog, on which the complainant was listed as: "neighbor, anonymous." I called the county animal control division and said, "This is America, the Constitution guarantees a right to confront your accuser! Who is this anonymous accuser?" The county animal- officer told me: "Sorry, dogs don't have Constitutional rights."


It turns out the Montgomery County animal-control division knows its law well! Federal courts have ruled that dogs have no rights. See this appellate court decision, Dye v. Wargo, finding that a dog cannot be sued and also that a dog cannot be a municipal employee. Check out this case, Miles v. Augusta, which finds that Blackie the Talking Cat must pay income taxes -- or at least, that her owners must pay a local amusement levy if they charge people fees to listen to the talking cat -- while concluding that a cat is not a person. Miles v. Augusta includes this judicious description of the judge's inspection of the defendant: "Suspecting that the cat in question was Blackie, I thought twice" before saying anything the talking feline might repeat.


Maybe it's just as well that dogs do not have Constitutional rights, as then they would have a First Amendment right to bark. Although such barking could be restricted to the Constitutionally protected topics of politics, science, the arts and personal expression, including the forms of personal expression that TMQ thanks the Supreme Court for consistently holding is safeguarded under the First Amendment, namely, naughty movies and topless dancing.


But though dogs have no rights, apparently pandas do. Last spring, D'Vera Cohn of the Washington Post asked to see the medical records of the famed pandas of the National Zoo. She was told she could not see the records, because this would violate the pandas' privacy rights! What, couldn't they sign a waiver? National Zoo officials further told Cohn that Constitutional rights apply "in principal" to animals residing in the federally owned National Zoo. Does that mean they get a lawyer? Oh, if only someone could convince the Official Dog of TMQ that she has a right to remain silent.


As Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jimmy Carter Once Noted, "Life Is Unfair." The sports catalog Eastbay offers 86 authentic jerseys of NFL players, and only one is of an offensive lineman.

Is that the Meadowlands in the background?
And How Can They Prove Washington Crossed the Delaware? Maybe It Was All Faked on a Sound Stage: NASA, whose space-station project is more than a billion dollars over budget, will pay a $5,000 contract cancellation fee to halt a planned pamphlet aimed at convincing people the Apollo moon landings really did occur. Apparently, NASA is actually worried about the talk-radio appearances of one Ralph Rene, a New Jersey carpenter with a self-published book saying that the moon landings were faked and also, for good measure, that Isaac Newton was wrong about the laws of motion.


Order Rene's bizarre book, "NASA Mooned America," containing "a simple arithmetic proof that Newton's gravity of attraction of mass for mass is erroneous." Go here. to order an excellent book that does not claim to disprove Newton, "Red Star In Orbit," about the old Soviet space program during the Moon-race era. "Red Star In Orbit" is by NASA-engineer-turned-writer James Oberg, who was scheduled to pen the pamphlet proving the Moon landings.


This leaves TMQ wondering two things. One, if Newton was wrong about the laws of celestial motion, wouldn't all communication satellites be spiraling off into the void? No wonder I can't get DirecTV! And second, what other claimed events need to be proven?


Reader Mike Cannon of Germantown, Maryland, recommends this site, in which astronomer Phil Plait of Sonoma State University debunks all claims that the Moon landings were faked and, for more fun, debunks movies and television shows that contain bad references to astronomy or depict space flight in ways that are physically impossible.


Modern Economics: Many coupons in newspaper food sections lately have been denominated at 55 cents. Why that curious value? Because grocery stores with coupon-doubling deals will double a coupon up to 50 cents but not above. This means a 50-cent coupon costs the manufacturer a dollar, while a 55-cent coupon looks like more yet costs the manufacturer less. Now a 30-cent coupon is worth more to the buyer, since it doubles to 60 cents, than a 55-cent coupon that stays at 55 cents. Right now the most valuable coupon is denominated at 45 cents; since it doubles to 90 cents, a 45-cent coupon is worth more than an 85-cent coupon. Only in America!


Look, Mr. Spock! Life-Form Readings on the Maine Interstate: Chomp, Inc, "inventors of pet candy,", has begun an aggressive campaign to market Yip Yap, a breath mint for dogs. Packaged in pocket-sized tins to resemble what the company calls "human breath mints" -- how can breath mints be "human?" -- Yip Yaps are promoted with testimonials such as these, from a Joan Perkins of Maryland: "I keep the Yip Yaps in my car with my Altoids so that when I take my dog to someone's house I give her a Yip Yap first."

For man's wintergreen scented best friend.
TMQ lives in Maryland, and now must be ever-vigilant to avoid running into this Joan Perkins. Joan, do you get the tins confused, and give the dog Altoids while popping a few tasty Yip Yaps yourself? And just why does your dog need breath freshener so badly on social calls -- are your friends planning on kissing your dog?


Check out this company press release:


SIDNEY, Maine -- Motorists will be able to buy candy bars and dog treats from the same vending machine when they pull into rest stops along Interstate 95 in central Maine. Chomp Inc. began stocking Yip Yap, a doggie breath mint, and Sniffers, a moist chewy beef and cheese candy for dogs, alongside Reese's Nutrageous bars and Wrigley's gum at a vending machine at the northbound rest stop in Sidney.


Chomp, based in Lebanon, N.J., said it was the first company to stock dog treats in vending machines that also contain candy for humans.


The "first company in the nation to stock dog treats in vending machines that also contain candy for humans" - now there's something to boast about. And when, to candy marketers, did "people" become "humans"?


San Diego Super Bowl = Excuse for Charger Cheer-Babe: Gawk at Bolts cheerleader Angie Rameriz, a student who, sadly for the world's men, is married. According to her team bio, Rameriz says she wants to visit "all of Europe." Better hurry, Angie, since Europe gets larger every day. Just a few years ago the European Union contained 12 nations. Now it's up to 15, with 10 others to be admitted next year and many formally designated "candidate countries".


TMQ can't forget to give props to our Super Bowl hosts.
If you are of the sort who finds bureaucratese more entertaining than babes in swimsuits, check this European Union discourse on the question of whether Corsica can achieve "island status." But isn't Corsica an island regardless of what European Union committees think?


Oh Ye Mortals, Trifle Not with the Football Gods Jerry Porter of the Raiders had the incredible gall to call the Tampa defensive backs, who outscored the entire Oakland offense, "awful across the board, they're awful". The football gods will exact vengeance on Porter for this.


But note that the story, from the New York Daily News, says that not only did Jon "I Was a Teenaged Coach" Gruden play Rich Gannon in Bucs practices: he told Bucs defensive players the Raiders' audible code-words, and the Raiders came into the Super Bowl not having changed their code words. Oakland knew Gruden knew its audible codes and yet kept them! The Daily News says that during the game, when Gannon barked audibles, Tampa defenders immediately called out the play. Ye gods.



Astonishing New York Times Insider Exclusive! One of the goofy staples of American journalism is the front-page story in the New York Times which, in somber, deadpan tones, presents as a stunning revelation something absolutely everyone in the United States, European Union, Hapsburg Empire and Hanseatic League has known for years.


An exemplar of this form was a page-one piece, "Super Bowl Insiders Watch Before Snap of Ball," in last week's New York Times, purporting to give the astonishing skinny on how "insiders" would watch Tampa versus Oakland. The lead of this shocking piece -- on the front page of the world's most important newspaper! -- disclosed that "coaches and executives will scan their television screens Sunday for the tell-tale signs of strategy in the Super Bowl." Holy moly -- tell-tale signs of strategy!


And what might these signs be? "The insiders will study the battle at the line of scrimmage, getting a general sense of where the holes are." Wow -- talk about insider information, who knew that? Insiders further possess the astounding knowledge that if quarterbacks hold the ball too long, "It means their receivers are covered ... and eventually, the pass protection will break down." Hello, sweetheart, get me rewrite, who could have known this! Insiders possess additional earth-shaking insights, such as, "They will look to see if there is a running back behind the quarterbacks," because if the backfield is empty, "this will put more pressure on the defense." Hey, if an empty backfield puts more pressure on the defense, why don't teams always go empty? Only the insiders know!


"The insiders" also have some puzzling exclusive information. Much of the piece dwelled on corner Ronde Barber coming up to the line in the Bucs-Eagles NFC championship. Insiders know, according to the Times, that he "repeatedly blitzed from this position." Funny, Barber blitzed twice in that game. The Times further asserted that having Barber come to the line was a "radical twist" insiders had never before seen. Funny, a corner has come to the line in almost every game that Monte Kiffin has coached the City of Tampa defense during the past the seven years. In December 2001, when Tampa was pounded 27-3 at Chicago, Barber came to the line so often the Bears killed the Bucs by throwing over Barber's head to Marty Booker, and the tactic didn't even stop the run -- Chicago rushed for 207 yards that day. Did only "insiders" know this? Ummmm, TMQ wrote a column about how the Bucs were bringing Barber to the line too often.

Apparently the Raiders coaching staff doesn't read the Times.
Best line from the preposterous "insiders" article: "Television's preoccupation with quarterbacks, coaches, nutty fans and cheerleaders" can frustrate insiders. Preoccupation with cheerleaders? It's the reverse. Get out your stopwatch during any NFL telecast on any network.


Incredible insider tip: If you want to know who's ahead, look at the scoreboard! Please don't mention this to the New York Times.


The Football Gods Chortled: TMQ hopes the evil Lord Voldemort (Dan Snyder) apparated right out of his Potomac, Maryland, mansion watching Brad Johnson, the quarterback he had so cannily ordered benched and then let go, win the Super Bowl. In his final nine games this year, Johnson threw 19 touchdown passes and four interceptions. Lord Voldemort ordered him banished because, in Voldemort's canny judgment, Johnson had no arm.



TMQ Insider Exclusive! Tuesday Morning Quarterback has learned on an exclusive basis that Tiki Barber played cornerback for Tampa in the Super Bowl, while Ronde Barber watched in the stands. Hey, try to prove me wrong! Remember, this is a Tuesday Morning Quarterback exclusive!


Running Items Department
Final New York Times Final-Score Score: The Paper of Guesses ran not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, but seven different predictions of the exact final Super Bowl score, and all were wrong. This makes the Final New York Times Final-Score Score 1-272 for the 2002 NFL season and a cumulative 1-833 since TMQ began tracking. (Note: Includes correction for math error TMQ discovered in an earlier column.)


Reader Jim Kupcik of Medina, Ohio, reports that some offshore sports gambling websites offer to double winners if you predict an exact final score. Kupcik asks, "As evidenced by the fact that the New York Times is 1-833 trying to do this, shouldn't the payout for predicting an exact final score be a little better?" But Jim, the whole point of gambling is to fleece you of your money. TMQ disapproves: Put your spare dollars in the bank where they belong.


Reader Animadversion: Many readers from New Zealand objected to TMQ's expression of horror at the Kiwi Burger for sale at New Zealand McDonald's. Paul Hope of Christchurch noted that "kiwi" in New Zealand usage for recipes means neither the fruit nor the flightless bird but local flavorings, as New Zealanders are sometimes known as "Kiwis." The Kiwi Burger sold in New Zealand McDonald's turns out to be a Quarter Pounder with beetroot and pineapple blended into the beef, topped by a fried egg. TMQ called this another sign of the decline of Western civilization, and I stand by my statement.


Note: owing to PC trends, it can't be long until the city of Christchurch changes its name to Inclusivechurch, New Zealand.


Many readers including Andrew Moeschberger of Hobart, Indiana, objected to last week's TMQ quote of a reader who suggested the NFL fix its overtime problems by instituting "the NHL system" of a full additional period. As Moeschberger noted, NHL overtimes are sudden-death; it just seems like they're not because they often end in ties. The reader quote should have said, "the NBA system." In haiku,

"Fifth quarter" OT
in NHL? Frostback sports
lost on TMQ.
-- Dave Sommer, Montreal

Last week, commissioner Paul Tagliabue acknowledged the overtime system needs to change. Since overtime came to pro football in 1974, 28 percent of games have ended on the first possession, but in this year's record 25 overtime games, 40 percent ended on the first possession. As Tagliabue correctly noted (hmm, there's a phrase TMQ has not exactly loaded into his AutoText), since the kickoff spot was moved back to the 30-yard line in order to improve starting field position and boost overall scoring, the team winning the overtime flip has often been only three first downs away from the field goal that wins the game without the other team ever having a possession.


Last week TMQ proposed a modified version of the NCAA alternating-possessions overtime. How's this for an alternative proposal instead:


Reader Todd Hill of Williston, Vermont, suggests that the opening overtime possession begin on a team's 20, with no kickoff. TMQ adds these details. The winner of the overtime coin toss gets a choice of the ball on its 20 or the wind, in which case the other team starts on its 20. If Team A relinquishes the ball without scoring on its initial possession (turnover, punt, missed field goal, downs), from the point at which Team B first has possession, the rest is traditional sudden death.

"I would like the thank God that the game didn't go into OT."
But if Team A scores on the initial possession, Team B then gets the ball on its 20. If Team B exceeds Team A's score on its possession, Team B wins; if it fails to exceed Team A's score on that possession, Team A wins; if Team B matches Team A's score, overtime continues. From that point it would be traditional overtime; Team B would kick off after its matching score, and next score wins. The point of this system would be to insure that each team had at least one possession in overtime, while keeping the rest of the game (field position, turnovers, punting) as similar as possible to regular action.


Last Week's TMQ Challenge: Playing on the fact that the Minnesota Vikings are among NFL teams that ask prospective cheer-babes to submit to an interview, TMQ wondered, if you were a judge interviewing would-be cheerleaders, what question would you ask?


Ben Denker of Kansas City proposes, "If a bus is traveling 49 miles an hour northeast at 3 p.m. toward a solar eclipse, would you be willing to wear nothing but paint as an outfit?"


Jack Walter of Marlborough, Massachusetts, suggests, "What is the true airspeed of a swallow?" Monty Python fans know that the correct answer is, "African or European swallow?"


Hans-Werner Egerland Abingdon, Maryland, proposes, "Paper or plastic?"


Scott Cyr, a Navy man serving in Naples, Italy -- we know we're free because you are on guard, Scott -- suggested thus: "I would ask prospective cheer-babes to explain the infield fly rule. It has nothing to do with the NFL, but if a woman can answer that, she is not only a babe but most likely a sports goddess as well."


A la the controversy over points added for being black to applicants at the University of Michigan -- where TMQ feels it's hard to understand why this is a racial flap, since being from the beautiful, scenic, all-white Upper Peninsula of Michigan gets you the same bonus admission points as being African American -- the cryptically identified Todd of Arizona proposes this U-Mich-like point scale:

Are you married? (10 point deduction)


Are you engaged, but not really sure? (five point deduction)


Are you dating this guy but he's, kinda, you know -- ? (neutral)


Are you single? (five points added)


Are you single and actively in the market? (10 points added)


Are you single, in the market and have low standards? (makes squad)

In a similar vein, Jason Hernandez of San Antonio says he would "ask the only meaningful question that any short, scrawny, research assistant would ask, 'Would you date a guy like me?'" Jason, don't ask that.


Brian Lundmark of Norman, Oklahoma, suggests, "Explain the replay-reversal rule using interpretative dance."


Brad Crawford of San Marcos, California, suggests, "What would be the diameter of the space mirror needed to power the death ray in the new Bond movie?"


And the winner of this week's Challenge is Ron Burgess of Twinsburg, Ohio, who proposed, "If you could meet anyone in history, what would you wear?"


This Week's Challenge: This week's Challenge is to wait patiently until next September's kickoff, when the TMQ Challenge will resume.


Tuesday Morning Quarterback must fold his tent and steal off into the desert till next year. Yet yea, verily, do not despair. TMQ will appear sporadically during the offseason, whenever there are flimsy excuses for cheesecake photos -- I meant to say, important public-policy questions to address. My special-guest-star appearances will be scattered and unpredictable.


No wait, check it, another one tomorrow! How's that for service? Watch tomorrow for the annual Tuesday Morning Quarterback Bad Predictions Review.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 9:05 PM

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January 21, 2003

The weekend the gods winced

POST #    495

The weekend the gods winced
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

Okay, so it's two pirate-themed teams in the Super Bowl. Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum! TMQ plans to have a parrot sitting on his shoulder all week.


And okay, so the Super Bowl pits two pirate-themed teams that could not run the ball off the plank, let alone against a defense. TMQ sees this in dialectic terms. The NFL's pass-wacky current fashion had to bottom out with a Super Bowl pitting two teams that don't even try to run. The football gods, upon their hallowed couch above, will refuse to watch this game. From all-passing, the antithesis of football, a new synthesis will emerge in which teams try to balance passing and running. I understand that's a radical idea.


These things aside, let's cut to what really matters -- the Super Bowl is the only NFL game each year with two sets of cheerleaders.


Traditionally, NFL teams don't bring cheerleader squads to away games. The Super Bowl, played at a neutral site, is the exception, with both teams in most cases flying in their pep units. So a double-mega-babe event is coming, with sun-drenched San Diego the venue. And the Raiders' and Bucs' cheer squads are both high-aesthetic-appeal.


The great uncovered-by-the-national-media story of last year's indoor Super Bowl was how little was worn by the Rams and Patriots cheerleaders. Rams cheer-babes sported two-piece outfits that were essentially glittering bikinis. Patriots cheer-babes countered with two-piece numbers whose bottoms were barely more than flaps over thongs. Astonishingly Fox, which had last year's Super Bowl coverage, gave viewers naught but a passing glimpse of the cheer-babes. All ticket holders near the field were torn about whether to watch the babes or the game.


Eagerly awaiting Sunday at VI:XVIII Eastern, TMQ calls on the Raiders and Bucs cheer-babes to surpass last year's mark by wearing even less than the Rams and Patriots cheerleaders! Also, TMQ calls on ABC, which has this year's game, to wise up and show viewers the cheerleaders, rather than excruciating close-up after excruciating close-up of the neck veins bulging on Jon "I Was A Teenaged Coach" Gruden.

Ladies and gentlemen -- TMQ's pregame MVP selection.
Surely Oakland's win of the AFC title was foreordained by the mega-babe professionalism shown by the Raiderettes, who came out in two-piece numbers with hot pants despite a kickoff temperature of 52 degrees. Conversely, doom for Philadelphia was foreordained when the high-aesthetic-appeal Eagles cheerleaders wore bulky down vests rather than the sprayed-on unitards they have previously sported in cold-weather games.


Yes, it was 26 degrees at kickoff at Can't Demolish It Too Soon Field. But Gruden and Andy Reid, taking note of TMQ's immutable law of the sidelines -- Cold Coach = Victory -- both wore varsity jackets and light headgear. This activated TMQ's immutable corollary, If Coaches Equal, Cheerleader Professionalism Determines Outcome. "Professionalism" in this sense means skin or at least skin-tight, and the Eagles cheer-babes, like the Eagles themselves, ruined a great season with a final-game letdown. As soon as TMQ saw the Eagles' cheerleaders heavily dressed for pregame warm-ups, he said, "This game's over. Bucs win."


In other football news, both the NFL's championship contests pitted a black quarterback against a white quarterback. The white guys won, though mainly owing to superior teammates in each case. What struck TMQ was that no one really noticed, or cared, about the racial angle. The whole can-blacks-be-quarterbacks thing is so over.


Playoff Coaching Pressure Analysis No. 1, Bucs at Eagles: Two straight years the Eagles have come into the NFC championship game with a homogenized vanilla game plan. Two straight losses. Both times, zero reaction from Andy Reid on the sideline. On defense, Philadelphia not only rarely blitzed -- though the Eagles have a blitzing personality and do it better than any NFL club -- but played a cautious, backed-off coverage scheme as if they were facing the greatest offense of all time. They were, instead, facing the low-low voltage Bucs, whom Eagles coaches seemed determined to make look like the greatest offense of all time.


The Eagles rarely even showed blitz by bringing linebackers or safeties to the line; it was always easy for the Tampa linemen to tell who was rushing, and always easy for Brad Johnson to read the coverage. The Eagles didn't jam receivers to disrupt their routes. Philadelphia rushers failed to sack Brad Johnson, allowing themselves to be neutralized by Tampa's below-average offensive line. In their earlier meeting this season, the Bucs had tried long passes, which allowed the rush to sack Johnson five times. On Sunday the Tampa game plan was quick throws off three-step actions. Philadelphia coaches never adjusted, still calling defenses well into the second half that assumed the Bucs were deep passing.

Yes, Andy. You will have to give back the coach of the year award.
Because the Eagles seemed to be re-playing the earlier meeting and ignoring what the Bucs were actually doing, on most passing downs the defensive backs retreated as if facing incredible speed merchants, when Tampa has among the slowest receiving corps in the league. TMQ was simply stunned by Philadelphia's defensive meekness on the game's central play. Score tied at 10 with 2:31 remaining in the half, City of Tampa faced third and goal on the Eagles' nine, going into the wind. Not only did Philly show mincing backed-off coverage, Al Harris, guarding Keyshawn Johnson, lined up in the end zone. Johnson took a quick slant in front of Harris for six; Harris didn't even step toward Johnson till he was crossing the goal line. Ye gods.


On offense it was more vanilla, not even the occasional strawberry to say nothing of Baskin Robbins flavors. The Eagles ran the same six or so plays over and over. There was no formation variety, nothing Eagles opponents have not seen repeatedly, not even the reverse Philadelphia has run to good effect this year. Donovan McNabb didn't throw down the field until desperation time -- the Eagles' first pass attempt over 20 yards, a 24-yard completion to Todd Pinkston, came with 6:31 remaining. You've got to throw deep now and then even if incomplete, to keep the defense honest. And the Philadelphia offensive line, despite two Pro Bowlers (Tra Thomas and Jermane Mayberry) and two others with big contracts (Jon Runyan and Hank Fraley), played one of the worst blocking games TMQ has ever winced through; see more below. On consecutive Philadelphia possessions, McNabb lost fumbles after Pro Bowl left tackle Thomas barely so much as brushed his man, who blew in for the tomahawk move. The lightly regarded Bucs OL outplayed the hyped Eagles OL by a huge margin.


Through it all, Reid showed no emotion, seeming to expect to lose. Reid called the same mincing weak-side screen four times, though it never yielded a first down. He didn't switch to A.J. Feeley when McNabb was ineffective, and paid the price on McNabb's season-killer interception with 3:27 remaining. (McNabb was playing hurt, and it showed; he also seemed emotionally out of it, perhaps reflecting his coach.) When the Eagles jumped to 7-3 lead and then intercepted Tampa on its second possession, setting up a golden opportunity on the Bucs' 46, Reid was incredibly tentative, calling dives and short passes and then punting from the Tampa 32. Yes they were facing the wind, but the Eagles have the league's best placekicker!


When Pinkston pulled up at the Tampa 45 and simply watched Ronde Barber run the rest of the way for the touchdown that iced the Super Bowl for the Bucs -- sure, Barber was ahead of Pinkston but maybe Barber will slip, maybe he'll bobble the ball, this is a championship game! -- TMQ was at first furious at this display of no-heart quitting on Pinkston's part. But then I thought: The Eagles' coaching staff has quit on the game, so why shouldn't the players? Reid seemed to assume that since the Bucs always collapse in Philly, they would collapse again and no particular planning or heart would be required. Rarely has a coach, or an entire coaching staff, wilted worse in a big game.

It's going to take more than Chunky soup, Donovan.
For his part, Jon "I Was A Teenaged Coach" Gruden looked like a guy worth trading two first-round draft choices to acquire. He had the Bucs' linemen with bare arms -- bare-armed linemen are the classic sign of a team unafraid to play in cold. He had Martin Gramatica out of that ridiculous balaclava he used to wear whenever it was below 40 degrees, and taking the temperature like a manly man. He had Johnson in gloves which, it turned out, he'd been making Johnson wear once a week since training camp in anticipation of a northern January outing. (Why the Fox announcers denounced Johnson's gloves was beyond TMQ; quarterbacks ought to wear gloves on freezing days, so long as they are accustomed to them.) Most important, he had a game plan.


Gruden correctly guessed that the Eagles would expect a reprise of the long-passing plays that failed for Tampa in the clubs' earlier meetings, and instead called quick three-step plays. His offensive staff designed new stuff, which worked; see below. And when he had a fourth-quarter lead and the official timekeeper had become his opponent, Gruden went boring, as the smart coach does in this situation. Leading by 10 and getting the ball at his own 34 with 11 minutes remaining, Gruden called four runs, a shovel pass and a flat pass -- both passes completed inbounds -- to keep the clock grinding. He punted back to the Eagles with 6:31 left, the burning of these five minutes, via boring calls, placing the game almost out of reach.


Cheerleader of the Week: As we warm up for San Diego -- next week's column will surely find a flimsy excuses for Chargers' cheer-babes photos -- the TMQ ESPN Cheerleader of the Week is Beth of the Vikings, who makes the cut because she is a cheerleader with a master's degree ... in sports management, but we'll take it. In addition to abs that bullets would bounce off, Beth has, according to her team bio, 16 years of dance experience and her goal is "to have a successful career and family." So your family has to be successful too! Beth, you've got your work cut out for you.

Beth's abs could even stop Randy's SUV.
The auditions section of the Minnesota cheerleaders' site explains that not only must a woman pass three levels of tryouts, there is also an interview requirement on current events and other topics: "Interviews are closed to the public and will be before a panel of judges." Let's hope not before French skating judges! TMQ would be happy to serve as a cheerleader judge and would accept bribes, but only in the form of -- well, never mind. The auditions page also cautions, "It can be cold in the fieldhouse, but as you warm up, you will be asked to discard clothing." Cheer-babes being asked to discard clothing: how can this not be on pay-per-view?


Sweet Play No. 1: Trailing 7-3 in the first, Tampa faced second-and-2 on its 24. The Bucs came out in a three-bunch right. This is a formation they had previously shown only in the red zone, and previously from this formation they had sent two men to the left and then hit Joe Jurevicius right on a version of the zee-out (Zed-out to Canadian readers) that receivers call "crack the whip." Check the December 10 TMQ for more detail on how Tampa ran this play against Atlanta. Seeing the set, the Eagles expected the play to proceed as it had on film of the Falcons' game. But this time two men went to the right and Jurevicius went over the middle left, where he ended being guarded by Barry Gardner, the middle linebacker. His 71-yard catch-and-run set up the touchdown that put Tampa ahead for good. Eagles defensive backs seemed to have no idea where the ball was even after Jurevicius was halfway to the goal line.


Sweet Play No. 2: Leading by seven late in the third, Tampa faced third-and-4 on the Philly 34. The Bucs put a two-bunch right. Jurevicius ran the over-the-middle again, this time drawing a cast of thousands to cover him; Keyshawn Johnson ran a fly; tight end Ken Dilger paused, then sprinted into the right flat, where no Eagle was to be seen. His 20-yard reception set up a field goal and panic time at Can't Demolish It Too Soon Field.


Sour Play No. 1: One TMQ hobby horse is offensive linemen sprinting downfield on screen passes, as if they themselves were running for touchdowns, rather than pasting the first defender they see. Trailing by three at the start of the second, the Eagles faced third-and-10 on their 26, and called the weakside screen. When back Bryant Westbrook took the ball with OLs Fraley and John Welbourn ahead of him, and Derrick Brooks the sole defender in sight, TMQ said aloud, "This one's going to midfield." Instead neither Fraley or Welbourn laid a hand on Brooks, charging downfield as if they themselves were running for touchdowns while Brooks nailed Westbrook just shy of the stick and the Eagles punted.


Sour Play No. 2: Later, trailing by seven in the third, Philly faced second-and-10 and called the same screen. Once more Fraley and Welbourn were ahead of the runner, Duce Staley, once more only one defender in sight. Once more neither lineman laid a hand on the defender, this time Dexter Jackson, so intent were they on charging downfield as if they themselves were running for touchdowns. Jackson stopped what looked like it should have been a big play for a one-yard gain; Philadelphia ended up losing a fumble on the series.

We don't need no stinkin' running game.
Stat of the Week: The winners of the championship games combined for 545 yards passing and 138 yards rushing. The football gods winced.


Stat of the Week No. 2: The Buccaneers, who won the NFC championship despite rushing for only 49 yards, are only the third of the last 28 Super Bowl teams to average less than 100 yards rushing per game during the season. The football gods winced.


Stat of the Week No. 3: The Raiders won the AFC championship despite calling 49 passes and nine rushes. The football gods winced.


Stat of the Week No. 4: Philadelphia, second-highest scoring team in the league during the regular season, recorded three offensive touchdowns in its final three games, two of them played at home.


Stat of the Week No. 5: Tennessee lost two fumbles in 39 seconds.


Stat of the Week No. 6: Tennessee and Oakland combined to complete their first 15 passes.


Stat of the Week No. 7: In two trips to Oakland this season, the Flaming Thumbtacks surrendered 93 points and turned the ball over six times.


TMQ's Candidate Was P.T. Barnum, Who Could Establish a Rapport With the Clowns in the Cincinnati Front Office: Marvin Lewis accepted the job of head coach of the Bengals. "My other offer was Defense Minister for Iraq," Lewis told a news conference.


Next You're Going to Tell Me San Francisco Would Waive Jerry Rice: Steve Mariucci was fired after going 57-39 as head coach of the Niners. "He failed to win five Super Bowls," explained San Francisco "owner's representative" John York. "Also he never won the Nobel Prize for physics, United States relations with Mauritania are a complete mess and as perhaps you know, cancer still has not been cured." Separately, Tuesday Morning Quarterback demanded that ESPN give him the additional title of Vice President of Column Operations.

This guy has more miles on him than a '69 Beatle.
Playoff Coaching Pressure Analysis No. 2, Titans at Raiders: In December, Miami demonstrated how to stop the Raiders' league-leading offense. The Marine Mammals played Oakland receivers very tight -- "watch his waist" coverage, as an earlier TMQ explained -- disrupting the endless crossing routes the Raiders run, while allowing the rush time to get Rich Gannon's jersey dirty. Tight coverage engages the risk of giving up the big play, but as used by Miami, proved the only scheme this year that has thrown Oakland off its game. So TMQ expected the Flaming Thumbtacks, who have a defense-minded coach in Jeff Fisher, and the personnel to play tight coverage, to try this approach. Instead the Titans hung back in timid zones, exactly what the Oakland offense is designed to attack. Tennessee surrendered no big plays. But the Oakland offense doesn't seek big plays; what it seeks are first downs and points. Tennessee surrendered 25 of the former and 41 of the latter.


TMQ has always liked Fisher, who keeps his head in the game -- he never blew his stack at the zebras despite losing three of three borderline reviews on Sunday, for example. And TMQ has always liked the Titans. Moreover, TMQ assumes the football gods like the Titans. After all, they endured a period of wandering, and gods are supposed to reward that sort of thing.


But Fisher had nothing special planned for the AFC championship. The Raiders ran their offense exactly as they like to, aided by their fine-blocking, Nimitz-class linemen. (Oakland guard Frank Middleton cannot be only 330 pounds, as his fact sheet claims; his butt wouldn't fit in two airline seats, let alone one.) The Titans were psychologically prepared, handling the initial Oakland surge and crowd noise at Not Bankrupt Yet Coliseum, and seemed poised for an upset with a 17-14 lead and the ball with two minutes left in the half.


But then Robert Holcomb fumbled when trying to run up the middle against an eight-man Raiders front -- where was the audible out of that call? -- and Tennessee fumbled the kickoff after the Raiders' scored. No team can withstand giving up 10 points on turnovers in the final two minutes of the first half in a road playoff game.


Bill Callahan looked like a bearded veteran rather than a rookie head coach and a guy most sports nuts had never heard of when he became the Raiders' boss. At San Diego, the media nonsense will focus on the ultra-hyped Gruden, while no one will pay heed to Callahan. If I were a rookie head coach going into a Super Bowl, I'd think that could work to my favor quite nicely.


Sweet Play No. 3: Trailing 24-17 on their first possession of the second half, the Flaming Thumbtacks faced second-and-20 from their own 34. The call was a rare "pull draw" -- tackle Fred Miller pulled toward the center and got a great block as Eddie George ran 17 yards. On the next play, Tennessee converted the first.

Steve hopes to be fully recovered by the 2006 season.
Sour Play No. 3: Facing third-and-8 from the Oakland 22 on the continuation of the above-cited drive, the Flaming Thumbtacks knew that regular kicker Joe Nedney was out injured for the rest of the game. Punter Craig Hentrich also kicks placement, but is a punter. So it's crucial here to move forward, not backward, to insure that any Hentrich attempt is from inside 40 yards. Plus, gain five on the play and you'd probably go on fourth. All this means a draw or conservative quick pass. There's the snap -- Steve McNair sprints backwards and is sacked for an 11-yard loss. Unwilling to let Hentrich try from 50, the Titans ended up punting from the Raiders' 33. Punting from the opposition 33 while behind in a playoff game with light winds! Yumpin' jiminy.


The Football Gods Winced: Still trailing 24-17 in the middle of the third, the Flaming Thumbtacks now faced third-and-10 from their 24. Coaches called an "up" pattern to seldom-used Eddie Berlin, one reception for 14 yards on the year. Sometimes defenses ignore seldom-used receivers breaking deep. Oakland totally ignored Eddie Berlin. McNair put the pass right on his numbers at midfield for a sweet, sweet 76-yard touchdown play -- except that Berlin dropped the ball as if it were a rabid ferret. On the next snap, Oakland tackled Hentrich attempting to punt. The Raiders scored on the possession and the sun began to set on another Titans' season.


The Football Gods Chortled: As the Titans recovered Tim Brown's second-quarter fumble, rookie Tennessee safety Tank Williams became so excited that he furiously jumped up and down pointing the wrong way -- as if trying to convince the officials to give the ball back to Oakland.


Law of Averages Alive and Well: After losing four consecutive appearances in Philadelphia and being outscored there 89-35, City of Tampa won 27-10. After throwing no touchdown passes in his last three appearances in Philadelphia, Brad Johnson dominated the game. After scoring no offensive touchdowns on 36 consecutive possessions in Philadelphia, the Bucs got two on 13 possessions.


Raiders Staff Reads TMQ; Do Raiderettes? Trailing 17-14 with a minute in the half, the Long Johns had first-and-goal on the Titans' one. "Since it's first and goal, this will be a play-fake," TMQ pronounced. And so it was, to uncovered tight end Doug Jolley for the touchdown that changed the game.

"Hey, let's ask Bush is he has two $10's for a $5."
The Matter Will Be Referred to the Department of Repetitious Empty Threats: Let me see if I can follow this. President Bush has said that if North Korea ends its nuclear program, the United States will extend energy and food aid. But that was already the deal, signed between Washington and Pyongyang in 1994, that North Korea just broke! We've been giving North Korea fuel and food in return for its claim to have stopped its nuclear program, a claim which Pyongyang now admits was always a lie. So we are offering them gifts again in exchange for a fresh set of lies?


TMQ thinks this is as if you turned on the radio on September 2, 1939, and heard: "In response to the invasion of Poland, the governments of Britain and France today offered to recognize German annexation of the Sudetenland."


A North Korean official reacted to Washington's proposal of more fuel and food in exchange for more lies -- which to TMQ seems a fairly good deal if you are a North Korean official -- by calling the plan "pie in the sky." White House spokesman Air Fleischer noted the reaction was "unofficial." TMQ wondered, what kind of pie? Blueberry? Pecan with chocolate crust?


Listen to a National Public Radio "Morning Edition" piece about how the DMZ between the Koreas has weirdly become a favored site for Japanese tourists, who take bizarre pleasure in watching Koreans point artillery tubes at each other. (Go here, then "Tensions Along DMZ Remain High.") Also, according to NPR, there is now a DMZ gift shop where you can buy authentic snips of barbed wire.


But I Still Have to Push the Button for the Power Running Boards. That's Really Inconvenient. When Will They Offer Automatic Power Running Boards? "An automobile review of the Lincoln Navigator misstated its fuel consumption. In city driving, the car travels about 11 miles on a gallon of gasoline, not on a tankful." Actual correction in the New York Times.


TMQ, who hates SUVs -- see the anti-SUV argument in detail here, a key point being that despite the assumption that SUVs are safe, you are more likely to die inside an SUV than inside a regular car, according the National Academy of Sciences -- thinks 11 miles on a tankful of gasoline is probably the real-world figure for mega-SUVs. Though the Navigator does now offer "power running boards." How has Western civilization gotten this far without power running boards?

TMQ would not kick Gwyneth out of bed for eating crackers.
Last week TMQ his ownself appeared on CNBC ("The Network for People Who Can't Get On MSNBC") to denounce SUVs and was accused by the fire-breathing Larry Kudlow of the military-afterburner-decibels Kudlow & Cramer Show of "being in bed with Hollywood celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow." TMQ can only wish he was in bed with Hollywood celebrities! That would be considerably more fun than being on CNBC.


Auto note: you can now get a Honda Accord in Eternal Blue Pearl. Do Honda's designers claim to know what color things are in the afterlife? Honda also offers a special-edition Civic in a swirly custom paint job called the Honda Incubus. Guess they're not planning to sell a lot of these to Catholic customers.


Reader Haiku: Last chance to offer yours for the current season; use the link at Reader Animadversion. Here are a reader and a staff effort:

Joe: acting this time?
Nedney gets his comeuppance,
cosmos realigned.

-- Benjamin Keys, Washington D.C.


Just two remain, and
one must fail. Much like real life:
so Darwinian.

-- TMQ, 2003

Offseason Cheer-Babe Update: As the NFL is about to fold its tents and slip off into the desert, leaving the Arena League cock of the walk, reader Cameron Perry of Miami Beach nominates cheer-babe Bobbi Claar of the Dallas Desperados. According to her team bio, Claar's most embarrassing moment was "Talking to a sixth-grade class and later finding out that my zipper was down." Bobbi, isn't this something that happens to guys, not mega-babes?

Bobbi has sworn off all zippers.
Check out the Desperados' cheerleaders' "3-D scrapbook." The pictures sure looked 2-D to TMQ, though the women themselves are distinctly three-dimensional.


Garish Yellow Sportcoat Update: This weekend the Hall of Fame loya jurga will meet in secret, chant incantations and name those gentlemen who will don a garish yellow sportcoat next August.


Tuesday Morning Quarterback's position is that the Hall of Fame should induct nothing but linemen for the next five years. Of the modern-era members, 40 are quarterbacks or running backs and 49 are linemen -- though on the field, linemen outnumber quarterbacks and running backs three to one. The Canton selectors have a preference for offensive backfield glory boys, and this does not reflect well on their appreciation of what makes football tick. It's inevitable that, say, Time magazine or Entertainment Tonight would only be interested in quarterbacks and running backs, but the Hall of Fame should treat linemen as every bit the equal of glory boys. Toward that end TMQ will endorse only linemen for five years. That means of this year's finalists, TMQ votes for Elvin Bethea, Joe DeLamielleure, Claude Humphrey, Bob Kuechenberg and Gary Zimmerman.


Though the selectors are reputed to do a conscientious job of debating the merits of various candidates -- note that selectors are sportswriters, not television bobbleheads, which is the Hall of Fame's way of acknowledging that most bobbleheads have no idea what they are talking about* -- do not be deceived. Selection is political. For one, candidates who have made friends with selectors get a better hearing than those who are prickly, a reason the personable Howie Long was admitted ahead of other candidates with equal credentials, while the aloof Art Monk still waits. For another, lobbying is furious. Last season, Bill Parcells twisted arms like crazy to get himself named, so that he could take another coaching job and become the first Hall of Fame member since George Halas to work the sidelines. Only stiff political resistance stopped this sinister Parcells plan. (Coaches aren't supposed to make Canton until they have left the sport on a bona-fide basis.)


* ESPN bobbleheads excepted.

Welcome to the O-fer Hall of Fame Jim.
One political problem facing the selectors is the ever-worsening Buffalo Bills dilemma. In the last two seasons, Canton has tapped two from the Bills' failed Super Bowl run, Jim Kelly and Marv Levy. Bruce Smith and Thurman Thomas are deadbolt locks in their first years of eligibility. Bills' owner Ralph Wilson and semi-Bill James Lofton (who bounced around, but started for Buffalo in three of its Super Bowls) are finalists this year; Wilson is a lock at some point, and Lofton will get a hearing. Steve Tasker may become the first special-teams player named to Canton, Andre Reed has a reasonable chance and Kent Hull, the best shotgun center ever, is probable over the long term. (Running backs and quarterbacks get recognized right away, while offensive linemen are usually eligible a decade before anyone notices.)


All this means there could be nine Buffalo representatives in the Hall of Fame from a team that went oh-of-four at the Super Bowl, close to the record 11 representatives from one team, the 1970s Pittsburgh team that went a slightly better four-for-four. Cornelius Bennett might even sneak in, giving the oh-for-four Bills 10 busts in Canton. To top it off, the Hall has to take Joe DeLamielleure soon. Though not on the Buffalo Super Bowl squad, this former Bill is one of only two starters from the NFL's official Team of the Seventies yet to don a garish yellow sportcoat.


TMQ's proposed solution is two-fold. First, the Hall of Fame names nothing but linemen for five years; at the end of that period, equity between grunt-boys and glory-boys will have been established. Then, Canton has a year in which it accepts nothing but Buffalo Bills, inviting as many as it can stand. After that, things return to normal and the electors can resume favoring quarterbacks and running backs.


In Another Canny Personnel Move, Snyder Advised Senate Republicans to Pick Trent Lott as Majority Leader: Viewers of the NFC championship game beheld numerous players who were once members of the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons and sent packing by the evil Lord Voldemort (Dan Snyder): Brad Johnson, Shawn Barber, James Thrash, Brian Mitchell, David Akers among them. These gentlemen weren't good enough for Voldemort but good enough to appear in a title game, where Voldemort's team has not been observed under his evil reign. Snyder ordered Johnson, now on his way to the Super Bowl, discarded because he had merely thrown for 6,510 yards and 35 touchdowns as the Persons' starter. As the Bucs' starter, Johnson has thrown for an all-but-identical 6,455 yards and 35 touchdowns -- translating to a Super Bowl invite for City of Tampa -- while the stats of the gentlemen who replaced him for the Persons have been, collectively, cover-your-eyes.


Modern Economics: Next time you're in McDonald's, check the pricing of Chicken McNuggets. On the East Coast, at least, four McNuggets are $1 and six McNuggets are $2.29. So if you want eight McNuggets it will cost you $2 but if you want only six, it'll cost you $2.29. Only in America!

The high-level economic theory that is the McDonald's menu.
This reminds TMQ of a Marx Brothers exchange in which Chico is playing a band leader and Groucho a potential customer.


Groucho: How much do you get for playing?
Chico: $25 an hour.,br> Groucho: How much do you get for practicing?
Chico: $50 an hour.
Groucho: How much do you get for not practicing?
Chico: You couldn't afford it.


More sign of the decline of Western civilization: McDonald's in New Zealand offers a Kiwi Burger.


Single Worst Play of the Championships: Trailing by 10, Philadelphia has first down on the Tampa 10 with 3:21 left. The Eagles have just moved from their 18, showing life for the first time since their opening possession, and the Can't Demolish It Too Soon Field crowd was making military-afterburner-decibel noise. A score here and the Eagles, holding all their timeouts, shift the pressure to the visitors.


Ronde Barber creeps up to the line to show blitz . Donovan McNabb calls a quick slant, every team's standard anti-blitz play, to Antonio Freeman. Barber jumps back directly into the slant lane, intercepts the pass and returns it 92 yards for the icing touchdown. Barber made a fine play, and the scheme of this defense -- show an open slant lane, then jump into that lane -- was well-designed. But McNabb was looking directly at Barber when he sailed the ball. Ay caramba.


TMQ's Super Bowl Prediction: The game will be won by whichever team surprises the other with a rushing-oriented game plan. (Caution: Tuesday Morning Quarterback's motto is, All Predictions Wrong Or Your Money Back.)


TMQ Insider Exclusive! According to the Elias Sports Bureau, TMQ has never written a funny column when the office temperature is below 40 degrees. Remember, this is a Tuesday Morning Quarterback exclusive.


Running Items Department


New York Times Final-Score Score: The Paper of Guesses returns to its habitual 0-2 in its triumphant attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 1-783 since TMQ began tracking.


Misery loves company No. 1: Since the playoffs began the Wall Street Journal has taken to imitating the silliest thing about the New York Times by also forecasting exact NFL final scores. Needless to say, all predictions have been wrong. Late in December, the Journal's football columnist predicted City of Tampa would win the Super Bowl. Then, in forecasting final playoff scores, the same columnist predicted Tampa would lose to the Niners and lose to the Eagles.


Misery loves company No. 2: ESPN asked eight bobbleheads to guess the winners in the championship round. All eight were wrong, though there was a 25 percent probability of being correct by blind chance. (A 50/50 call times a 50/50 call equals 25 percent chance.) Apparently the incredible insider information possessed by the ESPN bobbleheads hampered their accuracy. Had they guessed by blind chance, they would have done better.

Come for the contest, stay for the illegal banking.
Reader Animadversion: Many readers including Karen of Alexandria, Virginia -- see her additional contribution at the Challenge -- rose to defend the honor of Hooters. This, apropos TMQ chiding Jon "I Was a Teenaged Coach" Gruden for hanging out at the local Hooters, rather than at Tampa's world-renowned topless clubs. "The Tampa-St.Pete-Clearwater Hooters, original home of the franchise, has some of the finest-looking women I have ever seen," Karen reports. She notes she is a "traditional female" -- which in TMQ-speak means she was at the Tampa Hooters on a date, perhaps, rather than scoping for her own purposes. Mike Kroeger of Overland Park, Kansas, adds this link to the annual Miss Hooters Offshore Bikini Contest. "Offshore?" So they don't have to pay taxes on the bikinis? There is little to tax.


Apropos the lap dances available at Tampa's world-renowned topless clubs, Bill Epner of Toronto boasts that "Canadians have a distinct advantage over our southern brethren, as our laws allow for completely nude lap dances in Canada." Setting aside what the difference might be between "nude" and "completely nude," TMQ's reaction is that this is more evidence of the frostback conspiracy. First, all Canadians can access NFL Sunday Ticket on cable, while in America, Sunday Ticket via cable is denied to the taxpayers who are taxed to build the stadiums that make NFL profits possible. Now it turns out that Canadians get completely nude lap dances, while in the United States it's only topless. Why this fixation on invading Iraq when Canada is the real menace?


Lance DuBos of Singapore was among many who objected to TMQ saying that Bill Cowher should not claim running into the kicker ought to be ignored "only when his team is trailing in overtime." Lance inquires, "How can anyone trail in sudden-death overtime?" Believe me Lance, when the other team's kicker is lining up to try a figgie from 26 yards, you are trailing in overtime.


Many math whizzes, including Susan Spennett of Copenhagen, Denmark, pointed out that TMQ's calculation of the size of the space mirror needed to power the death ray in the latest Bond movie "had methodological faults, such as being wrong." Thanks, Susan, for putting it so delicately. TMQ used the wrong conversion factor for square feet into square miles, making the mirror seem too large. On the other hand, as readers including Jeff Milner of San Jose, Calif., noted, TMQ also failed to take into account that doubling the distance an energy beam must travel requires quadrupling its power, making my square-foot estimate too small.


Roll these two concerns together and it looks like the death-ray space mirror would need a diameter of six miles, not 164 miles as last week's column speculated. Hey, TMQ lives in Washington, where "one thousand" and "two hundred billion" are considered very similar numbers for budgeting purposes -- so a 158-mile error would be viewed as dead-on accurate here. At any rate, the conclusion is unchanged, namely that the North Korean economy could not, as this particular time, support the construction in outer space of an object miles across. Also, as readers, including Jill Howden of Albuquerque, noted, a six-mile-wide object in low-Earth orbit would be visible to the naked eye, whereas in the Bond movie, no one knows the death ray exists until the North Korean super-villain turns it on.

TMQ, we'd like you to meet your new tutor.
Jose of Lima, Peru, protests that "ay caramba" is correct, not "aye caramba."


Finally many readers including Ruth Chilton of Bellingham, Wash,, suggested that NFL solve its overtime problem -- two overtime playoff games in succession decided with the losers never getting a crack at the ball -- not by going to the NCAA system but to the NHL system. That is, play a full fifth quarter. Fine maybe for the regular season, but Ruth, what if the fifth quarter ended tied too? In the playoffs, there would have to be a sixth quarter. What if the sixth quarter ended tied?


TMQ believes the pros should adopt a modified version of the nuthin'-but-exciting NCAA system. Alternating possessions, but with possessions starting at midfield, not the downhill 25, so that scoring is hardly automatic. Also, turnover returns would count. A team getting a takeaway and advancing it would start its possession at that point, rather than the 50. A team returning a turnover for a touchdown would simply win (Team A has the ball and Team B runs it back, equal number of possessions), allowing for retention of a partial sudden-death effect.


Last Week's Challenge: TMQ asked for the goofiest "Miss ______" title.


Ben Rogers of Knoxville noted that Tennessee's Mule Day Festival elects a Mule Queen. Philip Jacobs of Centerville, Tenn., reports that the annual Milan, Tenn. celebration of no-till farming chooses a Miss No Till. Lanna Keck, Miss Tennessee of 1997, got her first break in the business as Miss No Till. Jamie Paquette of Brooklyn proposes Miss Rodeo Idaho, whose current title holder, Amanda Kent, has won competitions for "barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, breakaway roping and team roping."

Power tools and bikinis -- it's like bacon and eggs isn't it?
Marv Murray of Augusta, Ga., notes that Ridgid Tools, whose swimsuit calendars hang in every garage and body shop in the country, hands out a Miss Ridgid Tool. Preview the calendar babes here

. Tom Vasich of Costa Mesa, Cali., noted that Marilyn Monroe got one of her first breaks being named the 1947 Artichoke Queen. According to the history page of the California Artichoke Festival, "It's a little-known fact that Marilyn continued to enjoy her love affair with artichokes and it is rumored this contributed to her marital troubles with Joe DiMaggio." Huh? Artichokes contributed to Marilyn's martial troubles with Joltin' Joe? Is the California Artichoke Festival trying to suggest that she preferred using artichokes to -- ?


Rhett Hall of Bayville, N.Y., notes that the annual Morgan City, La., Shrimp and Petroleum Festival names a King and Queen. "Shrimp and petroleum" sounds like something on the menu in a Cajun restaurant.


Karen of Alexandria notes that the county fair in Charles County, Maryland, a tobacco-farming area, chooses a Queen Nicotina.


Josh Hummert of Madison, Wisc., conveys that Angela Hemauer is the current reigning Alice in Dairyland, spokesqueen for Wisconsin dairy products. According to her official bio, Angela is a Cornell University grad with her degree in animal science, and relaxes by running marathons. No swimsuit photo, sadly.

Greta Jordan of Ayden, N.C., reports that her town annually names a Miss Collard Greens. She could not find any pictures of past winners, and adds, "Maybe that's not such a bad thing."


Andrew Heath of Baltimore notes the annual Ugly Truck contest in Hampton Roads, Virginia, names a Miss Ugly Truck; hazy snapshots of the mega-babe candidates are available here.


Keir Johnson of Woodbury, Minn., notes that the annual Minnesota State Fair chooses a dairy spokesqueen with the odd name Princess Kay of the Milky Way. Winners get a bust of themselves sculpted entirely in butter; see Stephanie Hoeft being sculpted here. See the current reigning Princess, Sarah Olson, here. The pageant's sponsor sternly warns that a winner must accept "duties on behalf of the dairy farmers in your county," including touring with the exhibit "Milk: From Cow to You"

Somehow we don't think this is the dream of most Arizona girls.
Brad Twarowski of Spring Grove, Ill., notes that the Miss Arizona Dream Girl competition spreads the wealth by choosing someone every month; gawk at Miss Arizona Dream Girl of January, Aubry Ballard, here.


Gary Ward of Cranberry, Penn., reports that each year the town of Geneva, Ohio, names a Miss Grapette. A past winner reports here that "Being Miss Grapette has been the most amazing experience ... I had to learn to properly do the queen wave, act like a queen and smile, smile, smile."


Many female readers, including Sheila Woodward of Yankton, S.D., and Tina Miles of Upland, Ind., expressed horror over the Iowa Pork Queen. Reigning queen Dawn Kruger and her princess Stacey Schmidt may be gasped at here.


This week's Challenge goes to Kristy Bowie of Ithaca, N.Y., who reports that the annual Spring Ho Festival in Lampasas, Texas, chooses a Miss Spring Ho. The current reigning Miss Spring Ho is Elizabeth Rollins; sadly, TMQ could not locate her likeness.


Promoters depict the Spring Ho Festival as a family event. "I never thought something with the word 'ho' in it would be described as family-oriented," Kristy notes. But Kristy, Eminem is now being pitched as a mainstream act, and every other word he speaks is "ho." Probably soon Eminem will have a zany, laff-riot sitcom called "The Ho and Me."

Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses -- yearning to eat the other white meat.
This Week's Challenge: If you were a judge interviewing prospective NFL cheer-babes -- or cheer-hunks, for female readers -- what (printable) questions would you ask? Explain here.


TMQ Season Finale! Be sure to read next week to find out:

Will the football gods send a typhoon to force the Raiders and Bucs to run?
Will Jon "I Was A Teenaged Coach" Gruden get carded at the San Diego Hooters?
Were the Moon landings faked?
What is the sinister conspiracy behind dog candy?
Do dogs have constitutional rights?
How many cheap, gratuitous swimsuit photos can be crammed into one column?
Who finished last in TMQ's annual Bad Predictions Review?
Who will commit the Single Worst Play of Super Bowl XXXVII?

Don't miss the incredible season finale of Tuesday Morning Quarterback!

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 9:22 AM

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January 7, 2003

Blitz happens

POST #    532

Blitz happens
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

If you would know one thing about the 2001 NFL season, know this! In November 2001, the Patriots played the Rams, blitzed 39 times and lost. Two months later in the Super Bowl, the Patriots played the Rams, blitzed eight times and won. Of course the blitz sometimes works -- mainly when unexpected, such as on first down. But as Tuesday Morning Quarterback has relentlessly emphasized this season, the blitz usually backfires when expected, such as on third-and-long.

All season TMQ has been offering examples of blitz-expected plays in which blitzes led to big gains for the offense, whereas straight defense might have led to a stop. Readers have protested that these may be isolated examples. TMQ responded by promising that, once the postseason rolled around and yours truly obsessively watches every play of every game, that I'd chart the blitz versus straight defense. This weekend I did and the evidence leads to an irrefutable conclusion: Stop Me Before I Blitz Again!

TMQ's incredibly scientifically advanced methodology was as follows. I charted every snap on which a blitz is expected -- third-and-long (four yards or longer, considering that in the modern NFL many teams line up in the shotgun on third-and-one); second-and-10 or longer; and goal-to-go if five yards or more. For the Colts-Jets and Falcons-Packers blowouts, I stopped at the end of the third quarter, on the assumption that stats in the late stages of blowouts don't mean much. For the awesome Browns-Steelers and Giants-Niners tilts, I logged every snap.

Through the weekend's four games, there were 93 blitz-expected downs. Teams blitzed on 33 of these snaps. The 33 blitzes resulted in eight stops, meaning incompletions or completions short of the marker; one interception; no sacks; six touchdowns for the offense; 16 offensive first downs; and a total of 357 yards passing. That's nine positive results for the blitzing defense and 22 positive results for the blitzed offense. (Results don't add up exactly to the total snaps owing to plays that resulted neither in drive stops nor first downs.) Overall, in expected-blitz situations, offenses averaged 10.8 yards per pass against the blitz.

Teams played straight defense on 60 of the snaps in expected-blitz situations. The 60 straight-defense snaps resulted in 34 stops; five sacks; three interceptions; four touchdowns for the offense; 11 offensive first downs; and a net after sacks of 313 yards passing. (Again, totals don't exactly add up.) That's 42 positive results for the straight defense and 15 positive results for the offense against a straight defense. Overall, against straight defense in expected-blitz situations, offenses averaged 5.2 yards per pass play.

James Farrior
Obviously someone on the Steelers reads TMQ.
Breaking these stats down, the blitz was 60/40 positive for the offense and allowed 10.8 yards per passing attempt, almost double the 2002 league average of 6.5 yards per attempt. The straight defense was 70/30 positive for the defense and allowed 5.2 yards per passing attempt, somewhat less than the 2002 league average.

Your Honor, I rest my case.

In other NFL news, this is the moment the whole season has built up to -- eight teams left, seven games left, someone will snatch the One Ring from Sauron -- and you'd think fan interest would be peaking. But at this point each year, interest begins to decline.

During the regular season, no matter how badly any game goes, each team's backers can dream that next week will be better. (Note: does not apply to Bengals.) Now for most there is no next week, with 24 of 32 cities out. Most fans are already dreaming of next year, already scanning draftnik web sites and free-agency lists. A week from now all but four cities will be out. By the time the Super Bowl kicks off, in theory the biggest football event of the season will be happening, but in practice the faithful of 30 of 32 teams -- 94 percent of the NFL fan base -- won't really care that much. Hold the draft! Start training camp! That's what millions are already thinking. Note: does not apply to Bengals.

Playoff Coaching Pressure Analysis No. 1 -- Colts at Jets: TMQ loves Tony Dungy, but the guy is the new Marv Levy when it comes to the postseason. Like Levy, Dungy believes a playoff game is just another game. They emphatically are not just another game. Dungy teams have been blown out in their last three playoff appearances, losing by a combined 93-12. TMQ wrote in his preseason AFC preview, "Some harmonic force has drawn Dungy, who can't win in January, to the NFL's current exemplar of can't-win-in-January syndrome, the Horsies having honked both their postseason appearances with Peyton Manning." Peyton has now honked three of three. Dungy is now 2-5 lifetime once it's money time. Ye gods.

Like Mike Sherman (see below), Dungy stood impassively as his team imploded in the game the entire season had been leading up to. Like Mike Sherman (see below), Dungy seemed not to have prepared for the fact that his quarterback has a history of pressing in playoff games, and like Mike Sherman (see below) had nothing special in the way of a game-plan for the Jets. How about a rushing game-plan to take the pressure off Manning? In the first half, the Lucky Charms passed 17 times and ran nine times. True, the run wasn't producing much, but the run often starts off poorly on the road. Indianapolis went into all-passing panic when it was only the second quarter; the rest was silence.

Peyton Manning
Manning's chicken dance is available for weddings and bar mitzvahs.
That Dungy prepared nothing special was shown especially in Manning's pre-snap arming flapping, which against Jersey/B reached the point of seeming a Monty Python sketch. Manning looked like an inebriated chicken approaching center. How about preparing a game-plan surprise by having Manning not do any chicken dancing? The Jets spent all week rehearsing switching their defense at the last conceivable second, after Manning finished flapping -- and anybody who simply reads the New York newspapers knew the Jets were rehearsing this. Had Manning not danced, Jersey/B would have been taken by surprise. Instead the Colts did exactly what they'd done in every recent game, which played into Jersey/B's hands.

Manning's chicken-wings act actively backfired on the down that sealed the Colts' season. The Jets leading 17-0, Indianapolis faced third-and-one with 2:21 remaining in the half. Before the snap, Manning waved and flapped like one of those 19th-century loons who pasted feathers on his arms trying to fly; Manning then walked up and down the line whispering a fake audible to every lineman. Snap, and Edgerrin James is dropped in the backfield for a loss; the Colts punt; the Jets score quickly and it's a depressing 24-0 at the half. Not one but two Jersey/B defenders came through untouched by human hands to maul James. Blockers have to make their reads and concentrate before the snap; Manning doing his impersonation of a chicken served only to distract them on this play.

Worse, as things went downhill, Dungy simply quit. See "Why Are You Punting?" below.

Playoff Coaching Pressure Analysis No. 2 -- Falcons at Packers: Just 10 days ago, Green Bay looked like the team to beat. Coming off a monster Week 15 win against the Niners in San Francisco, and a win against Buffalo a week later, the Packers were 12-3. They controlled their destiny for home-field and had never lost a playoff game in the state of Wisconsin, where they were guaranteed at least one date. Now the Packers are a blasted hulk, outscored 69-24 in a six-day period, defeated at home in the postseason for the first time, embarrassed at home. TMQ likens the Pack to the Russian battleship Suvorov, lying on its side after going from glorious flagship of a vast imperial fleet to flaming derelict in just 45 minutes of the battle of Tsushima Straight. (For tips on how to build a model of the Suvorov, click here.

True, Green Bay was beset by injuries. In retrospect one reason Sherman must have gotten so mad about the legal-but-nasty hit by Warren Sapp late in the Packers-Bucs game is that he knew the teams that do well in the postseason are the ones that have good fortune in avoiding injuries, and the loss of tackle Chad Clifton on that play seemed to begin an injury cascade for Green Bay.

Mike Sherman
"Hello, Delta? What's the fastest flight out of town?"
But injuries are a fact of life in football, and where was Sherman's response? He had the Packers totally unprepared for their date in Jersey and the chance to win a bye and critically needed rest for the injured. Green Bay came in acting like victory would be automatic over a dejected Jersey/B squad that would have learned, just before kickoff, that it had been eliminated from the playoffs. Sherman seemed not to have considered that New England and Cleveland might pull upsets, and the Jets would learn before kickoff that a victory would put them into the postseason. When the Meadowlands crowd went berserk just as the Green Bay-Jersey/B game was about to begin, Sherman had a look about him of, "I had no idea this might happen." He should have been prepared for a worst-case scenario.

And where was Sherman's determination? The punt-muff when it was Atlanta 14, Green Bay 0 in the second quarter sums it all. Sherman didn't challenge though replays showed the rock hit a Falcon first. At first the Green Bay coach claimed a zebra told him the play, which was reviewable, could not be challenged. After the zebras denied saying this, Sherman blamed the no-challenge on his own upstairs staff.

Whatever the zebras or booth guys said or didn't say, Sherman rolled over. He should have thrown his flag and pushed his button and demanded a challenge regardless, because if Atlanta gets the ball deep in Green Bay territory and has a chance to go up 21-0, the Packers are pretty much finished. TMQ's experience watching coaches work the sidelines -- and working the sidelines himself in the county league -- is that if you doggedly, passionately insist on something the officials will almost always listen, so long as you don't use curse words. (This later was what the insult-spewing Tom Coughlin never figured out.) Green Bay's season turned on whether Sherman would doggedly, passionately demand a review of the punt-muff call and he just stood there, mute. Atlanta got the ball deep in Green Bay territory, went up 21-0 and the Packers were pretty much finished.

Green Bay coaching breakdown footnote No. 1: Scoring on the first possession of the second half to make it Atlanta 24, Green Bay 7, Sherman should have onside kicked. Sure it's a gamble, but trailing by 17 in the playoffs, you've got to take chances. The Falcons were not in an onside formation, expecting the Packers to kick away. They did and Atlanta went on a 13-play clock-grinding drive that killed seven minutes and made it 27-7. Even the football gods sending snow couldn't help Green Bay at that point.

Hailey
Attention Seattle fans!
Green Bay coaching breakdown footnote No. 2: In both its last playoff appearances, Green Bay has resembled the Russian fleet at Tsushima. In these games, defeats by the Rams and Falcons, the wonderful Brett Favre has thrown eight interceptions. Knowing that Favre's Achilles' heel is pressing and throwing picks under postseason pressure, Sherman might have come into a Wisconsin-in-January bad-weather contest with a running game plan. (Ahman Green was hurting, but so were the Pack receivers; William Henderson was available to run, and in good health.) Instead in the game's opening drives, the Packers threw 11 times and ran just eight times. By going pass-wacky early, Green Bay quickly fell behind, and everything after that was desperation.

Green Bay management breakdown footnote: In my preseason preview of the Packers I wrote, "TMQ's concern is turmoil in the receiver corps. Green Bay let go Antonio Freeman, Corey Bradford and Schroeder to replace them with Terry Glenn, Robert Ferguson and Javon Walker, who rang up a combined 14 professional receptions last year. You tell me why." Walker played pretty well, but Donald Driver, who ended up the go-to guy, was perpetually injured. Against Atlanta, Robert Ferguson was cover-your-eyes awful, dropping four passes, two of which should have been touchdowns. Green Bay management ditched an efficient if aging receiver corps to bring in a guys who drop passes in big games. On Saturday, the chickens came home to roost.

Cheerleader of the Week: The TMQ ESPN Cheerleader of the Week is Hailey of the Seattle Blue Men Group, who has caught the eyes of many readers because, according to her team bio, her profession is "company director for Victoria's Secret." Hailey majored in business administration and has 13 years of dance experience. Obviously, she knows how to suck up to a bureaucracy: on the Sea Gals team page she declares that the most influential person in her life is, "Our Sea Gals director." She also says she would like to visit "Italy, or any place with sunshine and white sand." Hailey, Iraq has sunshine and white sand.

Karen
Forget the Colts, Karen would have been captain if she suited up in Seattle.
Check out Ms. Fitness USA, Hawks cheerleader Karen. By the looks of things, the Colts could have used her at linebacker against the Jets.

Playoff Coaching Pressure Analysis No. 3 -- Browns at Steelers: Butch Davis came in with a very aggressive game plan. He expected the Steelers to choke up against the run; they did, and Davis was ready. Cleveland passed often on first down and attempted 20 throws of 20 yards or more, with several long completions. Davis was not about to go down quietly, which the football gods admire. His charges were also stoked for the hostile Ketchup Field environment.

So Davis prepared well by TMQ's playoff yardstick, which holds that the farther into the postseason you go, the more important game plans and psyche-ups become. But achieving a big lead in the fourth, Davis erred under the pressure. First, he kept passing even once the moment had come that the opponent was not the Steelers but the official timekeeper. Cleveland got ball with 8:40 remaining and a lead of 33-21. From that point on the Oranges ran on five snaps and passed on 10, including five incompletions that stopped the clock. Aye caramba! Had Cleveland in the final 8:40 simply rushed up the middle for no gain on every snap, keeping the seconds ticking, Pittsburgh would have run out of time for its last-minute comeback. Davis either authorized or failed to stop this blunder by his offensive coordinator.

Davis also either authorized or failed to stop a blunder of similar magnitude by his defensive coordinator. The error had nothing to do with blitzing. Many sportswriters and bobbleheads decreed that the Steeler comeback occurred because the Browns had been blitzing through the first three quarters but backed off in the fourth. This shows how little attention certain professional sports nuts pay to what's actually happening on the field. TMQ, who charted the game, can assure you the Browns blitzed just twice on long-yardage downs throughout the contest, once in the first half and once in the second. A principal reason Cleveland was in good shape untill the end is that it played straight defense, resisting the urge to blitz.

But at the end, everything changed. The Steelers got the ball with 5:30 remaining, still trailing 33-21. To that point the Browns had allowed 229 yards in the game's first 54:30. Everyone groan in unison: Cleveland shifted to the prevent defense. For the remainder of the game, except on two goal-line plays, Cleveland rushed just three, allowing Tommy Maddox to scan the field. After giving up 229 yards in the game's first 54:30, Cleveland gave up 138 yards in the final 5:30. All the prevent defense prevents is punts!

Butch Davis
"Sorry if I don't make eye-contact. I'm already drunk."
In the game's final minutes, what Cleveland needed was conservatism -- running to kill the clock, and straight defense instead of the dreaded fraidy-cat prevent. Davis failed to see this. Some coaches can manage sideline decision-making under pressure and some can't.

For his part, Bill Cowher adjusted by having his offense switch to no-huddle after falling behind 27-14; immediately things got better. Cowher did make one deeply puzzling call. Trailing 17-7 on the first possession of the second half, the Steelers faced third-and-one at their 38. Cowher sent in the always-injured-in-big-games Jerome Bettis, who had not appeared to that point. Looking sluggish, Bettis took the handoff and lost two. The Oranges scored on their ensuing drive to make it a 24-7 lead. Bettis was immediately yanked, this being the sole snap on which he appeared. If not for the Steeler comeback, purists would be pointing to putting in an injury player for a critical play an incredible boneheaded move.

Mega-Babe Update: Ads for ABC's new show "The Bachelorette" aren't shy about displaying its mega-babe subject, dancer Trista Rehn, looking scrumptious in a bikini. Rehn was runner-up in "The Bachelor." You mean to say that Alex "The Bachelor" guy chose Amanda, the event planner from Kansas over Trista the mega-bod because he was actually attracted to Amanda for her mind? Talk about lack of realism!

(ESPN.com and ABC are owned by the same corporate parent. TMQ shamelessly sucks up to ABC and considers this fine so long as it's disclosed. Watch "The Bachelorette" season premiere Wednesday at 9!)

Stats of the Week: On Sunday, the home teams fell behind by a combined 71-35, then came back by a combined 40-0.

Stats of the Week No. 2: In a six-day period, Jersey/B scored 83 points.

The Bachelorette
How many guys are on this show? Um, no thanks.
Stats of the Week No. 3: In a three-week period, the Lucky Charms lost to Jersey/A and Jersey/B by a combined 85-27.

Stats of the Week No. 4: Jersey/B, which in a six-day period beat the Packers and Colts by a combined 83-17, two weeks earlier lost to Chicago.

Stats of the Week No. 5: Indianapolis finished just 17 of 28 on third-and-one snaps on the year.

Stats of the Week No. 6: Five players finished the 2002 season with a passer rating of 158.3, highest possible under the NFL's cryptic formula. All were non-QBs who threw a single pass, complete for a touchdown. Who finished with the highest rating among starting quarterbacks? Chad Pennington.

Stats of the Week No. 7: Of the 33 games Butch Davis has coached for the Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.1), 20 have gone down to the final play.

Stats of the Week No. 8: The new streak for playoff victories when the game temperature is below freezing is held by Atlanta.

Playoff Coaching Pressure Analysis No. 4 -- Giants at Niners: Steve Mariucci fell behind big at home. Was his team overconfident? Unprepared? TMQ had been warning in recent weeks that the Squared Sevens looked unfocused. But whatever mistakes Mariucci made in preparation, he compensated for by an outstanding sideline performance.

Jeff Garcia
Hottest dancing in Cali since Mark Madsen.
Once the Niners were behind 38-14 in the third and a full-bore emergency was in progress, Mariucci didn't shrug and concede as Tony Dungy did in a comparable situation. (See "Why Are You Punting?") Mariucci and his assistants made two significant adjustments. First, they let the offense go no-huddle, and immediately it snapped out of its funk. The tempo of no-huddle seemed to cure whatever had been ailing the Niners' attack. San Francisco even went no-huddle when the clock was stopped, several times rushing to the line for a quick hike after an incompletion. The Giants seemed incapable of sustaining such a pace -- it helped that their bodies were three time-zones off. By the mid fourth quarter, the Jersey/A front seven was sucking air, visibly exhausted.

Mariucci and his staff made a significant shift on defense as well. The Niners opened in a man-to-man, crowding the line to stop the Jersey run, about which San Francisco was concerned -- Tiki Barber was the only top-10 rusher to make the postseason. In the first half, the Giants reacted correctly, throwing against the man. And despite the fact that San Francisco has carpeted-bombed the cornerback position with high draft picks (three No. 1s and two No. 2s in recent years), Niners corners needed only butter and jam to make toast. All six Giants' scoring drives came against man defenses. Late in the third, the Niners switched to a two-deep zone. This made Jersey/A passes more difficult, and the Giants failed to score again in the game. Of course, the two-deep has its own weaknesses; see below. At any rate Mariucci's two tactical changes sparked a 24-0 run and the second-best playoff comeback in the known history of the universe.

As for Jim Fassel, he obviously has done quite a bit right. From the early-November point at which he took over playcalling, and at which Fassel is clearly gifted, the Giants went 7-3, made an improbable playoff run and came within a botched snap of glorious victory on a distant field. Fassel, like Butch Davis, also came into a hostile stadium with an aggressive game plan and executed it well through the first three quarters.

But like Davis, Fassel did not adjust as game conditions changed. When the Niners shifted to a two-deep zone, they offered the visitors the run. Leading by 24 points with only a little more than a quarter remaining, a deep zone against which to run should have been exactly what the Giants wanted. Rush! Grind the clock!

Jim Fassel
"Hey! My offense still scored 38 points!"
Yet from the point that Jersey/A took its 38-14 lead with 4:30 remaining in the third, until the Giants began their frantic final-minute drive to recover from the collapse, Fassel called seven passes and five runs. Had the Giants simply run up the middle for no gain on every one of those snaps, they probably would now be preparing to play Tampa. Yet Fassel seemed incapable of doing the obvious and simply grinding the clock. He appeared so in love with the thought of running up the score and getting praised for another offensive-genius performance, so eager to see Jeremy Shockey and Amani Toomer dance and finger-point anew, that he ignored one of the most basic premises of football tactics: when ahead late, go boring and run. And he ignored this basic premise when the Niners were showing a run-friendly defensive look. Ye gods.

The killer stat about the mother of all playoff comebacks, Buffalo rallying from a 35-3 deficit in the third to beat the old Houston Oilers, was that from the point at which the Oilers took their 35-3 lead, they passed 22 times and rushed six times. This was in the pass-wacky "run-and-shoot" era, when Houston did not even have a tight end on the roster. Still, had the Oilers simply rushed up the middle for no gain on every snap after taking the 35-3 edge, Buffalo would have run out of time, and the mother of all comebacks would not have happened.

Sunday's daughter of all comebacks was different, as Fassel did make some attempt to rush after attaining the big edge. But the dynamic was the same: neither the Oilers, ahead by 32, nor the Giants, ahead by 24, could accept that the timekeeper was now their opponent, and the way to defeat the timekeeper is by going boring. The Oilers of 1993 and the Giants of 2003 each seemed obsessed with more points so there would be more to boast about in the morning; each kept putting the ball in the air; each paid the price, and the football gods chortled.

Giants coaching breakdown footnote No. 1: Leading by five with three minutes left, Jersey/A faced fourth-and-one at the San Francisco 24. The Niners were down to two timeouts.

Matt Bryant
Somewhere, Scott Norwood is laughing hysterically.
Normally you'd say kick for an eight-point lead and two chances to win the endgame: first by stopping a touchdown, second by stopping a deuce try. But the Giants have had shaky kicking all season, and changed long snappers last week owing to an injury. In his heyday, Trey Junkin was one of the best snappers ever, lauded in TMQ's disquisition on snappers. But Junkin is also a 19-year vet who retired after the Cowboys released him in training camp. He was awakened from a sound sleep last Tuesday morning with an offer to report to the Giants on Wednesday. Junkin was such a recent arrival that the team's official roster for the Niners gamelisted him as a "rookie" and was blank on college and age.

At any rate the options Fassel faced were try for the first -- at least a 50/50 chance -- and the game is probably over; or kick and hit; or kick and miss and the Niners get good field position. Since the run was going well, the Giants averaging 4.1 yards per carry, going for it seemed attractive. Instead, Fassel kicked and missed, following a bad snap. The memory of the failed fourth-and-one in the Giants' season opener against the Niners must have been in Fassel's mind. But that was then and this was now. Knowing, as Fassel did, how bollixed his snapper situation was, why did he take a long-shot chance on a field goal that only somewhat helps, rather than a 50/50 chance on victory?

Best Loss of 15: With Cleveland leading 14-7 and two minutes left in the half, second-and-goal, Oranges wideout Kevin Johnson got the ball on a trick play that was supposed to be a pass back to the quarterback. Black-clad gentlemen in his face, Johnson simply took the sack, losing 15 yards. "What a great play!" TMQ exclaimed. Most trick-play men in this situation heave-ho a crazy pass. As it was, Cleveland notched a field goal on the possession and had a solid 10-point lead when the boys went in for hot cocoa at the half.

Best Self-Actualization: Three weeks ago, the Squared Sevens lost to the Packers in part because Jeff Garcia passed rather than running on several key downs. TMQ wrote, "The ethos of the quarterback -- enforced by sports pundits and bobblehead comments -- is that passing yards somehow count more than scramble yards. Though the gentleman in question scrambles effectively, you could almost see Garcia mentally calculating that it is more impressive to throw for the deciding gain than to run for it. Oh, how the Niners would later wish he had run." The item concluded, "Memo to Jeff Garcia: come to terms with yourself. You like to run. That's okay. Just run."

In the Niners' daughter of all comebacks, Garcia ran seven times for 60 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown off the naked boot. Jeff Garcia has come to terms with himself. He likes to run. That's okay. Just run.

Tony Dungy
No, Tony it isn't the swamp. It's your team that stinks.
Why Are You Punting?Trailing 27-0 in the middle of the third, the Colts faced fourth-and-eight from their 43. There's no tomorrow. There's no ranking computer that takes into account margin of victory or defeat. Indianapolis has no choice but to go for it! Instead Tony Dungy calls a punt. TMQ writes the words "game over" in his notebook, and for emphasis the Jets score on their ensuing possession. Sure fourth and eight is a long shot, but trailing by 27 you've got to take some chances, and this is a chance at midfield. Bad enough that NFL coaches, more concerned with avoiding criticism than going all-out to win, punt when trailing big late in regular-season games. But in playoff games there's no tomorrow! Why are you punting?

Why Are You Kicking? Behind 27-7 at the end of the third quarter, the Packers faced fourth-and-ten at the Atlanta 26. There's no tomorrow. There's no ranking computer that takes into account margin of victory or defeat. Green Bay has no choice but to go for it! Mike Sherman calls a field-goal attempt, and TMQ writes the words "game over" in his notebook; outraged, the football gods push the try wide. Even had the field goal hit, the Packers still would have trailed by three scores. Bad enough that NFL coaches, more concerned with avoiding criticism than going all-out to win, listlessly order field-goal attempts when trailing big late in regular-season games. But in playoff games there's no tomorrow! Why are you kicking?

Also, Pepsi Blue Would Be Great Without the Blue: Over the holidays, the Official Family of TMQ sampled new Vanilla Diet Coke. Official Brother Frank exclaimed, "This would taste pretty good if they took out the vanilla." Hey -- what a marketing concept! Coke, are you listening?

Music City Miracle; Candlestick Memory Lapse G-Person fans are groaning on this admission from the league that offsetting penalties should have been called on the final play of the Niners-Giants game, allowing a re-kick. And it's worse than the league admission makes it sound. Check the official Game Book, and you will see that guard Rich Seubert, who had reported eligible, was the one flagged for being illegally downfield. He was a legal receiver and should have drawn the pass-interference flag. Another Giants OL was downfield illegally, which is why the correct call would have been offsetting penalties and do-over for Jersey/A.

This is a reason why OLs should not play end in field-goal formations. Zebras are human beings, and they judge who's allowed downfield by the numbers on their jerseys. Some coaches believe you should never have linemen in the end positions for field goals, have tight ends or fullbacks there -- because if they do wind up downfield, by human nature the zebras might not remember which one was supposed to be eligible. This problem doesn't happen on tackle-eligible trick plays, because there's only one OL reporting as eligible and the fact that he is reporting is unusual and sticks in the officials' minds. Linemen reporting eligible on field goal attempts, on the other hand, are routine events and 99.9 percent of the time mean nothing to the play. The one time it did, the zebras forgot.

Bonus measure of human nature: none of the Fox bobbleheads who talked about the replay on and off for 15 minutes noticed this, either. Most telling, even the Giants coaches did not notice! Fassel did not protest to officials at the time that Seubert was eligible, and no Giants coaches mentioned it in the immediate aftermath of the game. Only after reviewing film did the Giants' own staff realize their man was eligible. Like many teams, the Giants before kickoff told the officials they would have linemen in eligible positions on every field-goal play; by the time the crunch happened almost four hours later, both officials and Giants staff had forgotten. Teams should avoid this problem by having gentlemen with eligible numbers in eligible positions on field goals, and lining up blockers as eligible only on trick plays.

TMQ Non-QB Non-RB MVP: The Associated Press MVP award has gone to Rich Gannon. Or rather, one should say the Associated Press Best QB/RB award has gone to Gannon. The AP trophy, generally recognized as the official NFL MVP designation -- the league itself treats it this way -- has been handed out to 47 gentlemen over the years. Just five were neither quarterbacks nor running backs: Gino Marchetti, Joe Schmidt, Alan Page, Mark Moseley and Lawrence Taylor.

The Sporting News NFL Player of the Year award, due soon, should likewise be called the Sporting News Best QB/RB award. This prize has gone to 53 gentlemen over the years and a mere two, Taylor and Lou Groza, were not offensive backfield glory boys.

Which brings us to the really big award of the season, the TMQ NFL Non-QB Non-RB MVP.

Rich Gannon
You don't win an MVP without someone making sure you don't end up eating turf.
TMQ is a purist and views "most valuable" through the lens of meaning: Whose loss would have hurt his team most? Linebacker Derrick Brooks, the only non-QB non-RB to receive a vote in this year's MVP balloting, would be an attractive choice. He led the Bucs defense to a No. 1 finish, and scored three touchdowns on pick returns. Jason Taylor was a legit Non-QB Non-RB MVP candidate until he went mental in the closing minutes of Miami's collapse at Disposable Razor Field, but then the entire Marine Mammals team went mental along with him. Pittsburgh's Joey Porter is also a legit candidate. Lance Schulters might have meant more to his defense than any other player in the league this season, including Brooks; he was the main reason Tennessee's defense rebounded from an awful year in 2001 to monster status in 2002. The Philadelphia offense would have been going nowhere fast without Tra Thomas. Same for Jersey/B without Kevin Mawae.

Worthy as these gentlemen are, the 2002 TMQ NFL Non-QB Non-RB MVP is Lincoln Kennedy of the Raiders. Oakland finished first in offense in part because no one bothered Gannon while he sat back watching those crossing routes and "rub" patterns develop. Everybody knew Oakland was pass-wacky; everybody knew another pass was coming; nobody could put a sweaty hand on Gannon's jersey. Fine line play was the key to the Raiders' success this season. Kennedy was the best Raider lineman, maybe the best lineman of 2002 period, and is the TMQ NFL Non-QB Non-RB MVP.

'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All No. 1: Leading 33-28 with the Pittsburgh comeback in progress and the Ketchup Field crowd generating afterburner-decibel noise, the Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.1) had the ball at their 23 with 3:06 remaining and the Steelers holding two timeouts. The Oranges went run, incompletion, incompletion, punt; Pittsburgh got the ball back at 2:35 remaining, Cleveland having burned a paltry 31 seconds - and left the Steelers holding a timeout, since the incompletions stopped the clock.

Both Cleveland incompletions were drops beyond the first-down marker; had either been caught, the Oranges probably would have won. Especially here, had the Oranges simply rushed up the middle for no gain on all three plays, the Steelers might have run out of time. At the least, Pittsburgh would have been nervous about the clock on the closing plays. As it was, the Steelers arrived in the shadow of the Cleveland goal line with a minute left, sufficient time to feel confident.

TMQ, Grammar Snob:"It looks like we'll have cold temperatures tomorrow." Weather-bobbleheads constantly use this construction. But temperatures are mathematical concepts. Temperatures can be high or low, weather can be cold or warm: there cannot be cold temperatures.

Genie costume
I think it's safe to say we all dream of genie now.
TMQ Is Better Than Other Football Columns Because It's Raunchier: Officials of Frederick's of Hollywood, which is attempting a comeback, recently told the Wall Street Journal their wares are better than those of Victoria's Secret because Frederick's is "raunchier." Hailey of the Sea Gals, you'd better discuss with the marketing department the need to get raunchier. This is, after all, a long-term national trend. Check the latest in erotic corset technology here. For the holidays, any babe would look like a present in a genie-themed teddy. Frederick's naughty French maid's costume is much better than the one in the Budweiser ad, but is the model holding a duster or a whip? Frederick's signature feather boa now comes in four colors.

In another sign of the decline of Western civilization, the company has begun selling men's apparel too. Female and nontraditional male readers, check out the washboard abs of the hunk displaying the tiger kimono robe.

'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All No. 2: Trailing 21-0 in the second quarter, the Packers had first-and-goal at the Falcons' one. Did Green Bay pound, pound, pound for the 99-percent likely score? Passes on two of four snaps, both incomplete, turnover on downs, ye gods. "Why is Green Bay passing so much from the one?" asked Grant, an Official Child of TMQ. To which TMQ could only reply, "Because they plan on ending their home playoff winning streak."

Maybe It Could Be Steven Spielberg's The Park at Candlestick Directed by Steven Spielberg: "Here at the -- what is this stadium called?" Joe Buck asked while broadcasting the Giants-Niners. The other bobbleheads couldn't answer, and several times through the broadcast referred to the mystery of what the field is called now.

3com Park
Forget the scoreboard, the name on the park should be digital.
Once it was Candlestick Park, one of the storied names in sports. Then it was 3Com Park, a storied name in tech stocks just long enough to bilk thousands of investors. The Visa card commercials (the ones that show a Garcia touchdown pass) still call it 3Com Park, and the Niners official site does too. When, however, 3Com stopped payment on its checks, the San Francisco City Council renamed the venue The Park at Candlestick Point. Please! The new name sounds like a condo development, or a fern bar with chardonnay at $12 the glass. Why not just revert to Candlestick Park, one of the storied names in sports?

From now until it gets a real name, TMQ will refer to this facility as Ye Olde Parke at Candlestick Pointe.

Two Cheers for Terrell Owens: What to make of Terrell Owens? After the Niners scored to take a 39-38 lead with a minute left, he committed personal fouls on successive downs -- first taunting, then a late hit. Either might have given Jersey/B excellent field position for a field goal to win, had not the Giants' Shaun Williams each time jumped in and committed an offsetting, equally boneheaded foul in retaliation against Owens. Williams ended up the Dwayne-Rudd-esque idiot of the game.

But imprudent as TO made himself seem, TMQ must note that when the Niners scored to make it 38-20 with barely more than a quarter remaining -- it's over, right? -- Owens went absolutely nuts, exhorting his teammates, screaming at them on the sidelines that they had to pull it out. He continued to be emotionally pumped throughout the contest, going nuts after almost every play. Owens' emotion might have helped the Niners more than any of his catches or deuces as the daughter of all comebacks proceeded. The football gods might not approve of dumb penalties Owens committed, but they smiled on his commitment. Great comebacks start with someone who refuses to lose.

Antwaan Randle El
Thanks to Antwaan, you'll have to take the Browns to the Super Bowl in private.
Sweet Play of the Day: Scoring with 54 seconds left to take the lead at 34-33, the Steelers wanted a deuce -- when the endgame is clear, even TMQ favors the 40 percent deuce try. Tommy Maddox sprinted off the field. Hines Ward lined up at quarterback, then went in motion. Antwaan Randle El took the direct snap and rolled right, then threw to Jerame Tuman for two. What a sweet play. But -- can't anyone on the Steelers use standard first-name spellings? ("Jerame" is pronounced "Jeremy.")

Maybe the Jets Line Should Be the Non-QB Non-RB MVP: As TMQ endlessly notes, screen passes, which should be high-percentage plays, often wheeze out because linemen charge downfield as if they themselves were running for touchdowns, neglecting to paste the first guy they can put a pad on. Often screen blockers end up hitting no one, so intent are they in charging downfield as if they themselves were running for touchdowns. Also, screen blockers tend to ignore pursuers behind the ballcarrier, though screen runners are often caught from behind.

Game scoreless in the first, on Jersey/B's first possession Richie Anderson took a screen 56 yards to the house owing to perfecto blocking. Guard Randy Thomas and center Kevin Mawae led the play. Thomas pancaked the first gentlemen he could put a pad on -- screen blockers, never try to guess where the play is going, just take out the closest guy and let the runner make the decisions. Mawae saw a gentleman coming up from behind, peeled back and pancaked him. Beauty-to-behold blocking.

Aging, knees-creaking Jets guard Dave Szott also pulled and pancaked Colts DE Brad Scioli at the corner on Lamont Jordan's second-quarter touchdown. Other Jets' blocking was consistently outstanding, Chad Pennington having that clean, freshly-pressed-uniform look throughout the contest. The Jets put up one of the best blocking games TMQ has ever seen.

Or Maybe Scott Gragg: Though Jeff Garcia dropped back to pass 48 times, the Giants sacked him zero times. All-boasting Jersey/A end Michael Strahan, who has celebrated his mega contract by taking much of the season off, never got close enough to advise Garcia to use Rogaine. Strahan was a non-factor - no sacks, two tackles - despite the Niners' line missing two starters during the furious fourth-quarter comeback. Strahan was neutralized by the almost-tastefully named Scott Gragg, who pushed Strahan around as if the extremely overpaid gentleman were a practice squad player. And when TO danced after the touchdown that made it 38-20, Strahan did an act too, screaming at Owens to look at the scoreboard. Strahan, however, did not back his boasting with play; Owens did.

Hidden Play: Sometimes the biggest downs don't show up in the box scores, but sustain or stop drives. Jersey/A 38, San Francisco 30 with 10:36 remaining, the Squared Sevens faced fourth-and-one on the Giants' 29. A stop by Jersey/A and the furious Niners' comeback might wheeze out. Jeff Garcia play-faked, then eyed his primary, then checked off to his secondary, then checked off to Tai Streets over the middle for a junky-looking four-yard gain. The Niners score a field goal on the possession and go on to win by one. This junky-looking four-yard gain was the biggest hidden play of a fantastic NFL weekend.

Also, note that the Niners took a chance on fourth-and-one in the fourth while the Giants did not in nearly identical circumstances. And whom did the football gods smile upon?

Dippin' Dots
They can invent this, but I can't get a signal on my cell phone.
In Star Trek, the Ice Cream of the Future Has Been Altered by Time Travel: Many sports facilities now sell Dipping Dots, "the ice cream of the future." TMQ is content to eat the ice cream of the past.

Football Gods Make Good a Debt One man was involved in both the Mother of All Comebacks, Buffalo-Houston in 1993, and the Daughter of All Comebacks, San Francisco-Jersey/A on Sunday. Bruce DeHaven was special-teams coach for the Bills in 1993, and is for the Niners now. DeHaven has now twice had the out-of-body experience most coaches never have, that of seeing his charges overcome an impossible lead while feeling the energy of a home crowd going nuts.

DeHaven was also the Buffalo special-teams coach for the Music City Miracle play; he was fired the following day, which is why he now toils in San Francisco. Pretty much everyone north of the Mason-Dixon Line continues to feel the Music City Miracle should have been flagged as a forward lateral. But if the football gods were cruel to DeHaven then, they repaid him Sunday as another blown call enabled DeHaven's kick defense unit to stop the Giants on the final play.

Harmonic Convergence: The last two playoffs games at Giants Stadium have both ended 41-0 for the home team.

Running Items Department:
Fiesta Bowl Bonus Coverage: Both of Miami's passing touchdowns came on big-blitzes by Ohio State, while the Buckeyes' third-and-10 interception, and several other third-and-long stops, came with Ohio State playing straight defense.

Reaching first-and-goal at the Ohio State one in the second overtime, needing a touchdown to ensure a third extra session, did Miami simply pound, pound, pound for the 99-percent likely six? Two runs and two incompletions, Ohio State is national champion. "Why is Miami passing so much from the one?" asked Grant, an Official Child of TMQ. To which TMQ could only reply, "Because they plan on ending their winning streak."

Ken Dorsey
To sum up, TMQ is always right.
The final play, fourth-and-goal from the two, was governed by TMQ's immutable law of the goal line, Regular Pass = Defeat. At the goal line, the defense has so little territory to defend that you can power-run, play-fake or roll out, but you can't regular pass. What did Miami call on fourth-and-goal from the two? Regular pass, and to top if off, Kenny Dorsey sprints backward. The defensive set, in which linebacker Cie Grant forced Dorsey into throwing the ball into the turf, might have looked like a big-blitz but wasn't. Four gentlemen pass-rushed.

Between the Miami-New England NFL game and this, Miami the city has been involved in two mega games in two weeks, and come out on the losing end of both. As fantastic as the BCS finale was, however, TMQ continues to believe the event in Tempe should be renamed the Fiasco Bowl.

New York Times Final-Score Score:. The Paper of Guesses returns to its habitual 0-4 in its triumphant attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 1-779 since TMQ began tracking.

Reader Animadversion: Quasi-suspended this week as TMQ did not read email over the holiday break. Though in our continuing coverage of the vital public-policy issue of the Eagles' cheer-babes lingerie calendar, many readers have asked to see the pose by Michelle, whose team bio says she is a professional dancer who is studying for her degree in elementary education. Once again unlike any teacher you or I ever had! Buy the calendar, which arrives in plain brown wrapping, here.

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

Michelle
I believe Van Halen said it best: "I'm hot for teacher."
TMQ Challenge: Last summer TMQ and the Official Wife of TMQ dined in Aspen, Colorado, on the tab of the super-respectable Aspen Institute, at the ultra-chic Pacifica restaurant. We do not know if our presence caused those sitting nearby to cease feeling ultra-chic.

One item on the menu: a dessert of white chocolate jalapeno mousse. Chocolate jalapeno! Wacky or pretentious combinations of ingredients have taken over restaurants; TMQ expects to see reduction of blueberry-alioli-asiago-seaweed compote on the menu at Denny's soon. A few years ago, I began to think that every possible weird combination of food ingredients had already been used. Evidently I was wrong.

What's the most wacky or pretentious thing you've seen on a restaurant menu lately? Submit here, identifying the establishment by name and city and including a Web address if the restaurant has one.

A final note. According to my contract, negotiated for me by Jon Kitna, I get a huge bonus if this column runs just six words longer. So, Happy New Year to -- .

{To ESPN.com editors from ESPN corporate management: please delete the word "you" at the end of the Easterbrook column.}

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 5:12 PM

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December 31, 2002

Affiliate follies frustrate NFL fans

POST #    531

Affiliate follies frustrate NFL fans
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

On Sunday the nation's capital, where TMQ lives, did not see Miami at New England -- the consensus five-star matchup of the day, essentially a playoff contest and, as it turned out, among the most dramatic and exciting NFL games ever played. The local affiliate of CBS, which had the rights to Miami-New England, showed instead the meaningless Jax at Indianapolis collision.

Why this ludicrous result? Miami-New England was a 1 p.m. ET kickoff, and the sold-out Cowboys at Persons game was airing on the Washington Fox affiliate at that time. League rules forbid either CBS or Fox from showing any game while a sold-out home game is airing on the opposite network. The meaningless Jax at Indy collision kicked off in the late slot, the only time the league would allow Washington's CBS affiliate to show a game this Sunday.

Think about the rule: if a home date is sold out, the other network is forbidden to air any game at the same time. In effect, this penalizes the home city for buying all the tickets to a game. Only the NFL could come up with a rule that penalizes cities for selling out their stadiums. And once again the NFL goes to unlimited expense to create a fabulous product, then prevents the public from seeing it, for the sinister purpose of -- what? Miami-New England surely would have drawn better ratings for the local CBS affiliate, even across from the home game, than did the meaningless Jax at Indy contest.

Greg Aiello, the league's spokesman, told TMQ the rule that kept the fabulous Miami-New England game off the tube -- and has kept other fabulous games off the tube in other cities, while losing home teams play meaningless contests on the opposite network -- exists because, "Our emphasis has always been on the interests of the home team." So the league has an interest in protecting the home team from competition? If the home team is playing on one channel, and there's a better game on the other channel, why can't fans decide for themselves what to watch? The home team would need to be protected from channel-switching competition only if it was so bad that home fans didn't want to watch. If the home-team game was desirable, fans would switch to it of their own accord. The rule exists, in other words, to compel viewers to watch woofer games. Ye gods.

To top it off, CBS switched much of the nation to the final two minutes of regulation of the Miami-New England game -- then switched off the overtime. Fox had the doubleheader (late game) slot for the day, and another inane league rule says that CBS or Fox must turn off an early game that goes into overtime when the doubleheader game starts on the opposite network. That is, both networks are required to turn off overtimes, the most exciting moments in pro football, in order to show the first few minutes, the least exciting moments in football, of other games.

So the year in which the NFL renewed the DirecTV monopoly on Sunday Ticket, denying the chance to watch any game to the majority of the U.S. taxpayers whose taxes fund the stadiums that make NFL profits possible, concludes with the NFL denying the nation's capital permission to watch one of the most dramatic NFL games ever. (DirecTV fans, please don't bomb me with more e-mail. I have nothing against DirecTV, which is terrific if you can get it. The problem is that only about 10 percent of Americans get it, and millions cannot receive the DirecTV signal at any price, for technical reasons).

Adam Vinatieri
While Adam Vinatieri celebrated his game-winning field goal, some NFL fans could only wish they saw such a thrilling finish.
How is it that pro football remains the nation's most popular sport despite the constant, diligent, undaunted efforts of the league front office to prevent the public from seeing the best games? At least now we enter the playoffs, when the U.S. taxpayers, who are taxed to build the stadiums that make NFL profits possible, are at last set free from the NFL's inane rules designed to prevent the best games from being seen; all playoff contests are nationally televised.

In other football news, I love New York! (Which is, for NFL purposes, located in New Jersey.) The Giants and Jets staged back-to-back monster home games that propelled each team to improbable playoff slots. Has any stadium ever before played host to contests on consecutive days in which the home teams both won and both made the playoffs in so doing? One-hundred fifty-seven thousand five-hundred and fifteen people were standing throughout most of the length of both games. Surely among the 157,515 combined attendance must be at least someone who went to both games and that person, medical experts report, will be hoarse until Valentine's Day.

Miami Collapse Point No. 1: Leading by three, the Marine Mammals had first down on their 4-yard line with 2:42 remaining in regulation and the home crowd of the defending champion Patriots making so much noise you couldn't have heard an F14 catapulted off an aircraft carrier. The Dolphins spent an entire year preparing for exactly this moment -- when you must power-run in bad weather late in the year. Ricky Williams, acquired to give the Dolphins that ability, to that point in the game had carried for 177 yards. What did Miami do? Incompletion, incompletion, scramble on a busted pass, punt.

Dave Wannstedt said afterward that he knew the Patriots would be crowding the line and didn't want Williams stuffed for no gain; it's a fair concern. But the two incompletions stopped the clock, allowing New England time to get into position for the last-minute field goal that forced overtime. Even if Williams had simply run up the middle for no gain for three straight plays, the Patriots would either have expended their time-outs, or gotten the ball back with most of the clock expired. Ye gods.

Miami Collapse Point No. 2: The kicking-game errors that catch the eyes of sports bobbleheads are blocked kicks, missed figgies or fumbled returns. But subtler events can be killers, too. The reason the Marine Mammals were mired on their 4 with 2:42 to play was that return man Travis Minor spent several crucial seconds staring at a New England kickoff, doing nothing. Miami had its return team up, in case of an onside; New England kicked away. The ball bounced around close to the goal line and Minor seemed confused about whether it was a punt -- returners are coached never to touch punts inside the 10 -- or a kickoff, a live ball. As Pats descended to dive on the live ball, Minor finally woke up and fielded it, but was buried at his 4. Had he simply fielded the ball like any normal kickoff, the Dolphins would not have been mired near their goal line.

Dave Wannstedt
Dave Wannstedt ponders the many reasons for Miami's collapse.
Then, following the perplexing all-passing series, Miami punted from its 11 with 2:18 remaining in regulation. Mark Royals shanked a hideous 23-yard punt, putting New England in business at the Mammals' 34. After the figgie that forced a fifth session, the Pats won the toss. Olindo Mare kicked off out of bounds, putting New England in business at its 40. Combined, these kicking-game blunders handed the Patriots about 50 yards of field position in the game's closing moments, about the same as New England itself gained.

Miami Collapse Point No. 3: The Mammals missed the playoffs when their defense, ranked third in the league, could not hold fourth-quarter leads in consecutive weeks, including an 11-point lead with three minutes to play against New England.

Worst Stationary Packer No. 1: Game scoreless in the first, the Packers had Jersey/B facing second and eight. The Jets called a fly to Laveranues Coles on the right sideline. Packers corner Mike McKenzie simply let Coles go by, McKenzie being busy making the high-school mistake of "looking into the backfield" trying to guess the play. The play was a pass to his man, completed for 43 yards. The Jets score a touchdown two snaps later and suddenly the heavily favored Pack has a problem.

Worst Stationary Packer No. 2: Now trailing by that touchdown, the Packers had third-and-goal at the Jets' 4 late in the second quarter. The play was a roll-out right. Inexperienced Pack receiver Robert Ferguson cut across the end zone from the left and his man fell down; Ferguson came to an all-stop halt and stood waving his hand. Brett Favre, meanwhile, was scrambling on the right. When the quarterback is scrambling, the rule for receivers is that they either come back toward him or break deep for the end zone. Since you can't break deep toward the end zone when you are already in the end zone, Ferguson should have come back toward Favre. Instead he stood like a statute and by the time the pass was launched his way, a Jersey/B defender had reacted and managed to knock the ball down. Green Bay had to settle for three and suddenly the heavily favored Pack looks shaky.

Worst Stationary Packer No. 3: Wayne Chrebet of Jersey/B cooked the Packers' goose by twice catching touchdowns on third-and-12. Both times he was covered by corner Tod McBride. Both times he ran the spin-Z-in (spin-Zed-in to Canadians). Both times McBride, who was backed off, just stood there watching Chrebet, not even moving until the reception had been made and the small green gentleman was headed toward the end zone.

Cindy
Honestly, Cindy, you're too principled for acting or advertising.
Cheerleader of the Week: We can't bid adieu to the high-aesthetic-appeal Miami cheer-babes till next summer without honoring one more, so the TMQ ESPN Cheerleader of the Week is Cindy of the Dolphins. According to her team bio, Cindy has nine years of ballet training, including at the Joffrey in New York. She aspires "to become an actress or work in the field of advertising." Cindy reports that she is ethnically Hispanic, likes Thai food and the one thing she can't stand is "dishonesty." But she wants to go into acting or advertising?

Future historians will pour over the Marine Mammals' ultra-serious Cheerleader History page, which among things recounts how over the years the Miami cheer-babes first had, then discarded, and now have again go-go boots.

Why Are You Punting? Trailing 6-0 in the late third, Chicago faced fourth-and-seven on the City of Tampa 38. Go for it? Hoist a 55-yard field goal attempt with a strong-legged kicker who earlier this year hit from 53? Bears coach Dick Jauron decided to punt; the punt rolled into the end zone for a touchback and a laughable net of 18 yards; emboldened by Chicago's mincing fraidy-cat play, the Bucs staged a 16-play drive that put the game out of reach. The 4-11 Bears came into the night with nothing to lose. Trailing, they punted from the opposition 38. Aye caramba.

Why Are You Kicking? Trailing 20-0 with 27 ticks remaining in the half, the Bengals faced fourth-and-goal on the Buffalo 2. Cincinnati coach Dick LeBeau decided to kick the field goal. Now he's only behind 20-3; whoopee! The 2-13 Bengals came into the game with nothing to lose. They're behind by 20 points. Trailing big you've got to take some chances, and there aren't going to be many chances more attractive than a snap on the opposition 2-yard line. LeBeau seemed more concerned with avoiding a shutout than trying for victory. Aye caramba.

They Once Were Kings No. 1: The Ravens defense, just two years ago allowing the fewest points ever, had the Steelers at midfield, nine seconds remaining in the half, Pittsburgh out of time outs. The Steelers can either Hail Mary or throw a deep out hoping for field goal position. Since the Ravens know these are the only options, there's no way Baltimore will allow a Pittsburgh receiver to get to the sidelines, right? Deep out to Plaxico Burress, who immediately steps out of bounds at the 25, stopping the clock; the Ravens DB looked like he had absolutely no idea this was coming. Field goal on the next snap and the Ravens trail 20-14 at the half. Yumpin' yiminy.

Antwaan Randle El, Lee Mays
Antwaan Randle El, left, celebrates after burning the Baltimore defense.
They Once Were Kings No. 2: "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 long TMQ counted as Tommy Maddox scanned the field before heave-hoeing the winning pass to Antwaan Randle El in the fading moments against the Ravens defense, which just two years ago allowed the fewest points ever.

'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All No. 1: Leading by a touchdown with 6:08 remaining in the fourth, San Diego got the ball on its own 24. On the possession the Bolts, the league's seventh-ranked rushing team, ran once and passed six times. Four of the six passes were incompletions, stopping the clock. After the punt, the Seattle Blue Men Group staged an 18-play drive to score with five seconds remaining and force overtime, during which San Diego lost. Had the Chargers simply rushed up the middle for no gain on every snap of their possession, Seattle would have run out of time.

'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All No. 2: In terrible conditions at Not Bankrupt Yet Coliseum, Kansas City passed 13 times and rushed eight times while the game was close in the first half; Oakland passed 11 times and ran 28 times through the same period. Sure, the Chiefs did not have Priest Holmes. But how could they possibly have thought passing was going to work in a downpour?

Stats of the Week: Kansas City, the league's highest-scoring team and the league's second-best in turnover differential, finished last in its division.

Stats of the Week No. 2: In the past two seasons, San Diego has started a combined 11-3 and finished a combined 2-16.

Stats of the Week No. 3: In the past two seasons, New Orleans has started a combined 14-7 and finished a combined 2-9.

Stats of the Week No. 4: In the past two seasons, Chicago has gone on streaks of 13-3 and then 4-13.

Stats of the Week No. 5: The Giants won to make the playoffs despite fumbling seven times at home.

Stats of the Week No. 6: Miami lost and missed the playoffs despite a 140-yard edge in rushing yards and being plus-two in turnovers on the road.

Stats of the Week No. 7: Before this season, no defending Super Bowl champion had ever allowed three opponents to exceed 200 yards rushing. New England allowed four.

Stats of the Week No. 8: San Diego's season finished on a downer when its defense could not hold a 14-point lead at home with seven minutes to play.

Stats of the Week No. 9: Since the moment two years ago when the tastefully named Gregg Williams junked the cautious, position-oriented scheme of Buffalo's perennially high-ranking defense in order to install the gamble-everything-for-takeaways "46," the Bills have recorded the fewest takeaways in any two-year period in franchise history. They finished second-last in takeaways in 2001 and last in takeaways in 2002.

Stats of the Week No. 10: Former Cowboys coach Dave Campo was 5-1 against the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons and 10-32 against all other teams.

Stats of the Week No. 11: The Boy Scouts collapsed to miss the playoffs by dropping their final three to Minnesota, Cincinnati and Carolina -- three losing teams which finished a combined 15-33.

Stats of the Week No. 12: Jersey/B, Seattle and Tennessee opened a combined 4-14 and finished a combined 23-7.

Shawn Barber, Tiki Barber
Of the league's top rushers, only Tiki Barber is still running.
Stats of the Week No. 13: Just one of the top-10 rushers, Tiki Barber, will appear in the postseason. Ricky Williams, LaDainian Tomlinson, Priest Holmes, Clinton Portis, Travis Henry, Deuce McAllister, Jamal Lewis, Fred Taylor and Corey Dillon will watch on television.

Stats of the Week No. 14: The City of Tampa defense allowed only 10 touchdown passes while making 31 interceptions.

Stats of the Week No. 15: Marvin Harrison bested the single-season receptions record by almost a fifth, finishing with 143 catches; the previous mark was 123.

Stats of the Week No. 16: Rob Johnson of Tampa attempted 43 passes in the season's final two games and was sacked 10 times. This rate of one sack per 4.3 attempts was much worse than the sack rate of David Carr, who went down once per 5.8 attempts. Had Carr gone down at the same rate per attempt as Johnson, he would have been sacked 103 times.

Stats of the Week No. 17: Starting the last nine games for the Blue Men Group, Matt Hasselbeck finished on a pace to break the NFL all-time passing yardage record, with 5,288 yards. The season record, held by Dan Marino, is 5,084 yards.

Matt Hasselbeck
Look out, Dan Marino. Matt Hasselbeck's gunning for your yardage record.
Stats of the Week No. 18: At 12-33, Dick LeBeau managed to compile the worst coaching record in Bengals history -- .266 versus .267 for the previous title holder, Dave Shula.

Mega-Babe Professionalism: In driving rain and a kickoff temperature of 50 degrees at Not Bankrupt Yet Coliseum, the high-aesthetic-appeal Raiderettes came out in cutoff jackets and hot pants. The football gods, impressed, rewarded their team with victory. The entire Kansas City coaching staff wore full-body rain suits with rain pants and hoods, dressed to crew a trawler headed for the North Atlantic to take cod. The Oakland sideline wore windbreakers and baseball caps. A football-gods-appeasing double for the Raiders!

This Week's Marty Mornhinweg Forehead-Slapper: Early in the fourth against the Vikings, the Peugeots scored a touchdown to make it Minnesota 35, Detroit 30. Mornhinweg went for two, clang. Later Minnesota kicked a field goal, then with 16 seconds left the Peugeots scored to make it Minnesota 38, Detroit 36; this time the home team had to go for two and again clang, game over. Had Detroit simply kicked the singleton on the earlier touchdown, it could have forced overtime with a singleton at the end. Though technically Mornhinweg's decision conformed to the TMQ immutable law, Take One Till the Fourth, TMQ reiterates that unless the hour is very late or you're trailing big, you are almost always better off with a 99 percent likelihood of one than a 40 percent chance of two.

The New Threat to Marino Is Matt Hasselbeck? On Saturday at 8:08 p.m. ET, Dan Marino lit a cigar as the Raiders game concluded with Rich Gannon pulling up shy of the season passing yardage record. It'll sit on the Marino mantelpiece quite a while longer, TMQ thinks.

Jeremy Shockey
Two words for you, Jeremy Shockey: Brian Bosworth.
Memo to Jeremy Shockey: You're hot, but you are also dancing on every catch, throwing a fit on every zebra call, spiking the ball after short gains and when you snagged the touchdown against Philadelphia, you screamed boasts of prowess into the face of Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins, who has done a lot more at this level than you have. Oh ye mortals, trifle not with the football gods. The sort of behavior Shockey is exhibiting can only lead to woe.

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! Leading by seven in the second quarter at Not Bankrupt Yet Coliseum, the Raiders go for it on fourth-and-five from the Kansas City 27 -- weather conditions ruled out a figgie attempt. Big-blitzing on such a down is totally predictable in the NFL. It's a big blitz! Completion to Tim Brown for the first, and the Long Johns score a touchdown three plays later. (To be fair to the last-ranked Kansas City defense, in the third quarter the Raiders faced fourth-and-seven again on the Chiefs' 27 and again went for it. This time Kansas City rushed three, completion to Jerry Rice for the first and Oakland scored five plays later.)

But Verily, Football Gods, How Doth Thou Explain Denver? The Broncos finished third in total offense and sixth in total defense -- best in the league in combined yardage efficiency. (Pittsburgh was second by this yardstick, fifth in total offense and seventh in total defense.) Yet Denver didn't make the playoffs. True, the Broncs' turnover differential was a negative five, but Cleveland, Indianapolis and the Jets, all playoff teams, also had negative turnover differentials. And it wasn't the kicking game, as Denver did well on field goals and returns and about average on kick defense. So how could the Broncos be the best combined offense-defense team in the league and not make the postseason? TMQ can't explain it either.

Since It Was a Bengals Contract, He Was Required to Throw Those Interceptions: Had quarterback Jon Kitna played six more downs in the Buffalo game, he would have hit a contract performance milestone and earned a $1.6 million bonus. With 3:19 remaining, Kitna threw an interception. The Bills promptly fumbled the ball back. With 1:37 remaining, Kitna threw another interception.

Worst Coaching-Staff Failure to Read TMQ No. 1: Lately this column has repeatedly warned against throwing regular passes close to the goal line, where regular passes are hard to complete because the defense has so little territory to defend; at the goal line only runs, roll-outs and play-fakes are effective. Eagles 7, Giants 0 and Jersey/A faces second and goal at the Philadelphia five. Run! Or play-fake! Regular pass, interception.

Worst Coaching Staff Failure to Read TMQ No. 2: And lately this column has repeatedly pointed out that several NFL offensive coordinators, including in Buffalo, Houston and Oakland, have developed the peculiar habit of having their quarterbacks sprint backward in goal-to-go situations.

Late in the third, the Moo Cows trailed the Flaming Thumbtacks by six and faced second-and-goal at the Tennessee 6. David Carr -- who to that point in the game had not been sacked -- sprinted backward. Sack, loss of 8. One third-and-goal, Carr sprinted backward again. Sack again, loss of 10. The Texans ended up kicking a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 24!

When you're close to the house, power-run, play-fake or roll out. Don't sprint backward More proof of theorem, though Detroit games may not count. Needing a deuce conversion to force overtime with 13 seconds remaining, the Peugeots came out in a shotgun, and on fielding the snap the already far-from-the-line Mike McMahon immediately sprinted backward. Incompletion, game over.

James Thrash
TV announcers reversed their double-reverse call about James Thrash's touchdown run on a reverse.
Best Booth Reading of TMQ: Philadelphia handed off to an end going around right; he handed back to James Thrash going left, and Thrash ran for six. This is the very play, executed by the Eagles previously in the season, that TMQ cited a few weeks ago as the exemplar of the action that announcers describe as a double reverse, but is actually a single reverse. The ball started in Direction A and came back in Direction B. That's one reverse, not two.

How did the announcers call it? "It's a double reverse!" Joe Buck shrieked. "Wow, a double reverse!" Chris Collinsworth seconded. As these bobbleheads gushed over the replay, four times the phrase "double reverse" was used. Cut to commercial. Coming back, Buck and Collinsworth both pointedly called the play a "reverse" without noting they had previously called it a double reverse. During the commercial, one of the booth guys must have whispered into their earpieces, "TMQ is going to have a field day if you keep calling this a double reverse."

What Really Matters About Sport: Thirteen-year-old Grant, a Marine Mammals aficionado and an Official Child of TMQ, was inconsolable after the Dolphins' collapse at Disposable Razor Field. Reason: he got a Ricky Williams jersey for Christmas and, he explained, "Now I have to wait a whole year, till they win the first time next fall, to wear it to school. If I wear it now, the guys will make fun of me." What can a parent say to that?

Playoff Coaching Watch: It's money time, which means that on the field we separate the men from the excessively pumped XY-chromosome individuals. And it means that we separate the mojo coaches from guys who merely schedule practices and toss out balls.

One Tuesday Morning Quarterback immutable law of the NFL is that the farther a team goes into the playoffs, the more important game plans and psyche-ups become. During the regular season, coaches who just schedule practices and toss out balls may be enough for a talented team to get Ws. As the postseason advances and the pressure ratchets, game-plan details and psyche tactics become paramount.

Note, for example, that during the same period when the Buffalo Bills were losing four Super Bowls to teams from the NFC East, the Bills pasted the NFC East during the regular season, through the 1990s compiling a 14-2 record against that division. The regular-season Bills of that era beat the Cowboys in Dallas, beat the Giants in Jersey, beat the Persons in Washington (when they actually played in Washington); when postseason rolled around, they lost to these selfsame teams. Although Buffalo had an admirable Hall of Fame coach in Marv Levy, he was a toss-out-the-balls type. Levy's practices were known as Club Marv; he disparaged the importance of game plans and often said it was up to the players to prepare themselves psychologically. During the regular season, this laissez-faire approach sufficed. During the playoffs, Levy was consistently outcoached.

For the remainder of the year, TMQ will hyper-analyze with special emphasis on whether the coaches can take the pressure.

Brandi Bragg, Jewell Whittaker, Andrew
Powerball jackpot winner Andrew "Jack" Whittaker Jr., center right, made like an NFL player and got as much cash as he could up-front.
Next Powerball Prize: Billions of Shares of WorldCom! "West Virginia Man Wins $314.9 Million in Powerball," headlines read across the country. Except he didn't win $314.9 million, he won $170.5 million by the organization's own accounting. Now, $170.5 million is heady enough. The fictional claim of a $314.9 million was achieved by Powerball offering to space the payments out over 29 years as an annuity, making the sum in question appear almost twice as large as it actually was.

Today's money ("discounting to present value") is always what really matters. The West Virginia winner, who seems to understand economics better than the TV talking heads who were screeching about $314.9 million, wisely chose to take the entire $170.5 million immediately. If your salary was $100,000, and your employer offered you the option of $185,000 paid over 29 years, would you fall for that?

Many state-run lotteries -- whose primary function is to trick the poor and working-class into throwing their money away, but that's a separate argument -- use calculations of drawn-out payments plus interest to inflate the apparent prize. Which is one means to trick the poor and working-class into throwing their money away, but that's a separate argument. The national media invariably play along, breathlessly reporting the fictional future value of lottery prizes rather than their actual present value. These are the same journalists and talking heads, bear in mind, who constantly get wrong financial details about corporations, lawsuits and the federal budget, and who hyped tech stocks as gold mines.

Best Line Play: The Jets' skill players made the flashy plays, but the Jersey/B lines on both sides of the ball had a fabulous day against Green Bay. And the William Green 64-yard touchdown run as the afternoon light was fading over Oranges Stadium, putting the Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.1) into the playoffs, came behind fabulous line blocking. You could run 64 yards too if no one touched you.

Though Anything That Gets Halle Berry Into a Bikini Can't Be All Bad:This recent story, headlined US RECEIVES WARNINGS FROM NORTH KOREA, says Pyongyang has warned Washington of "uncontrollable catastrophe" if the United States makes any move against the North's nuclear program.

Pyongyang threatens Washington? This causes TMQ to think that North Korean diplomats have spent too much time watching the new Bond flick "Die Another Day," in which a rogue North Korean colonel almost brings the world to its knees using a satellite death ray.

One must suspend disbelief on many Bond premises like death rays, of course. But what drove TMQ crazy about the rogue North Korean colonel in "Die Another Day" is that he is depicted as phenomenally ultra-rich. He lives in extreme opulence; mansions, race cars, private armies of henchmen. He builds from scratch a four-star luxury hotel in remote Iceland just to call a meeting of some celebrities he wants to impress, then as soon as the meeting is over, destroys the hotel. He's got an airborne hideout in a modified Antonov-225, the largest plane in the world. And he controls a super-advanced satellite capable of taking over the world.

How could a North Korean colonel afford all this stuff? North Korea is one of the world's poorest countries, with a GDP of just $22 billion, 50 percent less than the GDP of the state of Rhode Island. Nobody in Rhode Island can afford a death star capable of controlling the world, so how can a North Korean?

NASA's International Space Station -- see how many seconds it has been in orbit -- weighs about 500 tons; TMQ scientifically estimates that the huge death star depicted in "Die Another Day" would have to weigh at least half that amount. To launch 250 tons to low-Earth orbit would require about 10 flights of the largest United States, Russian or French rockets. The launch costs alone would exceed $2 billion, and 10 heavy-lifter launches (or even one) would be impossible to conceal from the world intelligence community or from NORAD. Then there's the cost of the object itself. Even assuming the death-star technology were licensed free, the rule of thumb is that the manufacturing expense of space payload is about $100 million per ton. So construction of the rogue North Korean colonel's death star would cost perhaps $25 billion -- more than the entire GDP of North Korea. How could a rogue North Korean colonel afford all this stuff?

There is some brief babbling about him profiting from the sale of African "conflict diamonds," but in the movie's only diamonds scene the rogue colonel is buying diamonds, not selling them. At any rate since the global retail diamond trade is about $56 billion per annum, and wholesale represents about a third of that, the rogue North Korean colonel would have had to take over the entire world diamond business for more than a year to raise the money to fund his death star, and don't we think the Israelis and South Africans might have had something to say about that?

Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry
Buddhists, bellies and Berry: Pierce Brosnan gets cozy with Halle in "Die Another Day."
Satellite note: the rogue colonel's satellite is depicted as using a huge mirror to collect sunlight into a pulsating death beam. A few years ago Glavkosmos, the old Soviet space agency, unfurled a large mirror satellite named Znamya to see if it could be used to bring sunlight to the parts of Siberia that experience endless night in winter. Znamya turned out to reflect, into a small area, less light than that of a full moon; calculations suggested a mirror satellite would have to be thousands of feet across just to collect enough photons to simulate weak daylight. Can any physics-avid TMQ reader perform an incredibly scientifically advanced calculation of how large a mirror satellite would have to be to collect enough sunlight to power a death ray? Use the link at Reader Animadversion, below. Assume a perfectly efficient death ray. And if you can provide detail on how it would work, you and I could rule the world together from an airborne command post.

Raging Buddhists note: South Korean crowds have rioted against the showing of "Die Another Day" because they contend it defiles Buddhism by depicting Bond and Berry having sex in a Buddhist shrine. Shouldn't a real Buddhist be able to let go of such concerns? Attachment to the symbols of the world can only cause sorrow. At any rate, Bond and Berry are not depicted having sex in the shrine. She's laying on the ground distressingly over-clothed, and he's putting diamonds into her navel. This is what passes for erotic in contemporary Hollywood.

Bond sex note: Elsewhere in the movie, a Chinese mega-babe masseuse comes to Bond's elegant hotel suite. Using his acute double-oh instincts, Bond senses the Chinese secret service has set up a hidden camera to film him having sex with the masseuse, in order to use the pictures for blackmail. How could you blackmail James Bond with pictures of him having sex with a mega-babe? You'd blackmail James Bond with a film of him not having sex.

By the Hammer of Grabthar, He Was Avenged! Mark Fields, cut by New Orleans two seasons ago shortly after he had returned from representing the city in the Pro Bowl, now plays for Carolina. When the Boy Scouts went for it on fourth-and-seven from the Panthers' 30, trailing by four with three minutes left and their playoff invite on the line, Fields sacked Aaron Brooks.

Canny Management Note: On the above sack, Saints all-boasting left tackle Kyle Turley blocked air, standing and watching as Fields shot by. Recall that last season, Willie Roaf was the Boy Scouts' left tackle. The same New Orleans braintrust that waived Fields unloaded Roaf to the Chiefs for a middle-round draft pick. Roaf proceeded to make the Pro Bowl, while the Saints had all kinds of offensive line problems during their December fade.

Miami Collapse Point No. 4: All-boasting Cris Carter, brought in by the Marine Mammals at midseason, dropped a touchdown pass that would have won Miami's Week 16 game and put the team into the postseason, then had zero catches in the New England showdown. TMQ warned the week that Carter was signed that his yapping, me-first attitude would introduce a virus into the Dolphins' bloodstream, jeopardizing their reputation for winning with average talent because they are one of the league's team-oriented, high-character squads.

Evidence of the virus was seen when Miami, leading 21-13 with eight minutes to play, intercepted a Tom Brady pass and seemed positioned to ice the game. Jason Taylor, normally a high-character team-oriented player, staged a Jeremy-Shockey-like tirade, screaming boasts of prowess into Brady's face. TMQ cannot recall, under Wannstedt, ever seeing a Dolphin lose it like this -- until Carter joined the team. For the remainder of the afternoon, as the Dolphins collapsed and their season imploded, Taylor was a nonfactor -- his name does not appear in the Game Book until New England's second-to-last down, when Taylor had an assist as the Pats reached the Miami 17, whence they lofted the winning overtime kick. Cris Carter contributed nothing to the Dolphins except urging players to think me-first. Miami would have been much better off without him.

Darrell Green
Drivers wanted: Darrell Green had a fahrvergnugen career.
Creaking Old Guy Highlight No. 1: TMQ's favorite Darrell Green anecdote: he used to drive a Volkswagen Beetle of the old, 1960s variety. Why? Because, Green said, he liked the fact that he could outrun it.

Creaking Old Guys Highlight No. 2: On what might have been Emmitt Smith's last carry as a Cowboy, he was dropped for a loss by Bruce Smith.

Cleveland Release 2.1 Makes Playoffs; Download Patches Immediately: The Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.1) staged a monster stand in the closing seconds to stop Atlanta's second-and-goal at the 1. Inexplicably, both the final Falcon plays were handoffs to 180-pound scatback Warrick Dunn, though enormous fullbacks T.J. Duckett and George Layne were available. On the key snap, third-and-goal, when the play called for Atlanta's Brian Koslowski to pull right and trap at the hole, Koslowski inexplicably jumped into the air to avoid the defender he was supposed to block. TMQ watched the replay four times and has no idea what Koslowski may have been thinking.

Buddhists Know That Time Is An Illusion, Except When You're Rioting Against a Bond Flick: Trailing by three and their playoff fate in the balance, the Nevermores had the ball and the two-minute warning during which to regroup. Lining up out of the two-minute warning, Baltimore quarterback Jeff Blake called time. That's right -- in a two-minute-drill situation, Blake called time when time was already out! Ye gods. Baltimore ended up on the Pittsburgh 11 with 18 seconds remaining and a field goal forces overtime; Blake appeared visibly shaky because he now lacked a time out. The gentleman threw into double coverage, INT, game over.

Lord Voldemort Watch: Brad Johnson, whom Lord Voldemort (Dan Synder) benched and then released in one of his first canny decisions during his evil reign over the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons, finished with 22 touchdown passes and just six interceptions. Jeff George, whom Lord Voldemort started over Johnson, did not play for anyone this year but did warm the Seattle Blue Men Group's bench.

Got a Question About Your Files? Please Call 1-800-I-Luv-KGB Speaking of NORAD, its annual track-Santa map just closed for the year. NORAD was once a super-duper-ultra-classified organization designed to search for signs of a Soviet missile attack -- this is the outfit buried inside Cheyenne Mountain, Colo., and often used by Hollywood as the model for An Agency Far, Far More Secret Than The CIA. How can we be sure the Cold War has ended? The command now offers a toll-free number that is 877-Hi-NORAD. Check out the current NORAD/USSPACECOM master plan here.

TMQ Plans an NIH Grant Application: TMQ can normally put on weight just by looking at sweets, yet over the holidays consumed an estimated 500 Christmas cookies without gaining a pound. Two possible reasons:

1. God loves us and wants us to be happy.
2. The variable contaminant theory.

TMQ would certainly like the answer to be (1), which readers may recognize as Benjamin Franklin's explanation of why beer exists. The variable contaminant theory must, however, also be recognized. This holds that your body punishes you more for feeding it the same contaminants all the time than for alternating contaminants. Thus if you consume the same types of deli sandwiches, chips and cookies on a regular basis -- not that I do, this is speculation -- your body objects by gaining weight. An annual foray into Christmas sugar cookies and snickerdoodles, on the other hand, varies the contaminant and is not penalized; though if you ate Christmas sugar cookies all the time, this would backfire.

A corollary is the hypothesis of rotating shampoos. TMQ has encountered more than one female individual convinced that if you use the same shampoo all the time your hair loses luster, whereas rotating brands of shampoo results in healthy hair. Researchers, how about a controlled experiment?

Cady Huffman, Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick
Wait'll the Chinese government deciphers "Springtime for Hitler" from "The Producers."
Note to Chinese Secret Service: Please Confine Your Activities to Mega-Babe Masseuses: According to this news report, Beijing has been sending agents to Manhattan to study the success secrets of Broadway musicals.

Aside from imagining the hilarious competition for this assignment -- "Say, comrade, would you like to leave our pollution-choked dictatorship for a few months to gawk at chorus girls in New York at the people's expense?" -- TMQ worries about Broadway secrets falling into the wrong hands. The chi-coms may have a sinister plan to use Broadway musicals as a tool of world domination. Hey, there's the next Bond movie plot.

Besides, there's nothing about Broadway you can't figure out merely by glancing at the roster of the last 20 hit shows. Here are Broadway's innermost secrets, as learned by Tuesday Morning Quarterback Enterprises in development of the upcoming TMQ musical, "Ten Million Bucks Worth of Scenery":

1. Use a well-known story, preferably a remark or a movie adaptation. 2. Swelling crescendos.
3. As little dialogue as possible. Ideally no dialogue, just costumes and special effects.
4. Numerous chorus girls in states of undress.
5. Never, ever, ever challenge the audience to think.

That's everything the People's Musical Comedy Collective or whatever it is called needs to know.

Development note No. 1: Tuesday Morning Quarterback Enterprises also is working on a science-fiction movie treatment, "Godzilla Versus MotoFoto."

Development note No. 2: Tuesday Morning Quarterback Enterprises also is working on a television series treatment, "365," in which you watch Keifer Sutherland every single day of the year.

Savvy Crowd Response: During the Cincinnati-at-Buffalo game, the Bills crowd cheered warmly whenever Bengals linebacker Takeo Spikes made a play. Why cheer someone for plays against your team? Spikes will be an unrestricted free agent this winter, and the Bills are expected to make a run at him.

Once Again, TMQ Thanks the Football Gods the NFL Is Not the NBA: Seven NFL teams finished at or above .500 but did not make the playoffs. This is a healthy sign!

Consider that last season, eight NBA teams finished at or above .500 by a comparable fraction, and six of them made the playoffs. It's a shame that an NFL team can go 9-7 and not advance, and it's a shame there are only a total of 11 NFL postseason games. (That's all that remains of the season -- count 'em and weep.) But because the NFL postseason is so hard to enter, this means almost every NFL regular-season game is important. In the NBA the majority of regular-season games mean nothing, and don't get me started on the NHL.

If the pro football playoffs weren't so hard to join, regular-season games would lose significance. TMQ thinks it is this fact -- that almost every regular-season NFL game really matters -- that, more than anything else, creates the air of excitement that separates pro football from all other sports.

Running items department
Seneca Wallace
Iowa State QB Seneca Wallace plays it blue for Humanitarian reasons.
Obscure College Score of the Week: This item snuggles into bed for a long winter's rest, as all collegiate teams performing from here on out are pretty well known.

Depending on when you read this column, be sure not to miss TMQ's favorite holiday game -- the Humanitarian Bowl, which will be in progress on ESPN when this column posts. The Humanitarian Bowl features people slamming into each other in the name of world peace. And they do their slamming on blue turf. Don't you think that if all artificial turf were blue, the world would be a more humanitarian place?

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! Bowl Special: Trailing by seven with a minute remaining, Wisconsin faced fourth-and-10 on the Colorado 29. The Badgers had just 137 yards passing in the game to that point. TMQ thought, "As long as Colorado doesn't blitz the game is over." It's a blitz! Six gentlemen cross the line, 28-yard completion to the Colorado 1, Wisconsin scores on the next play and wins in overtime. Ye gods.

Double-X Bowl Special: In the Las Vegas Bowl, Katie Hnida of New Mexico became the first woman in NCAA Division I-A football history to have a kick blocked; or, to play.

Katie Hnida
We wouldn't make up a story about New Mexico kicker Katie Hnida.
Having women attempt placement kicks in major-college football games seems to TMQ basically a stunt, and one wonders what the point is of this stunt. Since women have shown themselves equal to men in almost all endeavors -- doctor, lawyer, fighter pilot, corrupt CEO etc. -- why stage stunts that pretend women and men are the same in the one arena, physical strength, where they obviously are not? If there is ever a women who can play major-college or pro football on her own merit, then of course she must be allowed to do so. (Note: TMQ hopes not to meet that woman.) But making special deals to get a 140-pound woman on the field for the purpose of a publicity stunt mocks the 99 percent of circumstances in which men and women really are the same. No 140-pound male kicker who couldn't get the ball over the line would be granted special permission to play.

TMQ urges future historians to study The Associated Press photo of Hnida watching her kick clang backward. She's wearing a helmet, pads -- and eyeliner! Unless she's really confused about how to put on the lampblack.

New York Times Final-Score Score: The Paper of Guesses returns to its habitual 0-16 in its triumphant attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 1-775 since TMQ began tracking.

Stacy Keibler
Cheerleading led Stacy Keibler to the big time.
Reader Animadversion: On the vital public-policy topic of NFL cheer-babes who have gone on to greater things, such as actress Charisma Carpenter, a reader suggests Stacy Keibler, formerly of the Nevermores cheer squad, and now a presence in the WWE. Stacy's claim to fame is exceptionally long legs, which can be gawked at here, a photo we can link to be not show for thong-based reasons. In haiku,

Stacy's ringside now;
hottest former cheerbabe. Why?
Forty-one inch legs!
Lawrence Benedetto, Chicago

Apropos the Ravens' cheer squad -- which includes ripped cheer-hunks as well as buff cheer-babes -- Jim Breuckman of Farmington, Mich., conducted a close textual analysis and found the Baltimore cheerleading roster contains a Napoleon and a Josephine.

Mike Hamilton of Newark, Del., was among many readers who pointed out that the Eagles have also joined the odious monochrome uniform fad, bringing the total to nine: Arizona, Buffalo, Chicago, Jax, Jersey/B, Miami, New England, Philadelphia and Seattle. Only two made the postseason -- surely an omen from the football gods! TMQ advocates uniform amnesty. All teams will be given a one-time opportunity to return to last year's uniforms without penalty, no questions asked.

Jim Miller of New York points out that NFL announcers have begun to refer to mass confusion at the line of scrimmage as a "scrum." But a scrum is a relatively orderly event used in rugby to put the ball back into play after an infraction. Mass chaos in rugby, Miller notes, is properly called a "maul" or a "ruck."

Stacy Keibler
Now you can see more of Keibler ringside than on the sidelines.
Many readers including Aaron of Washington, D.C., wrote to note of the huge Braun billboard at Disposal Razor Field that Gillette owns Braun. Also, Aaron notes, while Gillette says it makes razors, Braun asserts that it makes only "shavers." This reminds TMQ of Boeing's longstanding contention that it does not make airplanes, rather, "air frames."

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

TMQ Challenge: None this week either, as Tuesday Morning Quarterback intends to watch bowl games, not read mail, on New Year's Day. The Challenge will resume next week with incredibly tough single-elimination playoff-caliber questions.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 5:09 PM

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December 24, 2002

NFL's 88 percent solution

POST #    518

NFL's 88 percent solution
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

The Pro Bowl squads are out, and congratulations to the honored gentlemen, whom Tuesday Morning Quarterback thinks should be called the 88 Percent All-Pros. TMQ continues to be dumbfounded that Pro Bowl balloting by coaches and players, which determines most of the outcome, is held with two weeks remaining -- that is, when only 88 percent of the season has been played. Why don't the last two games count? Why does playing well in Week 2 or Week 11 matter toward earning a free plane ticket to Hawaii, while playing well in Week 16 or Week 17 is irrelevant?

Announcing Pro Bowl honorees with two weeks to play creates an opportunity for some to take a bow before the home crowd. But TMQ thinks the selection of Pro Bowl players when the season isn't finished represents yet another instance of publicity trumping performance. It's assumed that whoever has gotten most buzz to this point must be best, regardless of what happens on the field in the final games. Picking the Pro Bowl honorees with two games remaining is like picking the president the week before the election, based on who's doing best in the polls (technical note: this might be a more reliable system) or picking your favorite mezzo-soprano based on the first two acts, disregarding the signature aria due in the third. The Pro Bowl should be a reward for how players perform for the entire season, not just in the first 88 percent.

Each year when the Pro Bowl names come out, TMQ has recurring complaints: that offensive linemen make it on rep, that defensive backs make it on interceptions and that the "fullback" usually isn't a fullback. Two of the three apply to 2002.

The NFC "fullback" is Mike Alstott of Tampa, a below-average blocker who lines up as a tailback. It's ridiculous that Alstott will once again fly to Hawaii as a "fullback" when he doesn't play fullback, and when, in the NFC, true fullback William Henderson of Green Bay has had a true Pro Bowl year. Or at least, 88 percent of a Pro Bowl year.

Once again this year, offensive linemen have made it on rep. Orlando Pace makes the NFC squad though he has been hurt most of the season and an average player when on the field; Ruben Brown of the Bills makes the AFC squad though he's been a slightly-above-average player on a line that is second-last in the league in sacks allowed. Derrick Deese of the Squared Sevens is much more deserving than Pace at NFC tackle, while Mike Compton of the Pats and Jamie Nails of the Marine Mammals had better seasons at AFC guard than Brown. (Nails has been the best run-blocker in the league this year; it's no coincidence that red-hot Ricky Williams suddenly looked human against the Vikings with Nails out injured.) Pace and Brown made it because they always make it; Pace has been picked three of the last four years, Brown seven straight. The fact that OLs make the Pro Bowl on rep, regardless of who's been best, shows that even NFL players and coaches don't pay much attention to offensive linemen and couldn't really tell you who's good.

Orlando Pace
Orlando Pace, who has played just nine games this season, makes the Pro Bowl on name recognition alone.
At least this year the DB selection was not based on interceptions, as is usually the case. At the 88 percent point, the highest interceptor in the league had just six picks, so voters had to choose based on coverage rather than picks, making the defensive-back selections more accurate than usual this year. Last year, in contrast, Deltha O'Neal made it as a CB based on nine interceptions; but he got the picks by gambling relentlessly and giving up big plays. Not only was O'Neal not Pro Bowl in his overall game, he was not as good as his own more cautious, and thus less interception-happy, teammate Denard Walker.

Scanning the Pro Bowl roster, researchers find that 48 of the gentlemen were No. 1 draft picks. They're all impressive. But the players TMQ has always admired most are the ones who perform well despite being unwanted. Thus my contribution is the annual Tuesday Morning Quarterback All-Trash All-Pros.

To qualify for the All-Trash All-Pros, a player must have been waived, gone undrafted, been exposed in an expansion draft or left as a free agent when the original team making no bona-fide effort to retain him. (Free agents whom their original teams really tried to keep do not qualify.) Here are the Tuesday Morning Quarterback All-Trash All-Pros, with an asterisk indicating those who have been shown the door more than once:

QB: Rich Gannon,* Raiders.
RB: Priest Holmes, Kansas City; Ahman Green, Green Bay.
FB: Lorenzo Neal,* Cincinnati.
C: Kevin Mawae, Jersey/B.
T: Lincoln Kennedy, Raiders; Derrick Deese, Niners.
G: Jamie Nails,* Miami, Mike Compton, New England.
WR: Joe Horn, New Orleans; Jerry Rice, Raiders.
TE: Ken Dilger, Bucs.

DE: Simeon Rice, City of Tampa; Brady Smith, Atlanta.
DT: La'Roi Glover, Cowboys; Pat Williams, Buffalo.
LB: Shawn Barber, Eagles; Hardy Nickerson, Green Bay; Donnie Edwards, Bolts.
CB: Aaron Glenn, Houston; Dewayne Washington, Steelers.
S: Lance Schulters, Flaming Thumbtacks; Brock Marion, Miami.
Kicker: David Akers, Eagles.
Punter: Chris Hanson, Jax.
Returner: Chad Morton, Jersey/B.
Special teamer: Tommy Hendricks, Miami.

Coach: Marty Schottenheimer,* Bolts.

This roster might beat the formal Pro Bowl team, given that waived gentlemen might have more incentive. Reserves for the All-Trash All-Pros would include Jeff Garcia at quarterback; Garrison Hearst* and Antowain Smith at running back; Ed McCaffrey, Rod Smith, Shannon Sharpe* and Frank Wycheck at receiver; Roman Oben, Corbin Lacina, Jeff Christy, Mark Dixon and Tom Nutten at offensive line; Ted Washington,* Sam Adams, Daryl Gardener, Gary Walker, Greg Spires and Eric Hicks at defensive line; Jessie Armstead and Derek Smith at linebacker; Donnie Abraham and Rod Woodson* at defensive back; Brian Moorman, Joe Nedney, Dante Hall and Fred McAfee* on special teams.

Note that both defensive ends for City of Tampa -- Rice and Spires -- were guys nobody else wanted, and now start for the league's No. 1 defense. Note that the entire Denver receiving corps of Smith, McCaffrey and Sharpe are guys nobody else wanted, and now start for the league's seventh-rated passing attack.

In other football news, you could practically see Dolphin players chortling as 43-year-old waiver-wire gentleman Gary Anderson lined up for an improbable 53-yard last-second kick to grant the Vikings a huge upset. A few seconds later, the football gods did the chortling.

Gary Anderson
Gary Anderson gets the last chortle.
In the spirit of the All-Trash All-Pros, TMQ loves the fact that Anderson, the all-time leading NFL scorer, has been waived five times. Here are the kickers that general managers kept instead of the all-time leading NFL scorer: Nick Mike-Meyer, Norm Johnson, Chris Boniol, Wade Richey and Doug Brien. Johnson had a terrific kicking career, but none of these gentlemen will, like Anderson, be the second kicker ever to give an acceptance speech at Canton, Ohio.

They Once Were Kings The Ravens defense, just two years ago allowing the fewest points ever, had the Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.1) pinned on their own 8 with 2:18 remaining, trailing by six, holding no timeouts and the Baltimore home crowd thundering at jet-afterburner decibels. Baltimore let the low-voltage Oranges go the length of the field to score for the win with 38 seconds showing. Ye gods.

The Football Gods Smile on the Courageous Before the above-cited drive, the Ravens faced fourth-and-two on the Cleveland 35 with 2:31 remaining. Go for it and certain victory? (The Oranges had no timeouts.) Have Matt Stover, one of the league's best kickers, try for a field-goal and a touchdown-proof margin? Baltimore punted.

Hidden Play Often games turn on snaps that don't show up on highlight reels, but sustain or end drives. Game tied at 13 with 7 minutes left, Cincinnati faced third-and-five against the Boy Scouts, after just having an apparent first down called back by penalty. You know the Bungles will fold now, right? New Orleans certainly thought so. Thirteen-yard completion to Ron Dugans for the first. Cincinnati keeps marching, gets the touchdown just inside the two-minute warning and there is major panic on the New Orleans sideline.

Hidden Player On the above-cited drive, unknown 267-pound fullback Nick Luchey broke New Orleans' back by rushing eight times for 45 yards -- including six consecutive carries, beginning at the Boy Scouts' 36 and concluding when he punched it across.

Nick Luchey
We know it's embarrassing to be a Bengal, but TMQ has blown Nick Luchey's cover.
Who Was That Masked Man? The "NFL 2002 Record and Fact Book," the league's source authority, calls Cincinnati fullback No. 30 "Nick Williams." On Sunday as No. 30 was scoring twice against New Orleans in the fourth quarter, the NFL's official game center listed the touchdowns by "N. Williams" and rushing yards by "N. Williams." (The game center page has since been changed.) By Sunday evening, sportscasters were calling the gentleman "Nick Luchey," and that's how news accounts of the game read on Monday morning. Yet on Sunday the official NFL index of players had a Nick Williams, but no one named "Luchey"; the name did not appear until Monday morning.

What gives? In September, Nick Williams changed his name to James Nicolas Williams Luchey. No one had noticed because until Sunday, he hadn't carried the ball and anyway, he's a Bengal.

Who Was That Masked Man? No. 2 Marc Boerigter, who caught the 99-yard pass, is such a who-dat that the NFL.com website does not post his picture on Boerigter's bio page.

Cheerleader of the Week This week's TMQ ESPN.com Cheerleader of the Week is Acacia of the Minnesota Vikings, a University of Minnesota student studying education and hoping to be an elementary school teacher. Yes, she's yet another cheerbabe-teacher unlike any teacher you or I ever glimpsed in school. Acacia has 18 years of dance experience and one of her hobbies is "competitive running;" TMQ bets she could beat all the washed-up ex-jocks in the ESPN empire in the 100 meter, 1,000 meters or the relay. Her team bio also says she "enjoys volunteer work and being involved in the community." Acacia, I'm a volunteer coach of county football and basketball teams, which is community involvement, and I could really use an assistant, though there would be a lot of late-night strategy sessions.

Acacia
We admire Acacia for her altruistic features.
According to the Vikings' cheerleaders' audition information page, in addition to not being paid to dance, aspiring cheer-babes are charged $15 for auditioning! TMQ repeats, if Hubert Humphrey were still around, this labor abuse would not be taking place. Squad members must also attend, without pay, a weeklong training camp. Considering that Vikings owner Red McCombs is one of the richest men in the United States, this seems astonishingly cheapskate on his part -- McCombs makes millions and flies everywhere in a private jet, but his cheerleaders are supposed to work for a week without pay? That's exploitation. (TMQ is concerned about financial exploitation of cheer-babes; the cheesecake exploitation part is fine.) From the Vikings website: "Crop tops and hot pants will be required during training camp." And you're not broadcasting this on pay-per-view!

Busted Play of the Day Trailing 17-13 against Jersey/A, the Lucky Charms went for it on fourth-and-inches. An off-tackle dive; Giants linebacker Brandon Short came through the Colts line untouched by human hands to stop the play in the backfield. TMQ watched the tape four times, and has no idea what the Colts line could have been thinking. No one made any attempt to block Short -- and he was at the point of attack!

Sweet Play of the Day On the big play of the Oranges' winning drive, running back Jamel White caught a dump pass at midfield and motored to the Nevermores' 27, where Chris McAlister hit him late out of bounds in a Dwayne-Rudd-class move, advancing the ball to the Baltimore 13. (Dwayne Rudd himself, watching from the Oranges' sideline, must have been pleased.) To the untrained eye, this seemed just a lucky play; actually, the Oranges set it up. Raven Peter Boulware had been all over Tim Couch, and had two sacks to that point. During the fourth quarter, Cleveland moved White to whichever side Boulware was on, and had White double-team him. Before this snap, White moved to Boulware's side; the defenders assumed he was setting up for yet another double-team. Instead White immediately sprinted for the pass that Couch threw on his third drop-set. No Raven bothered to cover White.

Best 99-Yard Play Trent Green to rookie Marc Boerigter, Hasting alum.

Marc Boerigter
Even after Marc Boerigter's 99-yard pass play, we still can't see his face.
Mega-Babe Professionalism It was 22 degrees and snowing at the kickoff, yet the Vikings cheer-babes came out in Santa's-naughty-elf numbers that, as the columnist Dave Barry would say, "Just barely meet the legal definition of clothes." OK, so the game was played indoors at the Metrodome. Nevertheless the football gods were pleased, and rewarded Minnesota with victory.

Now that most NFL coaches have wised up to TMQ's immutable dictum that the overdressed coach's team always loses a game, cheerleader professionalism appears increasingly to determine cold-weather victory: Professionalism in this case meaning skin, or at least skin-tight. More proof; a 56-degree at kickoff at Not Bankrupt Yet Coliseum, yet the high-aesthetic-appeal Raiders babes came out in two-piece numbers with cleavage, bare midriffs and miniskirts. The football gods, very impressed, handed their team victory.

Converse proves the rule: kickoff temperature 50 degrees at Empty Stadium in Tempe -- Arizona is on a pace to be last in the league in attendance yet again -- and the Cardinals cheerleaders wore bulky, frumpy Santa overcoats that left everything to the imagination. Needless to say, their team lost.

Reverse Psychology: Leading by one with 2:31 remaining, the Lightning Bolts saw the Chiefs go for it and succeed on fourth-and-one. San Diego coach Marty Schottenheimer challenged the call, though the runner appeared to have made the yardage and at any rate the spot of the ball is a judgment call; replay rarely reverses judgment calls. The challenge cost the Bolts their final timeout. Kansas City got a figgie on the drive to lead by two. San Diego found itself at midfield with 50 seconds left, needing a figgie to win and one of the best pressure kickers ever, Steve Christie, at the ready. But without a timeout, the Bolts' drive was discombobulated and excessively hurried. Reche Caldwell, looking nervous, fumbled on the Chiefs' 45, ending the game.

In a Similar Fake, Trent Lott Said He Favored Affirmative Action: Against the Marine Mammals, the Vikings ran the flea-flicker -- running back takes a handoff and starts up the middle, then turns and flips back to the quarterback for the deep pass. Randy Moss was by himself at the Miami 15, and would have had six had not the pass been badly off target. Why did the setup work so well? At the snap, Moss lackadaisically leaned against the defender in front of him: doing what Moss does on every running play, refusing to block. Moss' non-block was so realistic it convinced Miami the play had to be a run, and no one paid heed when Moss took off deep.

Best Real Block: In Week 15, Minnesota knocked off New Orleans on a Daunte Culpepper run for the deuce on the game's final snap; the key to this play, as TMQ pointed out, was a fabulous pull block by Vikings guard Corbin Lacina. As Minnesota knocked off Miami, the hidden play was a Culpepper 3-yard run on fourth-and-two to sustain a last-minute Vikings drive. Once again, the key was a fabulous pull block by Vikings guard Corbin Lacina. Culpepper also got fabulous blocking on his 60-yard completion to Moss in the early fourth. TMQ counted "one one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand, four one-thousand, five one-thousand, six one-thousand" before the ball was away, giving Moss the opportunity to run a time-consuming deep Z-in. (A deep Zed-in to Canadian readers.)

Drew Bledsoe, Vonnie Holliday
Vonnie Holliday and the Packers were a few steps ahead of Drew Bledsoe in the red zone.
Worst Failure to Read Tuesday Morning Quarterback Twice TMQ has run items about the Bills passing too much at the goal line -- especially regular drop-back passes, which rarely work in compressed goal-line space, as opposed to play-fakes -- and about Drew Bledsoe sprinting backward in goal-to-go situations.

Game scoreless in the first at Lambeau, Buffalo faced third-and-goal on the Packers' four; the Green Bay Achilles' heel is the league's 26th-rated rushing defense. Did the Bills pound the ball, and either get six or then settle for three and the all-important first points when playing on the road? Regular pass from a regular set; Bledsoe sprinted backward 7 yards before throwing off his back foot, interception. Trailing by a field goal in the third, Buffalo faced third-and-goal on the Packers' five. Did the Bills pound the ball, and either get six or then settle for the tie? Regular pass from a regular set; Bledsoe sprinted backward almost 10 yards before being sacked, the suddenly longer figgie into the wind missed. Ye gods.

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 1: Trailing by three with 10 minutes remaining and the home crowd thundering at afterburner decibels, the Patriots had Jersey/B facing third-and-nine. Since the average NFL pass attempt yields 5.9 yards -- anyway, it's a blitz! Six gentlemen including a CB cross the line. Thirteen-yard completion for the first, Jets score a touchdown two plays later and suddenly the defending champs are on the ropes. (In the first half, the Pats also had the Jets facing third-and-six; New England blitzed, Jersey/B converted and scored on that possession too.)

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 2: Trailing 14-0 in the second, Denver had Oakland facing third-and-five on the Broncos' eight. It's a blitz! Touchdown pass to Charlie Garner split wide left, and the rout is on.

Stats of the Week: Cincinnati won at home for the first time in 357 days.

Stats of the Week No. 2: In the Jersey/A-Lucky Charms game there were 731 passing yards and 153 rushing yards; the football gods winced.

Stats of the Week No. 3: San Francisco has not been shut out in 401 games, by far the longest such streak in league annals.

Stats of the Week No. 4: San Francisco just barely won despite advantages of 174 yards of offensive, seven first downs and nine minutes time of possession; turnovers were even.

Rich Gannon
Rich Gannon needs a huge game in the season finale to break Dan Marino's single-season passing record.
Stats of the Week No. 5: The Atlanta-Detroit game was close until 3:49 remaining in the fourth despite Falcon advantages of 325 yards of offense, 15 first downs, 17 minutes time-of-possession and plus-one in turnovers.

Stats of the Week No. 6: Trailing by a field goal in Green Bay, Buffalo staged a 15-play, 9:42-minute drive that resulted in no points.

Stats of the Week No. 7: In his last three games, Drew Bledsoe has thrown for one touchdown and six interceptions, while losing four fumbles.

Stats of the Week No. 8: Because the Raiders finally played a game in which they ran more times than they passed, Rich Gannon is on a pace to miss the NFL record by throwing for 4,917 yards The season mark, held by Dan Marino, is 5,084 yards. Gannon must throw for 475 yards in the season-ender to break the record.

Stats of the Week No. 9: Of the 31 games Butch Davis has coached for the Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.1), 18 have gone down to the final play.

Stats of the Week No. 10: Indianapolis lost despite scoring 14 points in seven seconds. (Touchdown, onside kick recovered, touchdown.)

Stats of the Week No. 11: In its last three games, the Pittsburgh defense has surrendered a total of 303 yards and 22 first downs.

We're All Professionals Here: In the Chicago-Carolina game, there were 21 punts and seven fumbles.

Buck-Buck-Brawwwccckkkkk Trailing 17-0 at home on the first possession of the second half, City of Tampa faced fourth-and-one on its 36. Sure fourth-and-one is a gamble, but down by 17 points you've got to take a few chances and a fourth-and-one chance is about as good as they come, since most fourth-and-one tries succeed. The Bucs punted. The football gods, disgusted, sent them on to defeat.

Charisma Carpenter
Charisma Carpenter ascended from cheerbabe to "Buffy," and her character ascended to a higher plane.
This Week's Chargers Cheer-Babe Item: Reader Ryan Bowers of Annapolis, Md., has conducted a close textual analysis of the San Diego Chargers cheerleaders site and concluded, "None of them can match one-time Charger cheer-babe, and now actress, Charisma Carpenter. I hope this will provide an opportunity for the ESPN.com art department shamelessly to place a photo of her in the column." TMQ agrees that Carpenter was one of the most scrumptious sights on television. Why the prodigious babe output of San Diego? Must be something in the water.

Carpenter had a good recurring comic role, first on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and then on its lethargic spinoff Angel, as a vain high-school girl who grew into a vain aspiring actress, and was so outlandishly self-obsessed as to become realistic by Los Angeles standards. Then in last year's season finale of Angel, Carpenter's character was chosen by a mystical being to ascend to a higher plane of existence. Supposedly this happened because she had become enlightened, but TMQ assumes Carpenter wanted release from her contract and her character had to be written out of the plot. At the moment Carpenter is off the tube, so far as TMQ can determine.

Buffy note: Now there's an all-new Sunnydale High School, built on the site of the old. Inexplicably, no one at the new Sunnydale High appears to know what happened to the predecessor a mere three years ago. At the graduation ceremony of the old high school, Sunnydale's mayor turned into a 50-foot-long serpent demon in full view of hundreds of witnesses. The enormous serpent devoured the old high school's principal in full view of hundreds of witnesses, then was led back into the old high school by Buffy, who trapped the serpent there and escaped with seconds to spare as the old high school exploded in full view of hundreds of witnesses.

Sunnydale High
Sunnydale High has been as resilient as David Carr.
Now it's three years later and no one in Sunnydale has the slightest recollection of any of these events. No parents seem worried about sending their kids to a school built on a site that was recently attacked by a 50-foot-long serpent, and then exploded. Buffy wanders into the new high school and its new principal says something like, "Oh yeah, I heard about you," while appearing to have no clue that the previous principal and the entire high school were supernaturally destroyed in front of hundreds of witnesses.

NFL Knows Aliens Better Than Steven Spielberg: Wow, five-time Pro Bowl quarterback A.J. Feeley sure looked at the top of his form dissecting Dallas. What's that you say? It was only his fifth NFL game?

Not only is Feeley an unknown who was cut by the Eagles in preseason, then later called up from the practice squad when injuries struck Donovan McNabb and his backup -- Feeley didn't even start in college! He spent his university days at Oregon holding the clipboard for Joey Harrington; Feeley attempted just 13 passes as a senior. Now he's won four straight as an NFL starter and played with poise and precision. Feeley also won the season-ending game for the Eagles in 2001, rendering a guy who didn't start in college 5-0 at the pro level. Apparently the extraterrestrials who had previously been using their neutrino transference array to assist "Kurt Warner" are now training their equipment on "A.J. Feeley." What the sinister alien purpose is, TMQ wishes he knew.

A. J. Feeley
A.J. Feeley proves that those old stories about little green men aren't just Hollywood fantasy.
TMQ's Perfect Evening: Genny Cream Ale Served by Tall Danish Blonde in Swimsuit Last week's item on the mysterious Copenhagen-to-Buffalo flight listed by Scandinavian Airlines -- SK925/SK8979 in your travel agent's computer -- speculated that Danes seeking a holiday wanted "someplace cold and desolate, with good beer." Comes now reader Shari Gerber, who lives in Norway, to protest that Denmark's Tuborg is better than any U.S. brew and to insist, "no American beer is regarded as imbibe-able by any Scandinavian, except under the direst of circumstances."

TMQ would stack Genesee Cream Ale, a Snow Belt brew and two-time gold medal winner at the Great American Beer Festival (only a bronze this year, sadly), against any continental beer. But it's true that Tuborg is fine stuff; the Tuborg once made under license in the United States was swill compared to the real thing as poured in Europe. Weirdly, the Tuborg website encourages customers to post bad pictures of themselves. Before sending Tuborg a bad picture of yourself, be sure to read the 531-word disclaimer, which cautions, "There are times when we may collect personal information from you."

Worst Crowd Response As their team trotted off at halftime trailing Jersey/B by 17-10, the home crowd loudly booed the Patriots. Sure you guys won the Super Bowl last year. But what have you done for us lately?

Note on the Pats' lovely new Gillette Field: it has a large advertising billboard from Braun razors.

Further Proof of the Decline of Western Civilization Going into Sunday, the Baltimore Nevermores and the Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.1), each with records of 7-7, were still alive for home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.

'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All: Trailing by a touchdown, New Orleans took over on its 26 with 1:37 to play and a timeout. Plenty of time to call anything in the playbook, including any running play. Instead incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, incompletion, game over.

Darrell Green
Darrell Green should go out in style Sunday, if Dobby the Elf actually has a conscience.
Free Darrell Green! Sunday will mark the final time in pads for the remarkable Darrell Green, a certain first-ballot Hall of Fame entrant. His coach, Dobby the Elf, has said Green will get the courtesy start before the home fans, then trot back to the bench where he has spent the year, handing the position back to the legendary Fred Smoot.

Attention Steve Spurrier: the only meaningful thing about the 'Boys-at-Persons season-ending contest, matching two eliminated clubs, is Darrell Green's final game. The fans are not paying to see Fred Smoot. No one cares a fig about Fred Smoot. If you don't play Green the whole game, Dobby, you will not only be screwing the team's fans, you will be cementing your growing reputation as a gentleman who has no detectable idea what he's doing.

Free Emmitt Smith! Weirdly, San Francisco seemed actively anxious to be rid of Jerry Rice two years ago when he was no longer a superstar and merely a certain first-ballot Hall-of-Famer who had spent his entire career with the team. Weirdly, Buffalo seemed actively anxious to be rid of Bruce Smith three years ago when he was no longer a superstar and merely a certain first-ballot Hall-of-Famer who had spent his entire career with the team.

And weirdly, Dallas now seems actively anxious to be rid of Emmitt Smith when he is no longer a superstar and merely a certain first-ballot Hall-of-Famer who has spent his entire career with the team. Against the Eagles, in what might have been Smith's final game in the stadium with the big white star, Emmitt carried eight times for 30 yards, then was offered a seat so that the legendary Troy Hambrick could carry six times for 4 yards. The game meant nothing to long-since-eliminated Dallas. The fans were not paying to see Troy Hambrick. No one cares a fig about Troy Hambrick. Why, exactly, is Cowboys management trying to show Smith the door?

He Didn't Even Grab His Flag! The Panthers trailing by a touchdown, Steve Smith caught a short slant in front of Bears DB Williams. Inexplicably, rather than tackle Smith, Williams simply touched him with both hands -- exactly what you'd do in a game of two-hand touch. Smith looked stunned for an instant, then took off for a 69-yard gain; Carolina scored on the next play and never looked back.

The Play's The Thing: Jersey/A fortunes have veered upward since Jim Fassel took over playcalling duties at midseason; Sunday's 44-point outburst on the road against the Colts, who went into the game with the fifth-ranked defense and badly needing to win, was remarkable. Playcalling was as sharp as TMQ has ever seen -- which usually does not mean calling lots of long passes but means, as it did in this game, calling plays that are different from the week before, and varying the attack to take advantage of whatever the other side was conceding. The Giants also reached into last year's playbook. Leading 10-3 on the first snap of the second half, Jersey/A had the ball at its own 18. Tiki Barber took the handoff right, then fired a throwback lateral to Kerry Collins, who heave-hoed to Amani Toomer for an 82-yard touchdown and the rout was on. What made this play was not so much that it was flashy but that it was different from what the Giants have been running.

Fassel has always had a knack for playcalling, having made one of the best pressure play calls of all-time. Going into the 2000 NFC Championship Game against Minnesota, the Giants had a play -- fullback fly pattern along the sideline -- they were sure would work, and were debating whether to call it early to get on the board, or save it for crunch time. Jersey/A scored on its first possession, then the Vikings fumbled the kickoff. As the Meadowlands crowd thundered at afterburner decibels, Fassel screamed, "Use it now!" to his offensive coordinator. Fullback fly along the sidelines for the touchdown, Minnesota trailed 14-0 just minutes into the game and the Vikings were already broken.

Making smart play-calls under gametime pressure is among the NFL's underappreciated arts. Buffalo's Bledsoe-led offense has disappeared in the second half of the season, for instance, because Bills offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride keeps endlessly calling the same handful of actions -- mainly quick outs and deep fades -- from the same formations on the same down-and-distance situations. Defenses have learned to take away the Bills plays that were working in the first half of the year and are offering other opportunities, such as the deep post. But Gilbride has made no adjustments, endlessly calling the same things.

Squared Sevens Warning Lately, TMQ has not liked what he sees when the Niners take the field. Two weeks ago they just barely beat the 'Boys, whom Philadelphia this weekend used for target practice. A week ago they lost at home to Green Bay, making mental errors on their final drive. Saturday they just barely beat the awful Arizona (CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN FOOTBALL-LIKE SUBSTANCE) Cardinals and did not look sharp. Leading by 10 with 7:48 remaining, San Francisco faced third-and-nine on its own 22. Arizona came out in the American Ballet Theater Defense, with seven DBs, three DLs and one LB. This lightweight alignment fairly begs to be run against; TMQ was sure the Niners would audible to a draw. Instead Jeff Garcia forced the ball into double coverage, INT, Arizona gets a quick touchdown and suddenly the Niners are fighting to survive against a team that couldn't beat Mount Union. (See below.) Tuesday Morning Quarterback gets a bad feeling about this.

David Carr and his Moo Cows also came out in a third-and-seven to find the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons in the American Ballet Theater Defense with three DLs and seven DBs. Did Carr audible to a draw? He also forced it into double-coverage, interception.

Marcel Shipp
Marcel Shipp and the Cardinals should dread the red.
For female and nontraditional male readers: ABT principal dancer Jose Carreno.

Tommy Hilfiger Must Be Advising These Teams: Arizona became the eighth team this season to sport a monochrome jersey-pants combo, joining Buffalo, Chicago, Jax, Jersey/B, Miami, New England and Seattle. To TMQ, all these revisionist unis look like malfunctioning screen savers. Couldn't we please just return to the uniform status quo of last season?

The Football Gods Smiled: David Carr was sacked for a record 73rd time -- most any quarterback has ever gone down in a season -- by Bruce Smith, who still has a chance to end his career with most all-time sacks.

This Week's Science Fiction Complaint: The Steven Spielberg sci-fi marathon "Taken" is finally over, and what a relief. So far as TMQ could tell, everything in this series was recycling of clichés. The alien who manifests as a Kansas farm wife offering lemonade and cookies was all but identical to a Star Trek scene. The large group of average people who feel called to assemble where a UFO will land was identical to the final action of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." The involvement of the aliens in World War II, the look of their ship and the suspended bodies on which experiments have been performed were identical to scenes from a BBC miniseries called "Invasion: Earth." The master plan of the aliens, to hybridize with humans, was identical to "The X Files." The wisecracking band of commandos wearing eyepiece cameras so the control room could watch their every move was identical to the movie "Aliens." The Agency Far, Far More Secret Than The CIA that was inexplicably covering up for the aliens was identical to the old series "Dark Skies." And of course there were the endless scenes of people walking toward blinding white lights, copied from too many movies and television shows to count. Twenty hours produced by Spielberg and not, so far as TMQ could tell, one single original minute. Aye caramba.

Joel Gretsch
If they're going to recycle clichés on "Taken," then we'll recycle this photo.
Beware the Curse of Parcells Bill Parcells has postponed his election to the Hall of Fame for at least another year by flirting with 'Boys owner Jerry Jones, who continues to remind TMQ of vacuum-cleaner impresario Dave Oreck. Coaches aren't supposed to be tapped for Canton until they have left the game on a bona-fide basis. Parcells' flirtation with City of Tampa kept him from being chosen last January. No matter what happens with the Cowboys job, the private-plane meeting with Jones will keep Parcells out of Canton this January too.

Parcells is a crackerjack coach but has a peculiar obsession with shafting employers. After winning the Super Bowl for Jersey/A, Parcells resigned in April, when he knew it would be too late for the Giants to find a top-shelf replacement; his post ended up in the hands of the forgettable Ray Handley, and mediocrity descended. In some weird way, Parcells seemed to want his resignation to ensure the Giants would have a couple of losing seasons, since this would make it seem as if the Tuna was irreplaceable.

Then, during the run-up to the Pats' 1997 Super Bowl appearance, Parcels shafted the Patriots by openly discussing his desire to leave; New England's Bowl moment ended in distractions and defeat. Jumping to Patriots' rival Jersey/B, Parcells semi-shafted this club by staying only three years, then doing his best to queer the agreement that Bill Belichick would replace him. In both cases Parcells seemed again to wish ill for his previous team, hoping it would decline so that people would wax on about how the Tuna was irreplaceable. Finally Parcells quasi-shafted Tampa by openly discussing Tony Dungy's job on the eve of a Bucs playoff game, which ended in distractions and defeat, only to walk away once the damage was done.

In sum Parcells the coach is totally self-centered and appears to enjoy leaving those who trusted him hurt and angry. The perfect fit for Jerry Jones!

Jerry Jones, David Oreck
Similarities between Jerry Jones, left, and David Oreck go beyond appearances: Both of their products suck.
Need a last-minute holiday gift? Try these incredible Dave Oreck air purifiers which offer "the same technology that U.S. Navy submarines use." Nuclear technology in an air purifier?

What Alcor Is Actually Freezing Is Assets: News reports say the children of Ted Williams have resolved their dispute and now agree to keep his body frozen at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz. This maintains the macabre possibility that Williams' genetic material will someday be used -- possibly on orders from a MLB marketing firm -- to create a clone. Though it should be kept in mind that the result would only be a physical clone. Since environment and experience determine personality, clones will be entirely different people from their "parents," just as identical twins, who are physical clones, are often entirely different otherwise. A clone of Ted Williams might have no interest in baseball.

Officially, the Williams children want their father kept in cryogenic deep-freeze against the chance that future medicine cures the disease of which Williams died. Officially, this is why Alcor exists: in case "future advancements in science and technology will be developed to allow the scientific means to repair the ravages of diseases like cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, or the effects of aging, thereby potentially restoring the individual back to good health," its site declares. There's just one problem with all this: Williams is dead. If a cure for his disease is someday developed, this will mean nothing to Williams, because he will still be dead. There is zero possibility of "restoring the individual back to good health" when the individual in question has died.

Alcor's claim to offer "life extension" is complete hooey. The lives of the living may be extended; the lives of the dead have concluded. All bodies being held in cryogenic tanks at Alcor, at a cost to their bilked relatives of a $120,000 fee, are corpses of the dead -- the freezing itself is lethal -- and will still be corpses no matter what cures are discovered in the future. Suppose someone died, and five minutes later a medical researcher rushed into the room screaming "eureka!" and holding a vial of medicine that cures the disease in question. That would not help the person who had died five minutes before, because he would still be dead. This is the situation for all the frozen corpses at Alcor, which is a swindle targeted at grieving relatives of the rich.

Orlando Pace Wins National Book Award: The Pro Bowl voting coming with only 88 percent of the season played is nothing compared with the National Book Award. Each year this prestigious prize -- check the current laureates here -- is announced in mid-November when, judged by weeks, only 88 percent of the publishing season is complete. Harmonic convergence? Hardly, because in order to be considered for the National Book award, nominations must be received by July 15 while the books themselves, or galleys of same, must reach judges no later than Aug. 19. This means the National Book Award should really be called the National Award for Books Published Between January and August. If your book comes out in the fall, you're toast.

One author whose book came out between January and August, and ended up a very deserving finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction, is Official Friend of TMQ Steve Olson, a former writer for the National Academy of Sciences. Steve's book, "Mapping Human History," is an extraordinarily well-documented account -- he traveled all over Africa, China and, at great personal hardship, Hawaii -- of what science has learned about the genetics of race and who's related to whom. Basically, Steve concludes that our DNA proves all human beings are much more closely related than generally assumed; in terms of what's in our chromosomes, the differences among an African, an American and an Asian are about the same as the difference between a blonde and a brunette. "Mapping Human History" also presents the evidence that modern travel and movement are causing people to mix at such an historically unprecedented pace that within a few centuries, the whole concept of "race" will lose meaning. This excellent book is becoming a word-of-mouth bestseller; buy it here.

Tradition Carried On Two weeks ago, TMQ declared there had not been an actual double reverse in the NFL since the 1978 Super Bowl, mainly because a double reverse requires three exchanges of the ball and that in turn creates a high chance the play will end, as it did in the 1978 Super Bowl, in a fumble.

Many readers including Julie May of Coronado Island, Calif., have written in to note there was a play -- though not a double reverse -- with three exchanges of the ball in the Bolts-at-Bills contest. Drew Brees gave to LaDainian Tomlinson running right; Tomlinson handed to Tim Dwight coming back left; Dwight flipped the ball toward Brees, who was supposed to throw deep. Result of the play? Fumble.

On Monday night, Pittsburgh tried a similar three-exchanges action. There was a handoff right, followed by a reverse left, followed by a flip back to the quarterback. Result of the play? Incompletion.

If Rix Is Ineligible for Missing an Exam, Why Isn't Price Ineligible for Being a Hypocrite? Oh, That's Right, the NCAA Does Not Penalize Hypocrisy: Hard on the heels of Dennis Franchione walking out on his commitment to Alabama, Washington State coach Mike Price pulls a Chuck Fairbanks by walking out on his commitments just before a postseason game. Price leaves the Cougars to take the 'Bama job two weeks before Washington State is to play in the Rose Bowl, which TMQ readers call The Invesco Bowl at Rose. Like Franchione, Price lied to his players by saying he was staying, then bolted the instant the money was right.

TMQ finds it hard to believe Price the promise-breaker will be allowed on the sidelines when Washington State takes the field for The Invesco Bowl at Rose; a man to whom grabbing cash is more important than his commitments should be kept far, far away from players and for that matter from grandmothers with money to invest.

Once again TMQ wonders why it is that coaches and other tie-wearing sports management types can break any promise and depart any team the moment there's money in it for them, but players are roundly denounced if they seek new pastures. And TMQ notes to Alabama what he noted to Texas A&M when Franchione slithered the Aggies' way: What 'Bama is getting is the kind of coach who cares exclusively about himself. The perfect fit for the Alabama program!

Donald Driver
Mark your calendars. It's not often that a beefcake shot of Donald Driver will run in this space.
Beefcake -- Run for Your Lives! Carrie Schmidt of Carol Stream, Ill., is among many female readers who have asked that TMQ leaven its cheesecake with beefcake from the Green and Gold Calendar, a pinup production of Packers shirtless and flexing. Carrie, your wish is my command. Here, for female and nontraditional male readers, is her favorite flexing shot, of Green Bay receiver Donald Driver. You can buy the calendar here.

TMQ's Christmas List: Besides, of course, the San Diego and Miami cheerleader swimsuit calendars, and the Eagles cheer-babe lingerie calendar, what I hope Santa brings me is a gift certificate to Christmas Sleigh, the new Christmas shop just opened in Middleburg, Va., by Linda Tripp.

Wasn't Linda telling sob stories about her heartrending poverty -- where does she get the money for cosmetic surgery, then to open a store in one of the most expensive towns in the world? (Middleburg is a celebrity hang-out, like Sag Harbor.) TMQ assumes she must have received hefty checks from right-wing sugar daddies. Checks to thank her for these achievements: betraying a friend and creating a pointless faux-scandal that kept the president of the United States from paying attention to what should have been the three big issues of the late 1990s, namely al Qaeda, Saddam and corporate lying. Great work, Linda! (Note: Linda Tripp says her favorite coaches are Mike Price and Dennis Franchione.)

Anyway if you buy a gift at Linda's store for heaven's sake don't tell her who it's for. She will immediately call the person and spoil the surprise.

Was It a Ranch-Style or a Bungalow Modest Castle?The Times obituary of Warwick Charlton, an eccentric English entrepreneur whose life's work was to build an exact duplicate of the Mayflower, contains this remarkable sentence: "He lived in a modest castle in Ringwood, Hampshire."

Hidden Indicator: Pass-wacky New England rushed 23 times, for a 4.2-yard average per run, and passed 37 times, for a 3.1-yard average per attempt. This is the kind of hidden indicator that is essential to an insider's understanding of the game. In this case, everyone knows what it means.

Running items department
Big Red
Western Kentucky's Big Red celebrates the Hilltoppers' Division I-AA national championship.
Obscure College Score of the Week: Western Kentucky 34, McNeese State 14 (Division I-AA championship). Located on a hilltop overlooking bucolic Bowling Green, Western Kentucky is one of those schools with a campus that could be used as a movie set of a college campus. Check Western Kentucky's incredible organization chart. Note that the "government relations" office -- meaning the school lobbyist -- reports to the president only and on the chart is more important than any academic division. Note the College of Education & Behavioral Sciences has a "talent search" division. Note that like many universities in the Title IX world, Western Kentucky has women's volleyball but not men's. Memo to all parents with tall teenaged girls: there are scholarships for women's volleyball.

Bonus Obscure Score: Mount Union 48, Trinity of Texas 7 (Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl - Division III championship). Located in Alliance, Ohio, Mount Union has sent its football team to six of the last seven Stagg Bowls, has won 96 of its last 97 games and boasts an NCAA-best 42-game winning streak. Basically, Mount Union is a football factory without scholarships. Check out the "Bracy webcams" to watch construction of the school's new science hall from four angles. Trent Lott would still be majority leader if he had only attended Mount Union's annual Multicultural Retreat.

New York Times Final-Score Score: The Paper of Guesses returns to its habitual 0-16 in its triumphant attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 1-759 since TMQ began tracking.

Jade H.
I think it's broken, Jade.
Reader Animadversion Many readers have asked for a chance to gawk at cheer-babe Jade H. of the Ravens, whose team bio says that her favorite thing to do in Baltimore is ESPN Zone. Jade, you have marvelous good taste! She's studying to be a radiologist. How come no medical professional who ever examined TMQ looked remotely like this?

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

Last Week's Challenge The Challenge was to propose a slogan for the new Department of Homeland Security.

Mea Davis of Chicago suggested, KNOWING YOUR BUSINESS SINCE 2002.

Myk Zagorac of Tallahassee, Fla., suggested the musical, EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE, EVERY MOVE YOU MAKE, WE'LL BE WATCHING YOU.

Many, many readers including Kimberly Mathews of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., proposed, WE KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER.

David Manning of Fairfax, Va., suggested ARE WE THE NEW KGB? NYET!

Carlos Goenaga of Houston proposed, ROUNDING UP THE USUAL SUSPECTS.

Chris Jones of Atlanta, obviously a close TMQ reader, proposed, WE WOULD LET YOU HAVE NFL SUNDAY TICKET ON CABLE, BUT IT WOULD INTERFERE WITH THE CAMERAS WE'RE PUTTING IN YOUR HOUSE.

Hanson Tipton of Knoxville, Tenn., suggested, SOMEDAY YOU CAN HAVE YOUR CONSTITUTION BACK.

Robert Borg of Denver suggests, AT LEAST WE'RE NOT THE DEPARTMENT OF FATHERLAND SECURITY.

Rachel Taft of Portland, Ore., proposed, PRETTY FUNNY CONTEST, TMQ. WOULD YOU MIND STOPPING BY OUR OFFICE?

TMQ his ownself proposes, paralleling the British Home Office slogan noted last week, BUILDING A TENSE, NERVOUS AND PARANOID NATION.

And the Challenge goes to Jeffrey Cook II of Baltimore, who proposed, OUR SLOGAN IS AT AN UNDISCLOSED LOCATION.

This Week's Challenge No Challenge this week because TMQ has no intention of reading the mail on Christmas Day.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback sends holiday wishes to all football enthusiasts, space aliens and mega-babes. Bells are ringing all across the local star cluster!

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 4:41 PM

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December 10, 2002

NFL talking heads stuck in reverse

POST #    534

NFL talking heads stuck in reverse
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

"It's a double reverse!" No, it's not. Chances are it's not even a reverse.

Of the many annoying football-announcer verbal tics -- and the total hard drive capacity of the entire Web combined prohibits listing every one -- the worst is shrieking "it's a double reverse!" on plays that are actually a single reverse or aren't even that. This is a equal-opportunity blunder, committed by all announcers on all networks at all levels of the sport. And it is time this problem were fixed.

In the first Dallas-Philadelphia game, Donovan McNabb gave to a gentleman running right; the gentleman handed off to James Thrash going back left, and Thrash ran for 32 yards. "It's a double reverse!" Pat Summerall cried. No it wasn't. It was a single reverse.

In the Seattle-Minnesota game, Daunte Culpepper faked up the middle then gave to a receiver coming around. "It's a reverse!" Mike Patrick cried. No it wasn't. It was an end-around.

In the Baltimore-Indianapolis contest, tight end Todd Heap took a handoff moving right and ran for 15 yards. "It's a reverse!" cried Brent Jones, who himself has run this play, and ought to know better. It was an end-around.

Blue Man Group
Like their Seattle counterparts, the Blue Man Group is hard to figure out.

In the Blue Men Group-Mouflons contest, Marshall Faulk lined up in the slot; there was a fake up the middle, and Faulk carried coming around. "It's a reverse!" cried Tom Jackson -- who himself has had to stop this play, and ought to know better -- of the highlight on NFL PrimeTime. No it wasn't. It was an end-around run by a slotback.

Summerall, Patrick, Jones and Jackson are merely mirroring current football culture, in which everybody gets this wrong. Many readers including Michael Bourn of Nashua, N.H., have written in asking TMQ to set this record straight.

A "reverse" occurs when the ball starts left or right, then comes back in the opposite direction. But the ball must start left or right.

Almost everything announcers call a "reverse" is actually an end-around or slotback-around, in which the ball was simply handed off to a receiver or slotback moving left or right parallel to the line. The result is a guy running from side-to-side but not on a reverse, because there was no initial motion to reverse. True, defenders yell "reverse!" to each other when they see this action, but only because it is cumbersome to yell "slotback around!" Announcers should use correct terminology.

A "double reverse" occurs when the ball starts off going left or right, then comes back in the opposite direction, then changes course a second time to end up traveling in the original direction. Almost everything announcers call a "double reverse" is actually a single reverse. Consider the Philadelphia play. The ball was handed to a gentleman running right; that's the initial direction. He then handed to Trash running left, making the play a reverse. But a single reverse: the ball started right, then went left. To cause a double reverse, Trash would have had to hand to a third gentleman running back right again.

The easy way to distinguish among the end-around, single reverse and double reverse is to count handoffs. On an end-around there's only one handoff, from the quarterback to the guy sprinting left or right. If there is only one handoff, it cannot be a reverse. (Slight exception -- when the quarterback sprints out in one direction then gives to receiver coming back the opposite way, as in the college veer-option flip reverse, there can be a reverse with only one exchange of the ball. This is the only exception.)

On the single reverse there are two handoffs: first to the man going in Direction A, then to the man coming back in Direction B. On the double reverse there must be three handoffs, first to the man going in Direction A, then to the man coming back in Direction B, a third to yet another man going in Direction A again. If you think you've beheld a double reverse, count the handoffs. Unless there were three exchanges of the ball -- and almost certainly there were not -- you didn't see a double reverse.

The reason teams usually run the end-around instead of the reverse, and almost always run the single reverse instead of the double reverse, is to reduce exchanges of the ball. Every time the ball changes hands is an opportunity for a fumble, especially when the gentleman doing the handing off is not a quarterback. And against ever-quicker NFL athletes, the true double reverse takes so long to develop that by the time the third gentlemen gets the ball, players from games held the previous week will be closing to make the tackle.

TMQ hasn't seen a true double reverse in the NFL since there were antenna-pointing control boxes on the tops of televisions. So far as TMQ knows, the last true double reverse in the NFL was called by Tom Landry in the 1978 Super Bowl. Fittingly, it resulted in a fumble.

In other football news, the Heisman Trophy winner is announced this Saturday on ESPN. This award's full name, TMQ believes, should be the Heisman Trophy for the Division I-A Quarterback or Running Back Who Receives Most Publicity.

The idea that the Heisman goes to "the outstanding college football player in the United States" is a total fiction. Sixty-one of 67 winners have been quarterbacks or running backs, although those positions account for just 14 percent of gentlemen on the field. (To make it sound as though more positions are recognized, the Heisman preposterously lists "running back," "halfback," "tailback" and "fullback" as four different positions.) No linebacker or offensive lineman has ever won, and just two defensive lineman and one defensive back were Heisman honorees. The last non-glory-boy to hear his named called was defensive end Leon Hart in 1949, half a century ago.

Joey Harrington
Harrington's boosters fell victim to the ink-equals-Heisman theory.

Though all Heisman laureates are good, awards are clearly decided with publicity first in mind. Oregon was smart two years ago when it paid $250,000 to have that giant mural of Joey Harrington painted near the Downtown Athletic Club, sponsor of the Heisman; this did as much for Harrington's chances as any play on the field. Charles Woodson's surprise victory in 1997 as the first defensive Heisman winner since Hart came about mainly because Woodson received an extraordinary amount of press attention. Though Woodson was worthy, it was the ink that swayed voters.

Publicity-as-the-measure-of-all-things prohibits Heisman voters from even considering players from beneath Division I-A, though it is at the small-college level that the true spirit of competition for its own sake is honored. If the Heisman is an award for best quarterback or running back, by a huge margin the dominant running back in college ranks this season was Ian Smart of C.W. Post, who ran for 2,203 yards and 30 touchdowns while finishing his career fourth all-time in collegiate rushing and first all-time in collegiate scoring. Ian Smart is the highest scoring college player ever, yet he'll be brushed aside by Heisman voters because he was not hyped.

And by a huge margin the dominant quarterback in college this season was Curt Anes of undefeated Grand Valley State, who has thrown for 3,331 yards and 44 touchdowns; his two-year total is a phenomenal 93 touchdown passes vs. just eight interceptions. Anes will be brushed aside, too.

John Heisman
Heisman wouldn't even be considered for his award today.

Today the Heisman actively mocks the memory of John Heisman himself, who was a tackle in college and then spent most of his career coaching teams now below the Division I-A level -- Akron, Penn, Washington & Jefferson. John Heisman himself would not be considered for the Heisman Trophy! This statuette should be promoted for what it is, an award for receiving hype at a big school.

"Wow" Plays: Terrell Owens' leaping one-hand touchdown catch and Quincy Morgan's game-winner were doozies, but the best was the Dantzler kick return. Former college quarterback Woodrow Dantzler, trying to hang on with the Cowboys as a special-teams player, was hammered and knocked sideways four separate times on his 84-yard touchdown return against the Squared Sevens, and each time recovered his balance to keep running. This man wants a job!

Once They Were Kings: On his game-icing 6-yard touchdown run, Deuce McAllister went straight ahead through the once-mighty Nevermores defense untouched by human hands.

Sixty-Minute Men: The Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.1) trailed the entire game, taking their first lead on a conversion attempt after time expired.

Where Was the Defense? No. 1: It was Jax 20, Oranges 14 with Cleveland exactly at midfield, 11 seconds remaining and no timeouts. Everybody knew the Hail Mary was coming; Morgan made the improbable catch. But check the tape, where was the defense? Cleveland had to get across the goal line, yet a mere two Jacksonville defenders were in the end zone. Three were rushing, one was near the line of scrimmage and five were clustered around the 20-yard line. Why was Jax defending the 20-yard line? In a Hail Mary situation, most defenders should spot up in the end zone, for the reason that is obvious to everyone except, apparently, Jaguars coaches.

Proof of the rule: The Jersey/A-Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons game ended in an identical situation, the Persons trailing by six with the ball at midfield, 10 seconds left and no timeouts. A Hail Mary, of course. Seven Giants defenders were clustered in the end zone, where the pass clanged harmlessly to the ground.

Terrell Owens, Jeff Garcia
Happy about the touchdown, or laughing at the 'Boys D?

Where Was the Defense? No. 2: Trailing by three with 15 seconds to play, the Squared Sevens were on the 'Boys 8-yard line. Let's see, Terrell Owens leads the league in receiving touchdowns. He'd scored earlier in the game, on a play from close to the Dallas goal line. Hmmmmmmmmm. Oh who might San Francisco throw to? Yet Dallas left Owens single-covered -- singled by underwhelming nickel back Dwayne Goodrich -- while the Cowboys triple-covered tight end Eric Johnson. Three defenders on the legendary Eric Johnson and one guy on the biggest receiving threat in the league! Owens even ran the same pattern as on his previous touchdown, a simple down-and-in. Dallas coaches appeared shocked that the pass went to Owens. Ye gods.

Where Was the Defense? No. 3: Game scoreless in the first, the Marine Mammals faced third-and-3 on the Chicago 5. Jay Fiedler faked a pitch left, rolled right and threw for the touchdown to backup tight end Jed Weaver, who had brush-blocked then cut into the end zone. No one covered Weaver. Sure, sometimes the tight end slips past uncovered on a play-fake on first-and-goal. But on third-and-3? Aye caramba.

Miami cheerleaders
The American work ethic in action.

Mega-Babe Professionalism It was raining and the wind was snapping flags Monday night in Miami, but the high-aesthetic-appeal Dolphins cheerleaders came out in their skimpy two-piece numbers. Seeing this professionalism, the football gods rewarded their team with victory.

Since TMQ began writing about the overdressed-coach factor three years ago, word seems to have gotten around the league, and it has become rarer for one coach to wear significantly more than his opposite number. In cases where neither opposing coach overdresses -- as was the case in Miami, Dave Wannstedt and Dick Jauron both sporting light windbreakers -- the onus of propitiating the football gods shifts to the cheerleaders. Miami's cheer-babes rose to the challenge.

Contrast to the Indianapolis at Denver game last month, when the equally high aesthetic appeal Broncos cheerleaders came out in such heavy parkas and bulky snow pants they looked like Michelin Men, and their team was denied victory.

Thus comes the time to add a corollary to TMQ's immutable law of the sideline, Cold Coach = Victory. The corollary: If Coaches Equal, Cheerleader Professionalism = Victory. In this usage, professionalism means skin or at least skin-tight.

Low-Gear Drive of the Week: Taking possession at their 24 at the beginning of the fourth quarter, leading 20-7, the Oakland Long Johns (see below) staged a 14-play, eight-minute touchdown drive that ended the Bolts' hopes. Everything on the drive was a run or an under pass, the longest gain being 15 yards.

Marty Mornhinweg
It's OT Marty, not rocket science.

The Happiest Man in America: Marty Mornhinweg of the Lions, when Arizona won the overtime coin toss.

The Unhappiest Man in America: Marty Mornhinweg of the Lions, when his charges committed penalties on three of the first four plays of overtime, including a flag that wiped out a Detroit interception returned to the Cards' 11-yard line. Arizona kicked a figgie to win a few plays after the penalty-nullified interception.

We're All Professionals Here: Three successive downs in the New Orleans-Baltimore game: blocked punt, turnover, turnover.

Fraidy-Cat Play of the Day No. 1: In the first Buffalo-New England contest, the tastefully named Gregg Williams waved the white flag in the third quarter on a play TMQ calls the Preposterous Punt: trailing by 10, facing fourth-and-2 on the Pats' 32, Williams punted. Pumped up by the Bills' mincing timidity, New England drove for a touchdown and never looked back.

In the third quarter Sunday, Buffalo trailed New England 20-0 and this time faced fourth-and-inches on the Pats' 8. Surely Williams learned from his mistake at this point the last time. You must, if you are anything but a disoriented former high-school coach who's in way over his head, go for it. In came the field-goal unit. TMQ thought, Got to be a fake. The figgie launched, TMQ lamented, "Aaaiiiiiiiiyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeee!". Only possible explanation: an onside kick would follow. Regular kickoff.

Thus the tastefully named Gregg Williams followed up the Preposterous Punt with the Fraidy-Cat Figgie. Both times Williams would have been better off going for it and failing -- but sending his team the message that he was challenging them to win. By kicking, he sent his team the message he expected to lose and was in too far over his head to do anything about it.

There are numerous examples of gentlemen who were solid assistant coaches -- Williams was a successful defensive coordinator at Tennessee -- but flops as head coaches because they lack leadership, game-day skills or ability to perform under pressure. Game-day skills are an especially overlooked factor. Head coaches aren't just standing there, they make the key decisions and are looked to by players for inspiration. Twice at critical times this season, Bills players looked to Williams and saw that, far from providing inspiration, he was signaling that he couldn't take the pressure. Before getting the Buffalo helm, Williams' sole head-coaching experience was in high school. Drew Bledsoe deserves better than a high-school coach.

Fraidy-Cat Play of the Day No. 2: Leading 27-24, Dallas faced fourth-and-1 at the San Francisco 28 with 2:21 remaining. That's a 47-yard field-goal attempt and the 'Boys field-goal kicker, Billy Cundiff, is having a shaky year -- among qualifiers, second-to-last in the league in kick scoring. If the attempt misses, the Squared Sevens get the ball at the 37. Even if the field-goal hits, a touchdown still wins it for the Niners. Most important, San Francisco is out of timeouts. The Cowboys gain a single yard the game is over: kneel-downs will exhaust the clock. And the Cowboys can't make the playoffs anyway, why not go for it and play to win? In came the field-goal unit. TMQ thought, Got to be a fake. The kick launched, TMQ lamented, "Aaaiiiiiiiiyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeee!". Clang, Niners' ball and you know the rest.

Dave Campo is auto-fired as of Dec. 30 anyway, so no need for a coaching analysis on this one.

Laura
It's a shame it's so cold up there.

Cheerleader of the Week: Minnesota might be having a cover-your-eyes season, but everything is going swimmingly for the TMQ ESPN Cheerleader of the Week, the scrumptious Laura of the Vikings. According to her team bio, Laura is a student at the University of Minnesota who has 16 years of dance training, whose career aspiration is to work in the fashion industry for a well-known designer and whose "favorite memory as a Viking cheerleader is putting on the uniform for the first time." Considering her swimsuit pose, hundreds of guys will think their favorite memory is Laura removing her uniform for the first time.

According to the Vikings' cheerleader FAQs page, Minnesota cheer-babes aren't paid, receiving only two game tickets and a parking pass. TMQ recommends they unionize and demand a fairer deal; if Hubert Humphrey were still alive the Vikings cheerleaders would be union-shop and filing grievances about their eyeliner allowance, that's certain. The FAQs page further explains that all Minnesota cheerleaders "lift weights and participate in numerous cardiovascular activities in order to improve our endurance," the primary test of that endurance being watching the Vikings this year.

Best Schemes: Touts are buzzing about how City of Tampa stopped Michael Vick by having Derrick Brooks "spy" him -- having Brooks ignoring normal responsibilities to mirror Vick's every move. It worked, but only a top-ranked defense with a pure-athlete as fast as Brooks will be able to get away with this.

Michael Vick
Vick was without his schtick when he faced the Bucs.

Tampa's offensive schemes were also impressive. The Bucs went "bunch" on key plays, but varied the bunch each time. Game scoreless in the second, first-and-goal on the Falcons' 10, Tampa lined up a tight end with a receiver directly behind him in a slot split on both sides, plus a back set right. The back ran to the short right flat, drawing up the Falcons defense; the right-side tight end ran to flag, dragging out the safety; Joe Jurevicius, the receiver behind the end on that side, ran a quick down and turn-in for the touchdown.

Two possessions later, leading 7-0, the Bucs had first-and-goal on the Falcons' 13. This time they bunched three in a slot split right and put the back and a receiver on the left side. The right-side tight end ran to the short right flat, drawing up the Falcons defense; the right-bunched receiver ran to flag, dragging out the safety; and you'll never guess what pattern was run by Joe Jurevicius, the left-bunched receiver on the right. Quick down and turn-in for the touchdown.

Worst One-Man Olé Block: Eagle N.D. Kalu got to the Seattle Blue Men Group punter so fast he didn't even have to block the punt; he simply tackled the punter, who had received a good snap. How did Kalu get there so fast? Blue Men up-man Heath Evans, assigned to block anyone breaking through the line, stepped aside to let Kalu pass untouched by human hands.

Worst Group Olé Block No. 2: Runner Corey Dillon was tackled five yards deep in the end zone for a safety after the entire right side of the Bengals line was driven backward by assorted Panthers. The play started on the Cincinnati 3-yard line! Ye gods.

Worst Group Olé Block No. 3: Trailing by a touchdown, San Diego went for it on fourth-and-1 from the Oakland 31 on the opening possession of the second half. The call was sweep left, and TMQ hates slow-developing plays on short yardage. LaDainian Tomlinson lost three yards when the entire left side of the Bolts line was driven backward by assorted Raiders. Several San Diego players, including left tackle Damion McIntosh, simply stood watching, making no attempt to block anyone. It was the defining play of the Bolts crash-and-burn.

Dobby the Elf
Spurrier! Get off the bed!

Hey, It Used to Work Against Western Carolina: Facing third-and-2 against Jersey/A, Dobby the Elf (Steve Spurrier) sent his charges out in a flag-football trick-play formation with the center, quarterback, a running back and two guards in the middle of the field; a tackle and two receivers split wide on each side. The back ran straight ahead for the first, but you could almost hear Giants coaches saying to each other, "Spurrier is starting to lose it."

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! Leading 17-7 with 45 seconds left in the half, the Detroit Peugeots (see below) had the Cards facing third down. It's a blitz! Seven gentlemen cross the line; touchdown pass to Nate Poole, and the Arizona comeback is on.

The Sort of Offense That Rolls Up 47 Yards: Facing third-and-1 with three minutes left in the half, Houston not only didn't run, David Carr sprinted backyards 10 yards before throwing the ball away; punt. Sprinted backwards 10 yards on third-and-1.

Worst Heave-Ho: Brian Griese's game-ending interception at the Jets' goal line with Broncos trailing by six was a pass forced into triple coverage. And it was first down from the 23 with 1:32 left, plenty of time and downs to throw the ball away and try anew. Plus Brian, if there are three guys on the man you are looking at, what might your instinct tell you about the other receivers?

Stats of the Week: Kansas City has won its last two games by a combined 98-10.

Stats of the Week No. 2: Kansas City, the league's highest-scoring team, is in last place in the AFC West. (The Chiefs are tied for last in record, but trail in tiebreakers.)

Stats of the Week No. 3: Houston beat Pittsburgh by 18 points despite compiling just 47 yards of offense and three first downs. The Steelers lost despite advantages of 375 yards of offense and 21 first downs.

Stats of the Week No. 4: San Francisco just barely won despite advantages of 144 yards of offense, 16 first downs and leading in takeaways.

Stats of the Week No. 5: Despite being the sole team in the NFL that uses the gamble-everything-for-takeaways "46" defense, Buffalo is last in the league in takeaways. Its defense has failed to force a turnover in 10 of 13 games.

Stats of the Week No. 6: Despite using three top-10 draft picks on defensive linemen in the past decade (Simeon Rice, Eric Swann and Andre Wadsworth) plus several No. 2 picks, the Arizona (caution: may contain football-like substance) Cardinals are last in the league in sacks.

Stats of the Week No. 7: David Carr of the Moo Cows was sacked 26 times in September, 18 times in October, 15 times in November and so far has been sacked nine times in December. He is on a pace to be sacked an all-time record 84 times. (Randall Cunningham holds the record at 72 sacks absorbed in a season.)

Stats of the Week No. 8: San Diego is 8-5, but has lost three games by a combined 127-32.

Rich Gannon
Come see Gannon before his arm falls off.

Stats of the Week No. 9: Rich Gannon is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,175 yards. The season record, held by Dan Marino, is 5,084 yards. And despite a league-leading 546 heave-hoes, Gannon has been sacked just 26 times.

Texas A&M Would Have Fired Dwight Eisenhower; World War II Victory Margin Not Large Enough: Texas A&M showed the door to coach R.C. Slocum, whose record at the school was 123-47-2 and who never had a losing season. But this year the Aggies were 6-6, get him out of here!

This tells you that Texas A&M administrators and boosters are spoiled little ingrates whom the football gods will now punish. This also bares the shameful secret of the football-factory universities -- namely, that it's assumed an orangutan could go 6-6 coaching Texas A&M, Miami, Georgia or any similar school.

At the football-factories, an annual winning season is nearly guaranteed owing to recruiting advantages and the scheduling of weak innocent-bystander schools having no chance of victory. How often in recent decades have any of the teams currently in the Top 25 had a losing season? Remember how shocking it was last year when Penn State actually finished below .500? It might seem impossible that the football-factory universities can all have winning seasons every year when they also play each other; the explanation is their annual guaranteed-win dates against cupcake teams.

At the football-factory level, it's hard to win a national championship but falling-down easy to have a winning season. That is why when a football-factory coach goes 6-6, he is perceived as having become a loser -- everyone knows he starts the season with built-in victories. (Louisiana-Lafayette and Baylor in Slocum's case this year.) It is also why when someone like Steve Spurrier jumps from college to the pros, he is stunned to discover that instead of half of the year's games being walkovers and only three or four being really contested, every game is contested. Coaches who go in the other direction, from the pros to the football factories -- like Al Groh jumping from the Jets to Virginia -- are making the safe move. Groh is all but guaranteed of being a winner every year; Spurrier, once a guaranteed-winner, now flounders; Slocum lost favor for failing to do that which is perceived to automatic, finishing above .500 at a football factory.

Dennis Franchione
When the goin' gets tough, the tough apparently bail on their contracts.

To Exact Their Vengeance on A&M, the Football Gods Sent Franchione: After cashiering Slocum, the Aggies hired Dennis Franchione of Alabama. Set aside that Franchione had five years left on the contract he casually broke; set aside that he'd urged 'Bama players to stick with the school through its NCAA probation, then cleared out the instant someone offered him cash, breaking his word to his charges; set aside that he showed up at A&M to take the new post without having the guts to tell the 'Bama players he merrily screwed; set aside that Franchione's own website was declaring just a few days ago "Coach Fran has stated repeatedly" that Alabama "is where he wants to be." (The site, coachfran.com, just disappeared; Franchione's promise to stay was found here. Just remember, Texas A&M, what you getting in Dennis Franchione -- a liar who walks out on his commitments. The perfect fit for your program!

Why, TMQ wonders, can coaches take a hike the instant it benefits them, but when players want to leave a team for greener pastures there is anguished outcry? TMQ is reminded of 1978, when Chuck Fairbanks of the Patriots agreed to a job with the University of Colorado in December, the NFL season still in full swing and his club just having made the playoffs; the subsequent distraction screwed New England's postseason.

Fairbanks didn't care, all he cared about was the money Colorado gave him. But why didn't Colorado stop to think about what it was getting -- namely, the kind of guy who walks out on his commitments. That message didn't stay hidden long. Fairbanks arrived at Boulder promising to "turn this program around." He sure did! His predecessor had been 35-21; Fairbanks lead the school to its worst three years in history, 7-26, before being jettisoned. How long, A&M, till you're wishing you had Slocum back?

Halle Berry
Cars, gadgets, blah, blah, blah -- bring on Halle!

TMQ: Official Column of James Bond: OK, so James Bond drives Aston-Martins and Thunderbirds and has his own an action game. But when Norelco became the electric razor of 007 -- get your Limited Edition James Bond Spectra razor here, limited, surely, to the number they can sell -- this went too far. Not so far, of course, that it can't be used as a cheap, flimsy excuse for the ESPN.com art department to append the Halle-Berry-in-the-Ursula-Andress-bikini shot from the new Bond flick "Die Another Day."

Local Affiliates Outrages of the Week: Wow! Look at the monster games on the Sunday card -- Atlanta at Tampa, Oakland at San Diego, Indianapolis at Tennessee, Buffalo at New England. Which of these USA Today five-star contests were shown in the nation's capital, where TMQ lives? None.

Nationally, less than half of the country saw Atlanta vs. Tampa -- forget how it turned out, this was clearly the headliner of the day's card -- while the one-star Vikings at Packers matchup was beamed to entire United States.

Not every local affiliate drops the ball. As reader Joe Ghory of Concord, Mass., reports, affiliate WJPR in Roanoke, Virginia, aired the Bucs-Falcons game despite normal regional affection for the hapless Persons; San Diego affiliate XETV showed Bucs-Falcons after numerous viewers protested its initial plan to air the two-stars Cowboys at Niners. Forget that Cowboys at Niners turned out to be the better game; Falcons at Bucs was clearly the headliner of the card.

The NFL simply must put Sunday Ticket on cable, so viewers can make up their own minds about what to watch. It's absurd that the league produces such fabulous games and then prevents most of the country from seeing them, offering viewers a steady diet of stinkers and clunkers as the five-star pairings go unseen. After all, it's not like the Atlanta at Tampa game increases in value if unseen. It only has worth to fans, or economic value, in the moments it is being played.

If nothing else, preventing fans from watching the best games cannot be in the NFL's long-term financial interest. Economically it constitutes taking two accounts receivable -- ad revenues from viewing of the top games, and fees to Sunday Ticket -- and hurling them out the window.

'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All No. 1: From the moment at end of the third quarter when Minnesota took a nine-point lead over the Packers at Lambeau, to the beginning of the Vikings' last-second desperation drive, Minnesota called seven rushes and 10 passes. Had the Vikings simply kept running up the middle for no gain but not stopping the clock with incompletions, Green Bay probably would have run out of time for its score to take the lead with 1:111 left.

'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All No. 2: At Kansas City last month, Buffalo lost by repeatedly passing on short-yardage downs. The Bills threw on a critical third-and-inches; incompletion, punt. Reaching first-and-goal at the Kansas City 5, the Bills threw three straight times, all incompletions, then settled for the field goal. They were defeated by one point.

Drew Bledsoe
If you ask Pats fans -- they'll say it was classic Drew.

On Sunday, Buffalo had second-and-goal at the New England 1-foot line, trailing by 17. Did the Bills pound, pound, pound for 99-percent-likely touchdown? A pass-wacky roll-out on which Drew Bledsoe sprinted backwards 15 yards -- 15 yards backward on goal-to-go from the one-foot line - interception, overall team collapse promptly follows. It's hard not to think the Buffalo sideline is more concerned about getting touchdown-pass stats for Bledsoe than about winning games.

Reader Haiku Matt Grau of Richmond, Va., was among many who noted that the Chargers' official site froze for a yet third time last Tuesday afternoon owing to TMQ's link to Bolts cheer-babe swimsuit photos. Another reader proposes a solution to this dilemma.

Charles Moylan of Arlington, Mass., noting the Raiders have no TMQ cognomen, proposes they be known as the Long Johns -- as in Silver, and pirates. Me likey! Two readers propose new TMQ cognomens in haiku, and a third proposes that the Ravens/Nevermores, named for Poe, yield to Baltimore native John Waters.

Proceeds from sale of
Bolts' cheerleader calendar
fund server upgrade?
-- Charlie Zegers, Tuckahoe, N.Y.

Logos, track records
identical: I give you
the Detroit Peugeots!
-- Doug Gillett, Birmingham, Ala.

Need a new nickname?
The Pittsburgh Hypocycloids.
Hint: It's their symbol.
-- Keith Hart, Triadelphia, W.Va.

Baltimore Ravens
should nod to Waters, not Poe:
Baltimore Divines.
-- Joe Gindhart, West Bridgewater, Mass.

OK for guys is
Catherine Bell half-naked:
Equal time, where's Harm?
-- Sue Bogumil, West Seneca, N.Y.

Rams to UFO:
Thanks for the quarterbacks, but
fingers don't fit right!
-- Eric Zasada, Rochester, N.Y.

7-1 in day.
Are Broncos solar-powered?
0-5 in dark.
-- Matthew Jacobs, Pittsburgh

With Mammals defense
playing Gannon week 15,
Dan's record is safe.
-- David Campomizzi, Toronto

Normally thirty,
TMQ extends my lunch
to fifty minutes.
-- Eric Klooster, Ann Arbor, Mich.

TMQ's Christmas List: The first item on my list this year is the Evolution 2100 roof-top carrier, which will enable you to haul around an extra 21 cubic feet of cargo -- if your SUV doesn't have enough room for all your stuff!

Official Child of TMQ Christmas List: My 13-year-old boy was writing his Christmas list when I thought I heard him ask how to spell "cologne." I replied while thinking, Oh man, this is starting early. Later he handed me the list. One entry: "For Game Cube: Star Wars Attack of the Colognes."

Gil Bellows
Gil Bellows, who takes career advice from David Caruso, stars in "Second String".

And You Thought "Lord of the Rings" Was a Fantasy: The premise of the upcoming made-for-TV movie "Second String" is that the Buffalo Bills finally win the Super Bowl. Oh -- so it's science fiction!

TMQ Question of the Day No. 1: Aaron Glenn's first of two long interception returns for six against the Steelers came when he "jumped" a simple three-step slant by a receiver and cut in front. Since NFL teams run short slants constantly, why don't more DBs step in front?

TMQ Question of the Day No. 2: Why will Jennifer Lopez pose nude for GQ but not for Page 2? Don't say nobody's told her about the free bobbleheads!

I'd Rather Be Playing Attack of the Colognes: TMQ continues to be driven crazy by the Star Trek "prequel" serial Enterprise, which is set 100 years before the old Captain Kirk episodes, yet contains plot elements inexplicable in light of what happens 100 years later. The official excuse is that the invention of time travel has altered continuity in the Star Trek universe. Yet any time-travel-altered events would have occurred in the past relative to Captain Kirk, who would have known about them. The whole thing still makes absolutely no sense.

For time-travel nonsense, nothing tops the preposterous TNT summer series "Witchblade," now thankfully in remission. The show's second-season premiere began by declaring that, owing to time-travel, the entire first season never happened. The second season was presented as a remake of the first season. That's some kind of postmodern record.

In the first season, New York City police detective Sara Pezzini, bearer of the ancient, magical witchblade, sees her partner Danny killed in the pilot episode; Danny becomes a guiding ghost. In the second season, he's fine because Sara went back in time to rescue him. (Danny must have scored well with audiences in Q-testing.) In the first season, the Ian character was secretly protecting Sara while she battled the evil industrialist Irons; in the second season, it's the same events all over again but Irons immediately dies while Ian is now trying to kill Sara. (To scriptwriters "evil industrialist" is a conjoined phrase, like "fading hippy" or "fugitive financier." Won't it be fun to see a kindly industrialist in any Hollywood product?) In the first season, Sara extensively explores the powers of her witchblade; in the second season, it's the same events but Sara barely knows how to use the magic device. And in the second season -- Sara is now the reincarnation of Joan of Arc!

Witchblade
You don't often hear, "Did anyone tape Witchblade?", at the office.

Read the preposterous Witchblade narrative summary here. Check the official description of Sara's partner: "Danny does not know about the Witchblade and its powers, but he often questions Sara's erratic behavior and might suspect that greater forces are at work in her." She's just used time travel to raise him from the dead, and he "might suspect" she has unusual power. Man, this guy is a natural-born detective!

The subplot of the "Witchblade" second season is that An Agency Far, Far More Secret Than The CIA is killing people left and right with total impunity for no clear reason and, inexplicably, has an unlimited budget without anyone in Washington knowing about it. The ghost of JFK appears in one particularly excruciating episode to warn Sara she is humanity's last hope to stop the Agency Far, Far More Secret Than The CIA! As a kicker, the ghost of JFK reveals that he was assassinated not by Oswald but by the Agency Far, Far More Secret Than The CIA. Apparently Witchblade has used time travel to steal this gimmick since the old television show Dark Skies also had as its subplot that JFK was actually assassinated by An Agency Far, Far More Secret Than The CIA.

Why do so many television shows and movies, produced by people who live in freedom and luxury owing to the American system, relentlessly present the United States as a place of runaway evil government agencies? Sinister U.S. government conspiracies are even a standby of Arnold Schwarzenegger movies! ("Eraser," "Collateral Damage," etc.) And if An Agency Far, Far More Secret Than The CIA is scheming to destroy the country, how come almost everything is getting better for almost everybody?

Donald Trump's Legacy: The Eagles put Sean Landeta on injured reserve. That leaves just one former USFL player still dressing for NFL games, Doug Flutie. TMQ's favorite Flutie moment came in 1998, when this gentleman was making his NFL comeback. The Bills were at Indianapolis, and the 6-foot-5 Peyton Manning had a pass batted down. "He's too short!" Flutie screamed from the sidelines.

Daniel Snyder
Snyder has cut more people than a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon.

Synder Files Protest Against League Rules That Forbid Firing Coaches During Games: Last week, Lord Voldemort (Daniel Synder) cut another kicker, James Tuthill, for having the impudence to miss a field-goal attempt. This means the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons are now on their ninth placekicker during the Voldemort era -- bet that makes the new guy feel relaxed and confident, huh?

The new guy, Jose Cortez, missed his first attempt Sunday. As TMQ endlessly points out, in the four years of Voldemort's evil reign, in addition to nine kickers the Persons have had six starting quarterbacks, four head coaches, four defensive coordinators and four general managers.

Hidden Indicator: In the Bengals-Panthers game, there were two kick return touchdowns, two fumble return touchdowns, a safety and 15 penalties. This is the kind of hidden indicator that is essential for an insider's understanding of the game. In this case, it means Cincinnati was on the field.

Running items department
Obscure College Playoff Score of the Week: Valdosta State 21, Texas A&M-Kingsville 12 (Division II semifinal). Kingsville's "prospective students" page begins:

Start your first year at A&M-Kingsville with Hoggie Hysteria Welcome Week, six days of events and activities to welcome you to campus. Close out your first year with Spring Fling, a celebration of the season that includes music, dancing, and booths sponsored by student organizations. In between, join in the fun at Homecoming, Family Day, Fall Carnival, the Miss Texas A&M University-Kingsville Scholarship Pageant and the other events sponsored by the Office of the Student Activities. Join some of the more than 130 campus clubs and organizations, an intramural team, or a community service project. It's all part of student life -- what goes on before and after your classes -- and it's an important part of your A&M-Kingsville education, an opportunity to make friends, learn new skills and develop new interests.

Note that the school says almost nothing about learning or classes; this is the Texas A&M system we're talking about! Bonus factoid: Kingsville calls itself TAMUK, which sounds like an Iraqi biological facility on the United Nations inspection list.

Bonus Obscure Playoff Score: John Carroll 16, Brockport 10 (Division III quarterfinal). One guy beats an entire city! The president of Brockport, with 8,500 students one of the largest schools to compete in Division III, declares "we have identified student success as our primary mission" as if this had previously been a point of controversy. Located on the buckle of the Snow Belt near Rochester, N.Y., Brockport advises potential students, "Canada is but a 3½-hour drive," as if assuming they will be anxious to flee.

Double Bonus Obscure Playoff Score: McNeese State 24, Montana State 20 (Division I-AA quarterfinals). What counts as news at a school at beautiful Bozeman, Mont.? A one-day delay in a professor's appearance on "Good Morning America" to talk about ... snow.

What are they thinking about in Bozeman besides snow? "It is a primary expectation of President Geoffrey Gamble that the University will engage in an open, data-rich budget development process that is directly linked to the maintenance of a long-range plan, the identification of specific strategic priorities, and a detailed assessment of resource allocation outcomes."

New York Times Final-Score Score:. The Paper of Guesses returns to its habitual 0-16 in its triumphant attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 1-727 since TMQ began tracking.

Eagles cheerleader
OK, you asked for it.

Reader Animadversion. A mere one-week absence of a Philadelphia Eagles cheerleader lingerie calendar photo -- buy the calendar here, advertised with the line, "we haven't pushed the envelope, we've ripped it open" -- caused such an avalanche of email that TMQ is forced, forced to show another.

Many readers nominated Christina, a La Salle University student who, according to her bio, does tae kwon do, aerobics six times a week and lifts weights five times a week; the results are admirable. A reader haikuizes of her highly literary pose,

The Road Less Traveled?
Cheer-babe reading or telling
mortals our chances?
-- Kim Lynne, College Station, Texas

On TMQ's question of why, if in the "Lord of the Rings" Sauron once made an all-powerful ring, he simply doesn't make another, many readers including Chris Benfatto of St. Louis replied that Sauron put all his dark power into the One Ring; his weakened spirit is incapable of making another and seeks the first to recover full vileness. Rob Hartsock of Anchorage adds that the elves who made the ring at Sauron's behest mysteriously lost the knowledge of how to make another; it's the One Ring or nothing now. Another reader suggests Sauron's mistake was to name his creation the One Ring, making it impossible for him to forge a second:

Sauron trapped in own
tautology: One Ring means
can be just One ring.
-- Joe Mette, Mars, Pa.

OK, but then if the One Ring has that much power how come Prince Isildor, a mere human, took it from Sauron in the first place by defeating the ultimate bad guy in a swordfight? How come Isildor himself was later killed in battle while wearing the One Ring?

Jennifer
Our deepest apologies Jennifer.

Reader Tim Donahue of Fishers, Ind., was among many who pointed out that the Lucky Charms cheer-babe identified in the column last week as "Jennifer DeMotte" was actually Jennifer from DeMotte, Ind. The Colts' site is not a model of clarity, leading to this mistake. And for some techno-reason, ESPN.com could not import Jennifer's swimsuit picture. TMQ urges readers to exercise their First Amendment rights by going to the Colts site, clicking cheerleaders, then calendar preview, then Jen. It's worth the effort.

Robert Kemp of New Orleans was among many who noted it was Jake Reed of the Boy Scouts, not Joe Horn, who made last's week's "wow" catch while being hit by four Bucs defenders simultaneously. "There were so many Tampa players around him, it was hard to tell who he was," Kemp notes.

Brian Straub of Ames, Iowa, was among many who pointed out that Marty Mornhinweg's decision to kick after winning the overtime coin toss was not the first time this had happened since the 1962 AFL title game. In 1997, Denver won a kickoff coin toss at Buffalo, choose to kick to get the wind, and was victorious on a figgie after getting good field position when the Bills' opening drive into the wind stalled. Denver went on to win the Super Bowl that year, so its tactical choices must be respected.

Finally, Chad Kubicek of Lenexa, Kan., noted that in choosing to kick after winning the overtime coin toss in the 1962 AFL title game, Hank Stram accomplished the double futility of surrendering both the ball and the wind. Stram wanted the wind, and told his captain Abner Haynes to take it if winning the toss. At midfield Haynes said, "We'll kick toward the clock," meaning the clock tower at the downwind end of the field, but zebras heard only "we'll kick" and allowed the Oilers to pick direction, and they picked toward the clock. Stram's Texans won anyway in the second OT, and the moment created some fine lore. In haiku,

"Kick to the clock" in
'62 championship;
a double-whammy.
-- Chad Kubicek, Lenexa, Kan.

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

TMQ Challenge Last week's Challenge was to come up with new bowl game names.

One reader suggested in haiku that the Challenge was unwinnable because there has already been a name that can never be topped:

Truth's always stranger:
Can Poulan Weed-Eater Bowl
ever be outdone?
-- Jeff Vance, Washington, D.C.

Many, many readers, including Bryant Kiedrowski of Cleveland, suggested the Kellogg's Cereal Bowl, to be played in Battle Creek, Mich.

David Dirgo of Omaha suggested the Diminished Expectations Bowl, which this year would pit Nebraska versus Florida State. Hey Dave, Florida State made the BCS! Oh, I get it, that's part of the joke.

Neil Towler of Worcester, Mass., suggested the Victoria's Secret Bowl, where the real viewer interest would be on the sidelines. The site would have to be warm-weather. In like spirit Nick Bremer of Eagan, Minn., suggested the Tuesday Morning Quarterback Mega-Babe Bowl, with teams composed of Cheerleader of the Week winners. Nick, I will give this proposal very serious study, as soon as I can arrange for the Cheerleaders of the Week to meet me for a secret practice session.

Sopranos
I got your bowl right here!

Mark Givarz of St. Louis suggests HBO Presents "The Sopranos" Bowl, played, of course, at the Meadowlands.

Curtis Gilchrist of Huron, S.D., suggests the Hostess Cupcake Bowl, matching the two big-name teams that did the most padding of their schedules with cupcake opponents. Curtis, how would you narrow it down to two?

Josh Bell of Raleigh, N.C., suggested the Manute Bowl, sponsored by the former NBA player. Sam Gupta of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, suggested the Erskine Bowl, sponsored by the unemployed former Senate candidate.

TMQ's nominee is the Fiasco Bowl. Watch this space for more on that.

This week's Challenge goes to Noah Abrahamson of Iowa City, who suggests The Invesco Bowl at Rose. Since Invesco has already ruined the most majestic place name in professional sports, Abrahamson reasons, why shouldn't it also ruin the most majestic name in collegiate sports? The Invesco Bowl at Rose would, of course, be played in Miami.

This Week's Challenge: OK, the Heisman Trophy only considers big-hype glory boys. Which non-quarterback non-running-back from any division deserves to be lauded as "the outstanding college football player in the United States?" Propose your candidates here and try to give concrete reasons -- not just, "he's really good" -- considering that TMQ will not have seen many of your nominees play.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 5:17 PM

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November 26, 2002

Pass the turkeys out of Dallas, Detroit

POST #    491

Pass the turkeys out of Dallas, Detroit
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist


The birds are in the oven, and once again the Detroit Lions and Dallas Cowboys will be hosts for Thanksgiving Day games. The 'Boys have been hosts on Thanksgiving since 1966 and the Lions, who started the idea, almost every season since 1936. Why does the league grant these franchises an annual turkey-day home game? There's no rule, just a tradition -- a tradition that should end.

Any NFL coach or player will tell you that while road games are harder to win than home games, the hardest games to win are road games played at special times -- the Sunday night, Monday night and occasional Thursday contests. But while who gets to be host rotates annually as regards Sunday night, Monday night and the occasional Thursday-nighters during World Series week, season in and season out, Dallas and Detroit are guaranteed a special-time home game, one that is never allowed to any other team.

It's instant doomsday for the visiting team to play Sunday, then travel 48 hours later for a special-time away game on Thanksgiving against a team that has been resting at home. For all intents and purposes, the Detroit-Dallas lock on Thanksgiving host duties means the Cowboys and Lions begin each season with a half-game lead on all other NFL squads. Consider that since 1936, Detroit has won 46 percent overall, but 53 percent of games played at home on Thanksgiving. Since 1966, Dallas has won 60 percent overall, but 65 percent of games played at home on Thanksgiving. This works out to roughly a half-game annual bonus for the Cowboys and Lions, a windfall at the expense of all the league's other teams.

Surely some in the national television audience like the fact that Thanksgiving games always come from the same places and always feature the same two silver-trimmed clubs; this does possess the cozy feel of tradition. But it's inequitable that the league hands Dallas and Detroit a schedule advantage no other team is ever granted. Some owners, prominently Lamar Hunt of the Chiefs, have been quietly lobbying to end the Dallas-Detroit exclusivity and rotate the Thanksgiving Day home slot among all teams. If such a policy were begun next year, that would mean the Cowboys and Lions wouldn't be hosts again on Turkey Day until 2017. That seems reasonable to TMQ, and would level the Thanksgiving playing field. As an alternative, the NFL could offer Dallas and Detroit the option of keeping their home Thanksgiving slots, but they would then have to begin each season with a half-game penalty in the standings.


Chad Hutchinson and the Cowboys get their annual scheduling gift from the NFL on Thursday.
In other NFL news, Chicago and Indianapolis won overtime contests where the opposing team never got to touch the ball. Stretching back to last season, Oakland has lost three consecutive overtime games in which it never got a possession. This ain't right.

It is an urban legend that the team that gets the overtime kickoff always wins. Coming into the 2001 season, in 73 percent of NFL overtime games each side had at least one possession, while a narrow 51 percent of victories went to the team winning the OT coin toss. Still, it's just not right for a game to be decided by one team having a try and the other team having no try, based on a random coin flip. The NFL should either adopt some version of the NCAA's fabulous matching-possessions system -- almost always far more exciting play-by-play than anything that happens in regulation -- or at least amend the present system that if the team getting the overtime kickoff scores, the opponent gets a kickoff and one possession to match or exceed. Reforming the present system would have two effects: to make games more fair, and to make overtimes more exciting. Which of these outcomes, exactly, is undesirable?

Michael Vick Play of the Week: From the Panthers' 31 in the first, Vick sidestepped and dropped back to avoid a tackler; sidestepped and dropped back again; sidestepped and dropped back a third time. Vick retreated all the way back to the 43 before he looked downfield, still under pressure. TMQ thought, "Here comes the crazy interception." Perfect pass snapped off the back of the wrist, 35 yards in the air to Warrick Dunn, who made it in for the touchdown.


Priest Holmes surprised the Blue Men Group on 30 touches and 307 yards.
Sweet Play No. 1: Fake up the middle to Priest Holmes, then fake end-around, then screen pass to Holmes for a 64-yard touchdown. The Chiefs went on to lose to the Seattle Blue Men Group, but this play was sweet. Note to opposing defenses: Priest Holmes gets the ball a lot. Despite his incredible year -- 30 touches for 307 yards on Sunday alone -- defenses still act surprised about Holmes.

Sweet Play No. 2: Leading the New Orleans Boy Scouts (see below) by two, the Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.1) faked up the middle, then faked an end-around, then tossed to Dennis Northcutt for 40 yards. Cleveland scored on the drive, and the upset was under way.

Sweet Play No. 3: Earlier in the game, the Oranges put Northcutt as a slotback in a five-wide set. He went in motion almost straight backward to end up behind Tim Couch, then took the draw and ran 36 yards to the house. A few columns ago, TMQ complained that Cleveland playcalling had become predictable, especially in the five-wide. No such problem Sunday.

Best Calls Radioed In: In the scoreless first, the Eagles put three wideouts on the field, forcing shaky Squared Sevens nickel back Mike Rumph to cover one of them, and ran a left up to James Thrash, pass incomplete but not by much. On the following down, the Eagles called exactly the same play, except putting Todd Pinkston into Thrash's place to have a fresh horse, and completed it for a 32-yard gain that set the tone for the Philadelphia victory. Sometimes the best call is simply to call exactly the same play you just called; defenses don't expect it. In the second quarter, the Eagles ran the play a third time, 25 yards to Pinkston for the game's first score.

Punk Play of the Day: Green Bay trailing City of Tampa by seven, the Packers had reached third-and-three on the Bucs 21. Brett Favre called a quick slant to Terry Glenn. Glenn took two steps, pulled up, then simply watched while the ball zinged to Ronde Barber for the interception. Whether it was a missed communication or a missed sight read doesn't matter; Glenn made zero attempt to do his job, which at that point was to knock the ball down and prevent the pick. On the next Packers series, Glenn's running mate Donald Driver, emulating his pampered teammate, lazily watched a Favre pass float for another INT, making no attempt to break up the pick. It has taken until November for Terry Glenn to turn back into Terry Glenn. Now the transformation is complete, and woe betide the cheesehead demographic.


Wow, Jerramy Stevens, the Blue Men Group could've used this more often this season.
Best Use of Prehensile Appendages: Joe Jurevicius of the Bucs, Dez White of the Bears and several others had beauty catches Sunday. But for the normally woeful Seattle Blue Men Group, three gentlemen -- Koren Robinson, Jerramy Stevens and linebacker Orlando Huff -- made "wow" snags.

Dwayne-Rudd-Class Plays: Under pressure in the first quarter, Arizona (Caution: May contain football-like substance) Cardinals QB Jake Plummer tried to flip a no-look behind-the-back lateral to running back Marcel Shipp. The no-look isn't working for Michael Jordan this year; why did Plummer think it would work for him? Raiders recover.

With the Nevermores leading by six, the Flaming Thumbtacks intercepted a Baltimore pass and returned it for a touchdown. Thumbtacks linebacker Keith Bullock roughed Ravens QB Jeff Blake long after the ball was gone; touchdown nullified, and the Thumbtacks eventually lose by one.

On James McKnight's game-icing 77-yard reception late in the third for the Marine Mammals, after a short gain McKnight fell next to Bolts defender Alex Molden. All Molden had to do was touch McKnight -- he didn't even have to pull his flag! -- and the play was over. Molden didn't, McKnight jumped up and ran and ran.

Worst Call Radioed In: Leading by three in swirling snow, the Broncos faced third-and-five on the Indianapolis 40, 1:51 remaining, the Colts out of timeouts. Owing to conditions, numerous passes had already been dropped. Anyway, Denver is sure to run and grind the clock. It's a pass! TMQ screamed at the screen, "Aaaiiiiiiiiyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeeeee!" Has Mike Shanahan taken leave of his senses? Clang to the ground goes the dropped pass, stopping the clock. Indianapolis ended up hitting its improbable overtime-forcing 54-yard field goal with eight seconds showing, then winning in the fifth session. Had the Broncos simply run up the middle for no gain, 40 seconds would have ground off the clock; subtract 40 seconds and the final Indy drive would have petered out in Colts' territory. Ye gods.


The Mornhinweg after: We still can't understand what Marty was thinking.
Coaching Blunder of the Week: Winning the toss at the start of overtime, Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg elected to kick. Had Mornhinweg taken leave of his senses? Does Ford Motors (the Ford family owns the Lions) advise buyers to visit a General Motors dealership? Forget the wind, take the ball! It is very difficult to score without the ball! Nobody's made this blunder since the 1962 title game of the old AFL, when Hank Stram of the old Dallas Texans won the overtime toss against the old Houston Oilers and took the wind instead of the ball. (Stram's charges prevailed in the second OT.)

Just to prove it was no fluke, Mornhinweg offered another mental blunder moments later. On their first possession in OT, the Bears threw an incompletion on third-and-eight from the Lions' 35, and were also called for holding; Mornhinweg took the penalty, rather than forcing Chicago into fourth-and-long. The Bears wouldn't have tried a 52-yard field-goal attempt had Mornhinweg declined the penalty, because the kick would have gone into the very wind Detroit had sacrificed the ball to get. How can we be sure Chicago would not have kicked? After the repeat of third down, the Bears faced fourth-and-three at the Lions' 30 and did not try a field goal owing to the wind. The Bears went for the first, converted, and ended kicking the winning figgie from the 22. Detroit never touching the ball in overtime. Ye gods.

Old Waived Guy Play of the Week: Against San Francisco, 13-year veteran Brian Mitchell, already the NFL's all-time leader in kick-return yardage, took a punt 76 yards to the house untouched by human hands. Bear in mind that the evil Lord Voldemort (Dan Snyder) of the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons waived Mitchell as washed up three years ago. Afterward, in one of TMQ's favorite NFL moments, the first time Mitchell played against the Persons, the aging, washed-up gentleman hit the large, youthful LaVar Arrington so hard that Arrington was knocked out of the game.

Hidden Play of the Week: Often key plays don't show up in the box scores because they are plays that sustain or stop drives. Trailing by three with a minute remaining in the third, Indianapolis reached second-and-goal on the Denver 2. Peyton Manning raced backward to the 10 and rolled out under pressure; everyone was covered; TMQ thought, "Here comes the crazy game-killer interception"; Manning launched it so far out of the end zone the ball practically made the field-goal net. The Lucky Charms (see below) scored six on the next play, and suddenly a monster game was in progress. Sometimes the greatest move a quarterback makes is throwing the ball away; Manning's rocket-propelled incompletion was the biggest hidden play of the NFL week.

Best Defensive Play: Clinging to a two-point lead with 1:24 left, Jersey/A on the Houston 33, the Moo Cows ran what sportscasters call a zone blitz and TMQ calls a zone rush -- a total of only four gentlemen coming, but two were linebackers, while a defensive end dropped into the slant lane to stop the quick "hot read" pass. Kerry Collins threw a hot-read slant and the ball went directly to unheralded DE Jeff Posey -- who's having a better year than the extremely overpaid Michael Strahan -- for the interception. Collins threw poorly in part because a Moo Cows linebacker came straight at him untouched, despite Jersey/A keeping back six to block four. If only Collins had thrown the ball away, he might have been a Hidden Play of the Day.


Jim Miller fell and the Lions fell for it.
Best Pratfall: Trailing by three and facing fourth-and-20 with a minute remaining, Bears quarterback Jim Miller dropped back, fell to the ground, got up and zinged a 33-yard completion to Dez White for position for the field goal that forced overtime, in which Chicago won. This play was actually helped because Miller fell. Lions defensive backs, busy making the high-school mistake of "looking into the backfield" trying to guess the play, immediately abandoned their coverages when Miller fell, assuming the play would end. Often, especially on kick returns, defenders drop their discipline when they see the ballcarrier fall. Tennessee's Music City Miracle postseason-winning kick return worked in part because the play began with the Thumbtacks' runback man fumbling the ball, causing the Bills coverage unit to drop its discipline and try to converge on the fumble.

Best Deuce : Scoring to take a 12-7 lead in the third, the Bucs violated a Tuesday Morning Quarterback immutable law of football -- Take One Till the Fourth -- by going for the deuce.

But the play was sweet. Last week on the key snap of the Bucs victory over Carolina, a fourth-and-goal, Keyshawn Johnson lined up as a slotback right and crossed behind the formation; the Panthers lost track of him, touchdown. This time, on the deuce attempt, when Keyshawn lined up as a slotback right, the Packers clearly expected him to go behind the formation again; a Green Bay defender immediately jumped into the left-side spot from which Johnson appeared against Carolina. Instead Keyshawn took two steps upfield and then came left on the defensive side of the front. The Packers defender at the left-side point decided Johnson wasn't coming, and departed to chase someone else; Keyshawn ended up with linebacker coverage across the middle and caught the deuce pass exactly where he had been the previous week.

Best Use of TMQ: The defending-champ Patriots must have read TMQ's item praising the Keyshawn-behind-the-formation play, because, facing second-and-goal at the Vikings one, New England lined up in precisely the same formation as used by Tampa last week, brought Christian Fauria across the field behind the formation in precisely the same action and hit him uncovered for six.


We'd never leave Jen behind.
Cheerleader of the Week: The Colts' huge win at Denver inspires the naming of Jen of the Indianapolis squad as TMQ ESPN Cheerleader of the Week. Her team bio doesn't offer much, although her swimsuit photo (found on the Colts Cheerleader Calendar preview) certainly does; Jen works as a property manager and likes Huey Lewis records, music this column views as a threat to Western civilization. Jen's favorite books are the "Left Behind" series. Are we to conclude she is a fundamentalist mega-babe? TMQ did not know such things were possible.

Cheerleader Blunder of the Week: OK, so there was driving snow in Denver. But this does not excuse the high-aesthetic-appeal Bronco cheerleaders coming out looking like Michelin men in bulky parkas and ski pants! Broncs babes, where is your professionalism? Last year, for two December home dates, Denver cheerleaders defied the elements, sporting Santa's-naughty-elf numbers; both times their team jogged up the tunnel victorious. For the Broncos-Colts contest, Shanahan and Tony Dungy followed TMQ's immutable law, Cold Coach = Victory, and dressed in simple varsity jackets rather than ridiculous K2 survival gear. That left the outcome of the game in the hands of the home-team cheerleaders. (Generally, NFL visiting teams do not bring cheerleaders.) The Broncos cheer-babes wore too much, and thus Indianapolis was crowned with victory.

Also overdressed: Despite a kickoff temperature of a clement 55 degrees, Marshall Faulk wore a parka and knit ski cap on the Mouflons sidelines. Naturally, his team lost.

Stat of the Week: Kansas City recorded 552 yards of offense, had 32 first downs and only one turnover -- and lost.

Stat of the Week No. 2: San Diego is 7-4, but has lost three games by a combined 100-25.

Stat of the Week No. 3: Carolina and Chicago began the season a combined 5-0 and since have gone a combined 1-16.

Stat of the Week No. 4: In two meetings, Atlanta outscored Carolina 71-0.


At this rate, Danny Wuerffel will be a Pro Bowl QB by his 24th season.
Stat of the Week No. 5: Former Heisman winner Danny Wuerffel, a six-year NFL veteran, set a personal career-best for passing yards in a game -- by the second quarter, at 140 yards.

Stat of the Week No. 6: Despite being the only NFL team whose base defense is the gamble-everything-for-turnovers burned-to-a-crisp "46," the Bills are last in the league in takeaways and have failed to register a takeaway in seven of 11 games this season.

Stat of the Week No. 7: Rich Gannon is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,142 yards. And if he doesn't, the mark looks safe, as Drew Bledsoe has slipped to a pace for 4,666 yards and is all but out of this race. (The season record, held by Dan Marino, is 5,084 yards.)

Stat of the Week No. 8: David Carr is on a pace to be sacked an NFL all-time second-worst 84 times. (Philadelphia once surrendered 104 sacks, and Arizona is second at 78 sacks allowed.)


Kurt Warner couldn't Marshall up a victory without Faulk.
Stat of the Week No. 9: Kurt Warner may be the league's all-time quarterback ratings leader and have the best starting record of any active QB, but he is 1-2 lifetime when Marshall Faulk does not play.

Stat of the Week No. 10: Through Week 10 Favre, Aaron Brooks and Bledsoe had combined to throw 55 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. In the last two weeks, they have combined for six touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

The Football Gods Chortled: Denver has the best home record since the NFL-AFL merger, owing to the effect of oxygen depletion on visiting teams. But this year, Miami and now the Lucky Charms (see below) have beaten the Broncos in Please Don't Buy From Invesco Field on the strength of improbable last-second 50-plus-yard field goals. Mile-high air is hard for the visiting team to breathe, but long field goal attempts sail through thin air very nicely, thank you.


The oil tanker Prestige causes a world of trouble.
Globalization Hits the Rocks: The oil tanker Prestige, which sank off the Spanish coast, is registered in Liberia, flies the flag of the Bahamas, is operated by a Greek firm and chartered by a Russian company based in Switzerland. On the plus side, all this insures that dozens of lawyers will eat well for years.

Beefcake -- Run for Your Lives! Jason Taylor of the Marine Mammals, posing shirtless for female and nontraditional male readers. Check the website of the photographer, Reggie Casagrande.

Yes, Coaches Matter: Indianapolis gave up 31 points per game last year and is giving up 18 points per game this year, without a major personnel overhaul. Two words: Tony Dungy.


Jason Taylor, for female and nontraditional male readers.
Yes, Tactics Matter: Through their first five games, the Jets surrendered 17 defensive touchdowns; through their last six games, nine. Some of it is new personnel finally learning a system, but much of the improvement was defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell making a simple change. For the first five games he had Sam Cowart, a speed linebacker with mediocre strength, playing "sam" directly over the tight end and charged with jamming the TE. For the last six games, Cowart has played backed off seven yards from the line, been told to avoid entanglements with the TE and to use his speed to run down plays. Suddenly, Cowart looks like a Pro Bowler again.

Chicken Wings of the Week: Peyton Manning endlessly points and gestures before the snap, trying to distract the defense. Usually his first few gestures are fakes and can be ignored. Against Denver, every time Manning wildly pointed and gestured as if he was calling some complex audible pass, the play was a run. The Broncos never caught on to this, jumping backward in expectation of a pass when Manning flapped his wings like a chicken before his team's two key runs on the winning overtime drive.


Peyton Manning gestures for a run play.
Shake 'N' Bakes of the Week: On his game-icing touchdown bootleg, Jersey/B QB Chad Pennington faked Bills linebacker Eddie Robinson so utterly that Robinson fell on his keister without being touched. On his game-icing touchdown run, Dolphins RB Ricky Williams faked Bolts Pro Bowl safety Rodney Harrison so utterly that Harrison fell on his keister without being touched.

You Are Wrong: Charles Barkley just published an as-told-to titled, "I May Be Wrong, But I Doubt It." Evidently, this book is intended for senior citizens, as the type seems unusually large and there is so much white space -- white space between the lines of type is known to printers as "air" -- that the pages might be used for flying lessons. This couldn't have anything to do with padding to reach hardback length, could it? At any rate, "I May Be Wrong, But I Doubt It" was the title of a book by the late columnist Mike Royko, who was to newspaper writing what Barkley was to the low post. Royko never stole any of Barkley's moves; Barkley should dream up his own title, not pilfer someone else's.

Legal note: It's an honor system, as titles cannot be copyrighted. Anyone may write a book titled "Gone With the Wind." Rumor has it the publisher rejected "The Sun Also Rises" by Charles Barkley as too pretentious.

They Tackled the Air: Two weeks ago, TMQ complained that the quest for big hits that will be shown on SportsCenter is causing NFL safeties to blow routine wrapup tackles. On Sunday, Curtis Martin ran 9 yards for the touchdown after Buffalo safety Coy Wire hurled himself wildly through the air seeking the SportsCenter-class hit and instead missed Martin completely. Joey Galloway of the 'Boys went 43 for the touchdown when Jax safety Marlon McCree tried for a SportsCenter-class hit and instead went flying past; a simple wrap-up tackle would have stopped Galloway shy of the first.

Disclaimer of the Week: The warning statement for Ambien cautions, "Side effects may include drowsiness." Ambien is a sleeping pill.

Coaching Blunder of the Year: The tastefully named Gregg Williams appears to have shattered his team's promising season with the coaching blunder of the year, if not of the decade. As a previous TMQ noted, three weeks ago, trailing defending champion New England by 10 at home in the third, the Bills faced fourth-and-two on the Patriots' 32. Did they go for it, with what was then the league's No. 2-rated offense? Attempt a field goal to close the deficit to one score? Williams punted from the opposition 32. The ball rolled out at the 17 for a laughable 15 yards on the exchange; New England marched the length of the field for the touchdown that turned an anybody's-game into a runaway.

It now appears this mincing, fraidy-cat call undid the Buffalo season. To the point of the Preposterous Punt, Buffalo was 5-3 and the second-highest scoring team in the league. Since the moment of the Preposterous Punt, the Bills have gone 0-3, been outscored 79-29 and dropped from first in the division to all but mathematically eliminated. By punting when he did, Williams not only made an unfathomable blunder, he sent his offensive unit the message that he didn't think it could gain 2 yards at home in a critical situation. Williams sent his whole team the message that he personally wasn't up for the pressure of a playoff run and planned to phone in the remainder of the season.

Never underestimate the extent to which NFL teams do, in fact, respond to the messages coaches send them. Since the Preposterous Punt, the Buffalo offense has lost confidence, scoring two touchdowns in 10 quarters, while the team as a whole has followed the coach's example and begun phoning it in. Williams would have been far better off to have gone for it and missed on that fateful play, sending his team the message that he was challenging them to succeed, then to have gone fraidy-cat, sending his team the message that he expected a losing season. At least Williams will get his wish!


Catherine Bell, TMQ's favorite NFL prognosticator with a taste for the "classy" dominatrix look.
If the Guy in Charge of The Masters is Named Hootie, Wouldn't the Woman in Charge of the Mistresses Have to Be Named _______? TMQ thinks the solution to the galimatias over Augusta National -- and why would any woman want to join a club composed of such creepy guys? -- would be for a double-XX organization to found a women-only golf redoubt, which would hold an annual tournament called the Mistresses. Entrants would be required to play in 5-inch heels and leather harnesses. Caddies would be shirtless ultra-hunks with oiled muscles, and if one of the caddies drew the wrong club his punishment would be -- well, that's about as far as I can take the joke. But if the ESPN.com art department can use it as a cheap excuse for some kind of dominatrix-with-submissive-hunk graphic to please female readers, that's OK by me.

On the assumption the ESPN.com art department will not provide an illustration of a steamy mistress cracking the whip on a submissive hunk -- hey, female readers, you're getting Jason Taylor shirtless -- TMQ offers the latest dominatrix news. Catherine Bell, hot-tomato actress and only person ever to predict an exact final Super Bowl score, was recently asked by FHM magazine, "What's the sexiest bit of clothing you own?" Bell replied, "Black stiletto pumps -- Manolo Blahniks -- that wrap around my foot and have grommets in them. They're a very classy version of a dominatrix heel. I could wear those with anything: jeans, lingerie, or even better, by themselves." Manolo Blahnik stiletto pumps are what Sarah Jessica Parker teeters on for "Sex and the City," and TMQ would certainly like to see Catherine Bell dressed in nothing but same. I am, however, willing to settle for whatever pinup shot of Bell the ESPN.com art department can produce.

Next week: Catherine Bell explains what makes for a "classy" dominatrix.


A versatile Manolo Blahnik stiletto.
Other Dean Smith Advice to Eagles: Sign Michael Jordan: Former North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith liked to say that a team plays its best game of the season in the first game after losing its star to injury; the games that follow are the ones to determine the team's fate. This principle was on display in the Eagles' pasting of the Niners at San Francisco. Losing Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia performed on pure adrenalin and toyed with the home favorites. But nobody's glands can secret pure adrenalin week after week. Beware, Eagles, the upcoming Rams date.

Reader Haiku: Submit yours at the Reader Animadversion link below. Greg White, noting how similar the Saints fleur-de-lis and Boy Scouts symbols are, proposes this team's TMQ cognomen become the New Orleans Boy Scouts. (Note: does not apply to Kyle Turley.) Steve Koers finds the Horsies too obvious a cognomen for Indianapolis and proposes this horseshoe-wearing franchise be called the Lucky Charms. Tie-in departments, contact the cereal maker.

Sarah Sawle and Michael Farrell object to TMQ's declaration that the Packers have no cheerleading squad because it is impossible to find mega-babes in central Wisconsin. Farrell offers this link to the Miss Wisconsin finalists who are, regrettably, tastefully fully clothed. Also, many readers noted that although the Packers have no formal babe contingent, cheerleaders from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay often perform at games. Finally Mark Sherrill and Jynne Martin offer dyadic haiku.

"Tommy Maddox" heals
too quickly for a human.
Alien QB!
-- Cindy Closkey, Butler, Pa.

Dolphin cheerleaders:
TMQ did it again.
One more website crashed.
-- Mitch Fadem, Salinas, Calif.

Green Bay babes unite!
Midwest farmers' daughters fear
Gregg narrow-minded.
-- Sarah Sawle, Washington, D.C.

No mega-babes in
Cheeseland? Check out the Miss 'Wis
pics. Not too shabby.
-- Michael Farrell, Atlanta

McNabb's ankle snaps:
Four TDs. Cards contain no
football-like substance.
-- Bryan Brooks, Oklahoma City

Saints logo same as
Boy Scouts of America:
New Orleans Scouts?
-- Greg White, Plainfield, Ill.

"Horsies" shows no thought.
Horseshoe often sign of luck,
call them Lucky Charms!
-- Steve Koers, Indianapolis


Mmmm, mmmm bad luck: Kurt Warner and Donovan McNabb better rethink their Chunky Soup endorsements.
Chunky ads are cursed,
so many stars get injured.
Time for Progresso?
-- Joe, Washington, D.C.

Nevermores gives too
much credit to Baltimore.
Poe born in Boston,

and lived mostly in
Richmond. Perhaps Baltimore
Menckenites instead.
-- Mark Sherrill, Houston

Tuesdays my husband
dines alone with long printout.
At last I ask: what?

He panicked. No need --
I seized, read, laughed and found new
life love: TMQ!
-- Jynne Martin, New York

Imagine If MacArthur Had 250 Plans for Inchon: In the 'Boys-Jax game, insulting-spewing Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin was waving around a play chart so enormous, with so many fine-print entries, that it looked like a human genome sequence, or perhaps the FAA air-traffic control route diagram for commercial flights on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. Coughlin is said to have 250 plays on his placard. How can that not be counterproductive? TMQ coaches a county eighth-grade flag football team -- we're a half-game out with two remaining, thank you -- and going into Saturday's contest there were five runs, seven passes, one goal-line play and one trick play on my color-coordinated chart. Even so, several times I hesitated trying to decide what to signal in. Somehow, methinks Coughlin is not scanning 250 possibilities every 25 seconds.

TMQ, Grammar Snob: "The police have no motive in the slaying." Local-news bobbleheads constantly use this construction. Well, of course the police have no motive. They didn't do it!

Best Deliberate Foul: Taking a one-touchdown lead with three minutes left, the Steelers kicked off to the Bengals, whose T.J. Houshmandzadeh broke into the clear with only kicker Jeff Reed to beat. Reed grabbed Houshmandzadeh by the facemask, drawing a 15-yarder that put the ball on the Pittsburgh 31. But without this penalty, Houshmandzadeh would have scored; as it was, the Bengals drive petered out in the closing seconds. Face-masking is touchy because it can injure; otherwise, sometimes, as in basketball, a deliberate foul pays off.


Mike Vanderjagt, the cold-blooded Broncos killer.
Longer ago than I'd rather admit, TMQ was playing in a local-league basketball tournament alongside Neil Easterbrook, Official Brother of TMQ. At a critical moment, Neil was trailing an opposition player headed for a breakaway lay-up. Everyone yelled, "foul him!" Not wishing to injure, the peace-loving Official Brother half-heartedly pushed the gentleman, the result being a basket and the free throw. TMQ remonstrated with the Official Brother that when you deliberately foul, you've got to foul.

Later, after the league game ended, guys stayed around to play pickup, and TMQ and the Official Brother were on opposing teams. I had a breakaway with Neil trailing, and heard his new teammates cry, "Foul him!" Next thing I knew, I was under a row of tables 10 feet beyond the basket, seeing cartoon stars shimmer around.

Frostback of the Week No. 1: Mike Vanderjagt hit an improbable game-tying 54-yard figgie with eight seconds left in the swirling snow in Denver, then hit an even more improbable 51-yard figgie into the wind for the overtime win. Cold, cold blood runs in this Canadian's veins, eh?


Jean Chretien and Belgium's Guy Verhofstadt, center, explain to George Bush that moron is French for hoser.
Frostback of the Week No. 2: After a senior Canadian government official called George W. Bush "a moron," Jean Chretien, prime minister of Canada (Official Name: America's Suburb), said with astonishing diplomacy, "He (Bush) is a friend of mine, he is not a moron at all." Jean, thanks for the vote of confidence! Actually, TMQ expected the Canadian official to wriggle out of this one by declaring, "I was misquoted, what I said was that President Bush is a 'Mormon.' " Maybe the target on all those battle plans should be changed from "Baghdad" to "Ottawa."

Polls Show Majority of Americans Believe the Ten Commandments Were Given by God to Charlton Heston: Last week, a federal judge ordered that Alabama remove a display of the Ten Commandments from a courthouse, saying the display violates the Establishment Clause because it "promotes one specific religion, Christianity." Whoa there! First off, TMQ always thought the Ten Commandments were given to a Hebrew leader, Moses, and that they can be found in what Christians call the Old Testament and Jews call the Bible, and that the Ten Commandments are the bedrock of Judaism. For that matter, since Muslims also revere Moses, the Ten Commandments are a part of Islam too, though admittedly a secondary part. So setting aside whether this display belongs in an Alabama courthouse, the Ten Commandments don't promote "one specific religion." Actually, the Ten Commandments are an element of all three major monotheist faiths. If they represent any one of the three, it's Judaism, not Christianity, considering that Christians believe the New Testament amends the Old, while Jews consider the Old sacrosanct.


Great Six: Just make sure to follow a majority of the Ten Commandments that were on display at the State Judicial Building in Montgomery, Ala.
More, while Christians obviously do recite the Ten Commandments, it can be argued that Christianity actually has Six Commandments, not Ten. Jesus was once asked (at Matthew 19:17-19) which Commandments should be kept. The answer: "And Jesus said, 'You shall not murder; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness. Honor your father and mother. Also, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.' " That's Six Commandments! Can you name the missing Four? These are the Commandments that Christ leaves off his inventory: "You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make yourself an idol. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God. Remember the Sabbath Day, and keep it holy." (From Exodus 20:3-8, NSRV.)

That is, Jesus consciously edited the Ten Commandments down to Six, deleting the commandments concerning formal religious observance. You can read more on the theological implications of this here, or for that matter, buy my book "Beside Still Waters," which goes into considerable detail on the history of Christ's alterations of the Commandments and why established churches prefer to pretend these verses don't exist. At any rate, what matters from the standpoint of the current political debate is that the Six Commandments could be posted in any public building without the slightest constitutional complaint, as the Six Commandments concern morality among people, saying nothing about religion.

Hello Faddah by Operant Conditioning: TMQ's two middle-schoolers had a great time last summer at Camp Twin Creeks in West Virginia. I was especially impressed that they wrote home every day! On their return, I found out the only way you can get candy at Twin Creeks is by turning in a letter to your parents. Plug: Twin Creeks is terrific for boys or girls who want a noncompetitive sports atmosphere.

Ted Washington Auditioned for the Part, But Was Too Big to Be Believable as Godzilla: Reader Tom Kelso reports that he caught the new flick "Harry Potter and the Global Marketing Campaign of Doom" and "cannot escape the eerie resemblances of Voldemort and Dobby to their NFL brethren," Dan Snyder and Steve Spurrier.


Godzilla and Mechagodzilla re-enact the Warren Sapp-Mike Sherman incident.
The new movie TMQ wants to see is "Godzilla Vs. Mechagodzilla," 26th installment of series, just premiered in Tokyo. Check out this article on Tsutomu Kitagawa, the actor who wears the Godzilla suit. Because the suit weighs 110 pounds, Kitagawa has an unseen assistant who specializes moving his tail. The new Godzilla cost about $8.5 million to make, less than 10 percent the price of "Star Wars Episode Two." But though all the "Episode Two" price bought was computer pixels, the Godzilla price includes the latest miniature Tokyo to get smashed, a one-25th scale model that's supposed to set records for fidelity -- tiny trash bags on curbs say "garbage" on the sides, while billboards show accurate miniature reproductions of current ad campaigns. One-25th scale product placement!

Lord Voldemort Decided to Keep Him on Another Week: Coming into Sunday, Dobby the Elf had called 355 passing plays and 250 runs, compiling a 4-6 record. Against the Mouflons, he called 39 runs and 24 passes -- Spurrier's first more-runs game in the pros -- and won.

Sapp Is Right, But Don't Get Used to That: Everyone hopes Chad Clifton is OK, but Warren Sapp hit him cleanly. There's no exemption from being hit just because you are trailing the play. TMQ is guessing that in that game, Clifton had taken shots at Sapp when he got the chance. When Sapp got a chance, he took a very hard, but clean, shot.


Brian Dawkins throws back Jeff Garcia in his 1980s-era throwback uniform.
Throwbacks of the Week: The Niners looked great in throwback uniforms and got pasted at home just as their California brethren, the Bolts, looked great in throwbacks and were pasted at home last month. But at this point we need a statute of limitations on the term "throwback," since the San Francisco duds in question were throwbacks to maybe 1989.

Bonus Anti-Gregg Williams Item: Bobbleheads are buzzing about why Drew Bledsoe has receded from red-hot to ice-cold. The main reason is the unfathomable vote-of-no-confidence the tastefully named Gregg Williams gave Bledsoe on the Preposterous Punt, as noted above; and, of all games, against the Patriots, which mattered most to Bledsoe's ego.

But the decline is also tactical. Through Week 7, as Bledsoe threw at a record-setting clip, he was hitting not just flashy wideouts Eric Moulds and Peerless Price but rookie slot-man Josh Reed and the tight ends; in Week 2, for instance, Reed caught eight for 110 yards. Since the point in Week 7 when Moulds and Price were ranked one-two in the league in receiving, Bledsoe has begun to force the ball to these gentlemen even when they are doubled, as though they are superhumans who arrive at the stadium in capes and can only be stopped by DBs carrying green kryptonite. Defensive coordinators have noticed Bledsoe is forcing the ball to Moulds and Price and are choking up on these two, offering Drew the throw to the tight end or slot man. On Sunday, Jersey/B doubled either Moulds or Price on every down, often leaving Reed in linebacker coverage. Yet Bledsoe threw 16 times toward Moulds and Price, only four times toward Reed.

Coaches are supposed to notice such tendencies and correct them. But then, the tastefully named Gregg Williams has already quit on the season, so why shouldn't his offense quit?

Hidden Indicator The Mouflons are 5-0 when "Marc Bulger" starts, 0-5 when "Kurt Warner" starts and 0-1 when Jamie Martin starts. This is the kind of hidden indicator that is essential to an insider's understanding of the game. Unfortunately, only the sinister alien masterminds on the Bulger-Warner homeworld know what this means.

Running items department
Obscure College Score of the Week: Indiana of Pennsylvania 27, Saginaw Valley State 23 (Division II playoffs). Located in University Center, Mich., near Lake Huron, Saginaw Valley State boasts that its "faculty are dedicated to student-centered learning," which is a reminder that the higher you go up the academic chain, the less the teachers are likely to give a hoot about the students. Student organizations include a mysterious Tall Readers Club.

Bonus Obscure Score: Muhlenberg 55, Massachusetts-Dartmouth 6 (Division III playoffs). Located in Allentown, Pa., symbol of Rust Belt decline, Muhlenberg must look with longing on adjacent Bethlehem, Pa., which is booming and gentrifying despite a similar Rust Bowl profile. Last week, Muhlenberg joined 15 other colleges in the 10th annual European Union Simulation, in which students play-act the positions of European Union governments. A European Union simulation? Hmmm, they'd have to talk for years, eat fabulous meals, travel in limousines and accomplish nothing other than dissing Turkey.

The European Union is a kind of quasi-official meta-government that seeks out the cost, bureaucracy and ineffectiveness of each member nation's worst ministry, then tries to impose it on all of Europe. The symbol of European Union effectiveness is a giant $600 million complex the organization built in downtown Brussels, which sat for more than a decade ago unoccupied, swathed in enormous sheets of plastic, because there is asbestos in the walls, though there is no evidence that asbestos in walls has ever harmed anyone. (Workplace exposure is dangerous.) TMQ particularly likes the European Union Ombudsman, which exists to receive complaints of "maladministration" by the European Union. The Ombudsman must be busy! You can file an online "quick complaint" against the Committee of the Regions, a typical European Union top-heavy maladministrator. The Ombudsman warns, "even a confidential complaint must be sent to the Community institution or body concerned." And what's up with the name University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth? It is not an affiliate, just located in the town of Dartmouth. This means there could be a University of Illinois-Yale and a University of Kentucky-Stanford, among others.

Double Bonus Obscure Score: Washington & Jefferson 24, Christopher Newport 10 (Division III playoffs). Well, of course two guys would beat one guy! Washington & Jefferson's football team is known as the Presidents. Does this means the cheerleaders are called the Interns?

New York Times Final-Score Score. The Paper of Guesses returns to its habitual 0-16 in its triumphant attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 1-695 since TMQ began tracking.

Misery loves company: Each election season, The Washington Post asks pundits and insiders to predict the exact final results in the House and Senate. This year the panel included Tucker Carlson of CNN, William Kristol of The Weekly Standard, Ralph Nader, Travis Smiley of NPR, columnist Armstrong Williams, lobbyists Anne Wexler and Sheila Tate, former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, John Micklethwait of The Economist and Amy Walter, an analyst for The Cook Political Report, an insider's bible. Also, two high-school civics classes picked numbers. And which of these many accurately predicted the exact final score of 228 Republicans in the House and 51 in the Senate (assuming Mary Landrieu wins the runoff in Louisiana)? None, of course. No one was right about both; two were right about 51 Republican senators; and the only one to pick 228 Republican members of the House was the 12th-grade government studies class of Herndon High School in Herndon, Va.


It would be criminal if we didn't offer a photo of Deborah P.
Reader Animadversion: TMQ continues to get as much mail on the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders lingerie poses as on any other subject other than the blitz. Today we gawk at Deborah P., nominated by many, many readers. She is studying criminal justice and aspires to be a police officer. A reader haikuizes,

Show Deborah P.!
Future police officer:
Cuff me now, I beg
-- David Shewchuk, Nashua, N.H.

Apropos TMQ's blasting Hollywood for violence in movies marketed to children -- adults should watch what they please, but studies show that images of violence harm young minds -- reader Darren Wah of Feasteville, Pa., asks, "Is it possible that football could be construed as violent, and that watching football could have a similar violence enhancing effect on kids? Do you believe that football really shouldn't be marketed to kids?" Another reader adds in haiku,

Ironic, I think,
TMQ picks on movies,
not football violence.
-- Brendan, Boulder, Colo.

This is a solid point, but I think there are significant differences. First, although what happens on the football field is violent, it is not the point of the game to cause harm; injuries occur, but are (usually) accidental. Football differs here from prizefighting, which TMQ can't stand, because the point of prizefighting is to cause harm. And the fact that football players routinely endure unpleasant pulls, breaks and assorted bodily pain doesn't count out football as an entertainment.

Dancers, among others, also endure pain and ruin their backs and knees. Few dancers for Alvin Ailey or Twyla Tharp make it much past 30 owing to the deterioration of their bodies, and this doesn't cause anyone to object to modern dance. (Sometimes the pieces have that effect, though.)

The meaningful difference between Hollywood violence and football violence is that, though both synthetic, Hollywood depicts people being killed, and many Hollywood movies depict characters having fun by killing others. This is the sort of thought you don't want to place into the brains of impressionable young people. Studies by Leonard Eron, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, have shown that after about age 19, viewers can watch unlimited violent images without temptation to imitate because their personalities are formed, but before that age, when personalities are not yet formed, viewing of violence can instill a desire to imitate. It's glorification of violence that a typical person could actually do -- buying a gun and using it to kill or rape -- that inspires imitation. Most average people can't imitate professional football violence because most people cannot make a football team; the worst they can do in terms of imitation is throw elbows during touch games. There, I think, is the distinction.

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TMQ Challenge: Last week's Challenge was to compose a warning label that would be placed on movies, politicians, football players or mega-babes. Unfortunately, all proposed mega-babe warning labels were unprintable; many had to do with element No. 14, a joke that chem majors will get.

Reader "Porkchop Lipschitz" of St. Louis proposed that all NFL players who test negative for steroids be allowed to wear the label, CERTIFIED ORGANIC.

Edwin Hill of Evansville, Ind., suggested the Lions be labeled CONTENT MAY SETTLE DURING FUTILITY and Mike Martz bear the disclaimer, EGO IN THE MIRROR MAY BE LARGER THAN IT APPEARS.


Caution: Keep Simeon Rice and the Bucs away from cold weather.
(On that point, TMQ asks, Why do cars have side mirrors that make other cars appear farther way than they really are -- to increase accidents? TMQ also noted the disclaimer on the new flick "Femme Fatale," warning of "strong sexuality." TMQ likes strong women, but does this mean there's a sex scene in the weight room?)

Matt Holden of City of Tampa proposes the Nevermores safety Ed Reed, who had the ball stripped when he started celebrating at the 10-yard line, be labeled, END ZONE MAY BE FARTHER AWAY THAN IT APPEARS.

Ken Bailey of Ypsilanti, Mich., proposes that Lions games be labeled, DO NOT OPERATE HEAVY MACHINERY WHILE WATCHING, owing to the risk of drowsiness.

Brian Bauman of Morristown, N.J., proposes that City of Tampa's Bucs be labeled, DO NOT EXPOSE TO COLD WEATHER.

Reader "PJ" of Compton, Calif., proposes that the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders' lingerie calendar boldly be stamped, WARNING: THONGAGE.

Todd Covert of Knoxville, Tenn., proposes that the movie "Jackass" bear the warning, YU MUSK B THIS SMARTT TOO SEE THIS MOOVY.

Marty Trautman of Battle Creek, Mich., proposed that Randy Moss be labeled, CONTENTS UNDER PRESSURE.

Todd Warner of Ironton, Ohio, suggested that the Cowboys be rated NC-17 because there is "no chance they will score more than 17." Sunday was a small exception; the basic principle is sound.

And the Challenge goes to Robert Carlisle of Arlington, Va., who proposed that Dobby the Elf, coach Steve Spurrier of the Persons, be stamped, "Expiration Date: Dec 30, 2002."

This Week's Challenge: We've compared NFL figures to Shakespeare and to characters from Shakespeare's replacement as the titan of English letters, J.K. Rowling. This time, it's personal: Who in the NFL reminds you of a "Star Trek" character? You can compare to any of the shows -- the Archer, Kirk, Picard, Janeway or Sisko serials -- or any Trek "movie." TMQ says "movie" in quotes because the Picard-era Trek films have been no different from two-hour television episodes, except that you pay $8 to find out how poorly written they are. (TMQ feels sure the upcoming "Star Trek: Nemesis" will reflect the current Hollywood vow of "millions for special effects, not one cent for writing.") Submit your proposal and clever comments here, bearing in mind that the final decision will be completely arbitrary.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 9:09 AM

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November 19, 2002

Don't say you haven't been warned

POST #    533

Don't say you haven't been warned
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

Ads for the new movie "Harry Potter and the Global Marketing Campaign of Doom" contain a little box warning of "some creature violence." Is that violence by a creature or against a creature? TMQ always wonders, when ads say "doctor-tested," whether they mean tested by doctors or tested on doctors. But let's focus on the warning boxes. Ratings to caution parents about which movies are appropriate for kids (answer: hardly any) are one thing. The disclosure boxes have become absurd.

Recent boxes for "Goldmember," "Serving Sara" and the Dana Carvey vehicle "Master of Disguise" warned of "crude humor." The disclosure should have cautioned, "bad humor." TMQ has examined hundreds of movie disclaimers, and not seen one warning of "sophisticated humor."

Warning boxes for "About a Boy" and the current "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" cautioned of "thematic elements." As best as TMQ can determine, this means the movie is about a subject, rather than just being random sight gags, breasts and explosions. Apparently at this point Hollywood feels it must issue warnings when a movie has a subject. Some moviegoers, or more likely some studio executives, consider this notion disturbing.

What about sex disclaimers? Ads for the movie "Resident Evil" warned of "brief sexuality." We'll all been on that date! Posters for "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" cautioned of "brief sensuality." Maybe that's the best you can expect when Ashley Judd plays the babe. Ads for "The Importance of Being Earnest" warned of "mild sensuality." Every high-school drama society in world history has performed that play, which is hardly known for being risqué. But what is "mild" sensuality anyway? Couldn't it be a woman sipping tea?


As for skin, ads for the Jennifer Lopez movie "Enough" noted "some sensuality," which apparently means, "prepare to be disappointed." "Enough" was supposed to be a serious flick, but nevertheless J-Lo was on screen for two hours and never disrobed; your only reward was "some sensuality." Meanwhile disclaimers for the Adam Sandler farce "Mr. Deeds" warned of "some rear nudity." We're seeing Adam Sandler's butt instead of J-Lo's? What cruel fate! Let's hope at least that Sandler had a butt double.

Then there are the grab-bag caveats. Disclaimers for "Signs" warned of "frightening moments." The frightening moment came when you realized you had forked over $8 to watch Mel Gibson spend two hours shining a flashlight into corn rows hollering, "Who's out there?" The warning for "Lilo and Stitch" said "mild action." Like your last date! "Runteldat" warned of "pervasive language." They talk all the time in that movie? "The Bourne Identity" warned of "some language." Which language -- Croatian? Xhosa? Ads for "Blue Crush" warned of "teen partying." Oh, so it's a horror movie!

Worst, of course, are disclaimers on Hollywood's big point of hypocrisy -- glorification of violence. Ads for "City by the Sea" cautioned of "some violence." What's the difference between "some" violence and simply "violence?" Ads for "Eight-Legged Freaks" cautioned of "sci-fi violence," which apparently is fine because people get slaughtered, but before that they talk about science! Ads for "Bad Company," "The Scorpion King" and the current "Half Past Dead" warned of "action violence." Is "action" violence somehow a good kind of violence? Hollywood certainly wants us to think so. "Bad Company," "The Scorpion King" and "Half Past Dead" all were marketed to teens, meaning Hollywood thinks violence is an appropriate form of entertainment for kids.

David Arquette
Be warned: "Eight-Legged Freaks" contains David Arquette.
The two most deceptive warnings TMQ has seen were on "Spider-Man" and "Swimfan." The "Spider-Man" disclaimer cautioned of "stylized violence." Besides how totally awful the movie script was -- not a single memorable movie line and only one creative visual, the upside-down kiss; a typical episode of "Spider-Man" director Sam Raimi's "Xena Warrior Princess" had more clever lines and visual inventiveness than the entire cost-no-object "Spider-Man" movie -- what is "stylized" violence? Is that some kind of violence that doesn't really count? This was a PG-13 kids' movie that depicted dozens of people being murdered, many screaming in terror as they were slaughtered, and also depicted an old lady being tortured. But that's OK because it was "stylized."

Hollywood now has sunk so low that it thinks dozens of people being murdered is an appropriate form of entertainment in a movie targeted at kids. Go back and watch the first Christopher Reeves "Superman" flick from 1979: lots of action and numerous bad guys, but only two people depicted as killed, and those were off-camera. By 2002, depicting dozens of helpless people being slaughtered is considered so standard in a kids' movie that no critic TMQ saw complained about this in "Spider-Man."

What adults want to see is their own business and must always remain 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. Despite the fact research shows that children who watch depictions of violence are more likely to become violent, Hollywood keeps making kid-marketed movies more violent. And remember, Hollywood's dreck is shipped all around the world, indoctrinating developing-nation kids into thinking violently about the United States.

Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen
"Swimfan" dramatizes the emotional pain of teen love and infatuation ... and a homicidal psycho chick.
Finally, "Swimfan," a PG-13 movie marketed to kids, warned only of "disturbing images." The movie depicts the murders of several teenagers. Parents trying to decide whether young teens should see "Swim Fan" were actively deceived by its producers and by the spineless, toadying Motion Picture Association of America, which exists to place a stamp of approval on glamorization of violence -- and that's setting aside that Hollywood now thinks depictions of teenagers being murdered is an appropriate form of entertainment in a movie target-marketed at children.

In NFL news, many TMQ readers have written in to protest this column's running complaint that the big blitz on long yardage situations is a low-percentage tactic. TMQ doesn't like most big-blitzes on the grounds that because the typical pro pass attempt yields 5.9 yards (2001 whole-season figure), the odds favor a stop in long-yardage situations anyway, whereas the big blitz is often burned. A typical comment, from reader Dan Keating of Malden, Mass.: "You posit that as the average pass play nets 5.9 yards, a blitz is unnecessary in long yardage situations. However, one cannot discuss the results of an average passing play without accounting for the effect that blitzes have on that average."

That is to say, is it blitzing that drives down the average gain on NFL pass attempts? Many readers seem to think so. But in TMQ's experience, the effect is the opposite. So many big-blitzes result in big gains that, if NFL teams blitzed less, the average per pass attempt might be lower. To TMQ's knowledge, no stat currently exists that enables sports nuts to determine comparative blitz/straight defense results. But when the playoffs roll around, and TMQ obsessively watches and rewatches every snap of every game, I promise to chart the blitz/straight defense difference and resolve the controversy.

Michael Vick
Michael Vick continues to amaze TMQ.
Sweet Play No. 1 & No. 2: Lots of players now are trying to stretch the ball into the end zone as they fly out of bounds, but TMQ had never seen it done with such perfect body control as on Michael Vick's 7-yard touchdown run against New Orleans. Vick was flying flat-parallel to the ground, one hand holding the ball across the invisible plane and the other held opposite for counterbalance. And lots of quarterbacks try to snap the pass off a short wrist motion, usually to woe. TMQ had never seen a wrist-snapped pass done so well, or fly so far, as on Vick's scrambling 74-yard touchdown throw to Trevor Gaylor.

Sweet Play No. 3 & No. 4: Trailing by seven, City of Tampa faced fourth-and-goal on the Carolina 1. The Bucs came out heavy with no one split, showing power-run; Keyshawn Johnson, who is not known for his blocking, lined up as a slot-back right. During the play-fake, Johnson came across the formation behind the line of scrimmage, then took the flare pass for the touchdown. Panthers defenders totally lost track of Johnson as he scampered behind the line. Also at the goal line, the Mouflons got a touchdown from tight end Ernie Conwell on the end-around; Bears defenders lost track of Conwell because he was moving behind the line.

Sweet Play No. 5: Trailing by seven in the second quarter, the Ravens faced fourth-and-inches at the Marine Mammals' 28. Miami came out in an overstack, packed tight on the line; Baltimore play-faked and threw deep to Travis Taylor for six. Two things made this play work. First, Jeff Blake "crouch" faked, bending over the ball so it was hard for the defense to see he had kept it. Second, Taylor convincingly brush-blocked a Mammals defender, who then ignored him when he turned on the jets. The Ravens lost, but this play was sweet.

The rareness of the crouch-fake drives TMQ crazy because it's an effective move. Few offensive coordinators coach quarterbacks to crouch-fake, because when this move is seen from the box upstairs -- which is where most offensive coordinators sit -- it's totally obvious the QB is keeping the ball. But from the field level, which is all that matters, crouch-fakes are very confusing to the front seven. Offensive coordinators should spend less time in the box and more time lining up with the defense in practice to experience what defenders see.

Tim Dwight
Tim Dwight makes one of his three catches on the Bolts' game-tying drive.
Hidden Play of the Day: Often the essential moments in a game are invisible in the box score, as they are the plays that sustain or stop drives. Trailing 17-10 with 1:56 remaining in regulation, the Bolts faced fourth-and-three on the Squared Sevens' 15. Drew Brees was nearly sacked, spun away from his pursuer, stumbled, regained his balance and threw to Tim Dwight for a 7-yard gain and the first down. San Diego went on to tie and then beat San Francisco in overtime; this piddling 7-yard gain was the biggest play in the NFL on Sunday.

Non-Fraidy-Cat Play No. 1: Score tied at 10 early in the fourth, New Orleans faced fourth-and-one at its 43. Did the Saints play it safe and punt? Attempt a high-percentage quarterback sneak? They came out in a five-wide shotgun, not even bothering to show run; 57-yard touchdown pass to Joe Horn. New Orleans went on to lose, but certainly not for lack of daring.

Non-Fraidy-Cat Play No. 2: Trailing by seven, the Giants faced fourth-and-10 at the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons' 32, in bad weather that made a field-goal attempt dicey. Did they punt, as several timorous NFL teams have done in this situation this season? Completion for the first down, field goal on the drive and the football gods would smile on Jersey/A.

Non-Fraidy-Cat Play No. 3: Trailing by seven, San Francisco faced fourth-and-four at the San Diego 32. Did the Squared Sevens punt, as several timorous NFL teams have done in this situation this season? Pass to Terrell Owens for the touchdown.

Best Shovels: The Eagles, Lions and Raiders all used, to good result, a variation of the shovel pass in which an offside lineman pulls and leads the play off-tackle. Normally, the shovel pass goes straight up the middle. The sideways, offside-pull shovel seemed to run through the league on Sunday like a computer virus.

Michael Bennett
It took a Harvard education to spring Michael Bennett on his 62-yard run against the Packers.
Best Block: The clinching down of Minnesota's victory against Green Bay was a 62-yard run by Michael Bennett with 4:20 remaining. On the play, Vikings center Matt Birk pulled right and threw a fabulous block that sealed the entire right-side pursuit. Birk is from Harvard. What's he doing in the NFL ... couldn't get into med school?

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 1: Trailing 17-14, the Bengals had the Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.1) facing second-and-13. Since the average NFL pass attempt yields 5.9 yards -- anyway, it's a blitz! Touchdown pass to Dennis Northcutt and the Oranges never look back.

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 2: Trailing 14-13 early in the fourth quarter of a surprisingly tense game, the Bears all-out blitzed alien "Marc Bulger" of the Mouflons, six gentlemen including a cornerback crossing the line. Thirty-two-yard completion to Isaac Bruce, who ran straight to the spot the corner vacated; St. Louis gets a touchdown on the series and the rest is silence for Chicago.

Yes, blitzing sometimes works. Among successes this week, the Titans got the Steelers off the field with a third-and-six blitz with the score Tennessee 21, Pittsburgh 7 in the third. After that, the Steelers did not threaten again until the last-second onside kick.

Coaches Should Be Cold: It was 42 degrees with a frisky breeze before kickoff in Nashville, Tenn., and Flaming Thumbtacks coach Jeff Fisher overheard a couple of his southern-born players grousing about the temperature. Fisher responded by coming out for warmups wearing a short-sleeved golf shirt and no jacket. After trotting around for some time in this undress, he asked the team if anyone planned to complain about feeling cold. The football gods smiled, and the Titans were rewarded.

'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All: Though Buffalo running back Travis Henry had an excellent outing with 24 carries for 126 yards, the Bills threw on a critical third-and-inches; incompletion, punt. Reaching first-and-goal at the Kansas City 5, the Bills threw three straight times, all incompletions, then settled for the field goal. They lost by one point.

Best Bumps: Officially, only corners play bump-and-run, but smart receivers know that if they deliberately slam into their cover man in the first 5 yards where defensive contact is legal, they're not going to get called for it. On both of Terrell Owens' touchdown receptions Sunday, Owens began the pattern by deliberately slamming into the DB in front of him, knocking the gentleman off-balance.

Charlie Garner
Charlie Garner catches the Pats defense napping.
Where Was the Defense? Facing third-and-15 from the New England 16, Oakland threw a screen pass to Charlie Garner, who made it to the Pats' 2; the Raiders went for it on the fourth-and-one, scored a touchdown to take their first lead and never looked back. Where was the defense? The closer a team gets to the end zone, the harder each yard becomes because defenders have steadily less territory to protect. There's no way a screen pass from the 16 should result in a runner scampering to the 2; defenders should be too packed-in for that.

Defense that was there: the Raiders varied fronts as much as TMQ has ever seen. On one sequence, Oakland showed a nine-man front on the first New England snap, a three-man front on the second and a false blitz on the third.

Where Was the Defender's Brain? TMQ loves skinny Marvin Harrison, who became the fastest receiver to 600 catches, partly on the basis of a 31-yard touchdown reception against the down-in-the-cellar-with-the-rutabagas Cowboys. Dallas might have had better luck on the play if they had assigned someone to cover Harrison. As the skinny star ran down the field, no Cowboy made any attempt to stay with him. The closest 'Boy, safety Tony Dixon, ignored Harrison loping by because Dixon was busy making the high-school mistake of "looking into the backfield" trying to guess what the quarterback would do.

Susy
Mama-mia! Susy, the proud mother of a 17-month-old girl.
Cheerleader of the Week: Today's cheer-babe theme is hot mammas who are hot and actually are mommas. The TMQ ESPN.com Cheerleader of the Week is Susy of the high-aesthetic-appeal Dolphins' squad. According to her team bio, Susy was born in Honduras and moved to the United States at age 11. Today she owns a women's clothing store and has -- in addition, apparently, to abs of tungsten -- a 17-month-old daughter. Given that Susy has departed the dating market, TMQ feels somewhat restrained in making the customary salacious comment. The photo to the right should speak for itself, however. And see another hot-mom cheerleader below.

Stat of the Week: Stretching back to the point last season when they were 13-3, the Bears are on a 2-9 run.

Stat of the Week No. 2: Owing to penalties, Buffalo staged a drive on which it gained 101 offensive yards but scored just three points.

Stat of the Week No. 3: In the first half of the Raiders-Patriots game, there were 43 passing plays and 20 runs. The football gods winced.

Stat of the Week No. 4: Dobby the Elf (Steve Spurrier) has called 355 passes and 250 runs for the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons, whose offense is ranked 26th in the league.

Stat of the Week No. 5: In close road losses, Buffalo and New Orleans combined for 29 penalties for 272 yards.

Stat of the Week No. 6: Rich Gannon is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,112 yards. And if he doesn't, the mark looks safe, as Drew Bledsoe has slipped to be on pace for 4,843 yards. (The season record, held by Dan Marino, is 5,084 yards.) History's first reader-contributed stat haiku:

Fifty-one hundred
and twelve if Gannon maintains
three-nineteen a game!
-- C. Dodd Harris IV, Louisville, Ky.

Stat of the Week No. 7: St. Louis passed for 327 yards and ran for 61 yards. The football gods winced.

Miss Cleo
The mon is keeping Miss Cleo down.
I See -- Wait -- You Will Wear an Orange Jumpsuit! The Federal Trade Commission shut down the Psychic Readers Network and ordered "nationally acclaimed psychic" Miss Cleo, its president, to relinquish $500 million in credit-card billings that regulators said were acquired through deception. What TMQ wants to know is ... why didn't Miss Cleo see this coming?

During the Reagan Administration, Nancy Reagan occasionally consulted an astrologer. At one point Nancy called a press conference to introduce her astrologer to the media, to show that she was a perfectly normal person. The press conference was canceled because the astrologer had to rush back to California owing to the sudden death of her mother. No one, to my knowledge, asked, Why didn't she see this coming?

This Week's San Diego Babes Item: As many readers, including Andrew Holland of Washington, D.C., wrote in to note, for the second consecutive Tuesday, TMQ links to the San Diego Charger Girls' swimsuit photos, and especially to a bikini pose of the scrumptious Sarah Reichert, crashed the entire Bolts official website. For the second week running, ESPN.com had to remove the links for a few hours, at the request of Chargers' officials, so that techno-persons could reinitialize the team server.

Apparently, the websites of the Eagles, Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons and Ravens, to which TMQ also linked cheerleader shots last week, also operated intermittently throughout the afternoon, owing to high usage. To think that a few years ago, at the height of web mania, the ability to cause tens of thousands of people to click on the same thing simultaneously would have made me rich beyond the dreams of avarice! Now it makes me -- say, Page 2 management, where is that bag of ESPN Zone tokens you promised for my kids?

Chargers cheerleaders
The naughty but nice Chargers Girls get in the retro spirit.
Many readers protested that the item about the Chargers cheerleaders appearance in 1960s throwback duds, described by reader Pam Holmberg as "retro sexy," was not accompanied by the essential illustrative photograph. Follows is the complaint in haiku.

Bolts cheer-babes throwback
"look old-fashioned but naughty."
And yet, no photo?
-- David Glicker, Kyle, Texas

The Revenge of the Chicks! TMQ has been getting an awful lot of mail on the cheesecake-beefcake issue; now even female readers are obsessing on this subject. Jenn Wallace and Jennifer Nelson lament in haiku that while women in cheer-babe shots are always in various stages of undress, all cheer-studs TMQ has been able to find are photographed fully clothed. As Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jimmy Carter once noted, "Life is unfair."

Susan Bullard of St. Francisville, La., gripes of last week's featured cheer-stud, the fully clothed James S. of the Ravens, "While a hamster-owning male cheerleader may constitute beefcake for your nontraditional male audience, it just doesn't do it for me." Nan Kennelly, long-suffering Official Wife of TMQ, clicked on the link to James S. hoping for a skin photo, only to discover more proof of the unfairness of life. She also found that the Ravens' website was slow, and then her computer crashed. Could it be that the female lust for beefcake equals male interest in the opposite phenomenon? NFL teams, start posting photos of your players without shirts!

The cheer-stud James S. --
clothed, not shirtless and flexing?
This hardly fairness.
-- Jennifer Nelson, Atlanta

Cheer dudes have no beef.
Bring forth sweaty quarterbacks
in tighty-whities!
-- Jenn Wallace, Cleveland

Oldest TV show?
"Guiding Light," not MNF.
Keep beefcake coming!
-- Jennifer Dobbs, Amherst, Mass.

Long legs and Lycra,
Wide receivers wear few pads,
Beefcake fully clothed.
-- Deborah Sullivan, Philadelphia

Male cheer-studs are great,
but I would prefer players.
Show us some skin, please!
-- Tamara Walters, Boston

Note to Traditional Males: The mail suggests that traditional male (and for that matter, nontraditional female) readers are panicking over last week's beefcake. Don't. First, a tactical retreat was always inevitable. Second, by throwing in the occasional handsome man or revenge-of-the-chicks item, TMQ hopes to create a diversion from what really matters, pinup shots. If the column looks admirably open-minded regarding the concerns of female and nontraditional male readers, then who could object to balancing it off with photos of scantily clad mega-babes? That's just diversity! I've got a plan, trust me on this one.

Steve Christie
Kick me, I'm Canadian: Steve Christie coolly ices the Niners.
Frostback of the Week: Bolts kicker Steve Christie is 21-for-24 lifetime on kicks to tie or win in the final two minutes or overtime. Cold, cold blood runs in this Canadian's veins, eh?

Don't Ask What the Brain X-Ray Showed: During the MNF game, Melissa Stark reported from the sideline that X-rays of Marc Bulger's hand "were negative." The X-rays showed nothing? But then, alien physiology may not show up on film. More evidence that "Marc Bulger" is an n-dimensional tesseract construct organism from Kurt Warner's homeworld.

What TMQ Wants to Know Is, How Loud Was the Big Bang? Recently researchers from the University of Rochester slammed together two atoms of gold -- two individual atoms -- at nearly the speed of light, creating a "quark gluon plasma" thousands of times hotter than the sun and believed to be similar to the proto-matter that existed in the eon immediately after the Big Bang. The scientists declared that they had, for an instant, created a "little Big Bang."

Set aside here the issue of whether your tax dollars are best spent to slam atoms of gold together at nearly the speed of light. (The experiment was conducted at Brookhaven National Laboratory, a federal facility, which Wednesday will be host of a seminar titled "The Kaon B Parameter Using Overlap Fermions." Hurry, there's still time to sign up!) Set aside also whether the atoms will be fined by the NFL for an illegal hadron-to-hadron hit. (Har har, physics pun.) TMQ's question is whether we really want to re-create the conditions of the Big Bang. What if we set off another one?


When Manhattan Project scientists were preparing to detonate the first atomic bomb, some worried that its unprecedented temperature would ignite the atmosphere and turn the Earth into a star. (A desperate race to prevent a runaway nuclear test from turning the Earth into a star was the plot the pleasingly goofy sci-fi novel "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," later made into an excruciating TV series; the book is out of print, though you can still buy the show's theme music.) Dr. Doom himself, Edward Teller, made his initial reputation by calculations that proved an atomic detonation would not cause the atmosphere to fuse.

When researchers began building complex atom-smashers such as the one at Brookhaven, there was some concern among scientists that they could create a bizarre "template" particle to which all other particles in the universe would bind, crushing the cosmos out of existence. Sir Martin Rees, the British astronomer, once penned a hilarious account of serving on a committee that was tasked to discuss whether physics professors and their geeky postdocs could inadvertently destroy the entire universe.

Comes now the University of Rochester to make a miniature Big Bang. Are we really sure we want to tamper with this effect? And did the experiment cause an actual Big Bang, creating a new universe somewhere else? A universe to which the University of Rochester would be God!

In other universe news, TMQ was lying in a field at 5 a.m. this morning with Mara Rose, Official Daughter of TMQ, as we watched the Leonid meteor shower. This got me to thinking that the universe is really, really big, and I am really, really small, and I could really, really use a cup of coffee. For more big thoughts, see the cover of the new issue of Wired, an article about science-and-religion trends by an author with animal magnetism and smoking jacket with color-coordinated cravat. TMQ reader Cesar Corcoles of Barcelona, Spain, has already e-mailed me about this article, which has only been out a couple of days! The world is getting almost spooky-global.

I Guaranteed a Bengals Item! Trailing by seven late in the fourth, Cincinnati twice was stuffed on goal-to-go from the Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.1) 1-yard line, just as the Bengals had been stuffed from the 1 in the same situation against the Flaming Thumbtacks. All three stuffed plays were Corey Dillon off-tackle right. Note to Bengals braintrust: Maybe we have established that this play does not work in this situation.

We're All Professionals Here: Having just fallen behind 19-14, Detroit prepared to oppose Jersey/B's two-point attempt in the third. No Lion lined up across from Jets wide-out Laveranues Coles, who simply turned around and made history's easiest catch for the deuce.

Hey, Snyder Is Perfectly Consistent -- He Makes the Same Mistake Over and Over: Dobby the Elf, the fourth Persons head coach in four years of the reign of Lord Voldemort, has just announced his fourth starting quarterback change of the season. That will make it nine starting quarterback changes in four years of the reign of Lord Voldemort. The Persons are also on their fourth defensive coordinator and fourth general manager during Voldemort's reign. TMQ continues to wonder, with Dan Snyder exhibiting zero grasp of such basic management principles as consistency, how did this guy get rich?

Ashley Scott
Hurry to see Ashley Scott because her "Birds of Prey" might soon be "Nevermore."
Reader Haiku: Submit your verse at the Reader Animadversion link below. Brandon Trissler puns on the "sinking Shoop" of John Shoop, offensive coordinator of the low-low voltage Bears. David Cassell's supposes that Boeing engineers named their fighter prototype the Bird of Prey thinking neither of the Romulans nor Dickens' novel "Our Mutual Friend," but of the current television show. TMQ's advice would be to watch this show while you can, which won't be long; Cassell adds, mind focused on what really matters, that this creates a cheap, flimsy excuse for the ESPN.com art department to append a photo of the "Birds of Prey" star babe Ashley Scott. Jason Kaczor proposes, à la Poe, son of Baltimore and reason for the Ravens name, that this team receive the TMQ cognomen Nevermores.

Heather Workman speculates that the Lions are perennial losers in part because they are one of the few NFL clubs that employs no buff cheerleaders. But Heather, the Packers don't either and this does not seem to hold them back. Though maybe it's strictly practical, since where would you find mega-babes in Green Bay, Wis.?

Finally, reader Paul C. of Boston laments that although, according to their team bios, nearly all NFL cheerleaders are college students, he has never observed any woman so alluring at his school. TMQ hears you, Paul C. The explanation is the Tuesday Morning Quarterback Iron Law of Parties. The Iron Law of Parties holds that whenever you are arriving at a party, good-looking babes are just leaving, while whenever you are leaving a party, good-looking babes are just arriving. Female and nontraditional male readers may adjust the Iron Law of Parties to reflect their preferences, but I assure you the principle will remain the same. As pertains to college, Paul C., just as you were arriving, all the hot-looking women were graduating. As soon as you graduate, more will arrive.

Washington scuttled,
Bears swallowed by undertow:
rats flee sinking Shoop
-- Brandon Trissler, Iowa City

Salary-cap woes
may mean no more Super Bowls;
Hence, the Nevermores.
-- Jason Kaczor, Syracuse, N.Y.

Spurrier must learn:
Run the ball or N.F.L.
stands for Not For Long.
-- Shecky Lovejoy, Los Angeles

Lions: no cheesecake,
just movies on 8 Mile Road
Winning seasons scarce.
-- Heather Workman, Ann Arbor, Mich.

TMQ laments
close, but low-scoring affairs
as Sominex games

Wake up, TMQ.
Low scoring games aren't snoozers:
outcome uncertain!
-- Matt Jacobs, Pittsburgh

Klingons? Dickens? No!
Boeing geeks watch the TV.
They want Ashley Scott.
-- David Cassell, Corvallis, Ore.

All hot cheerleaders
said to go to a college.
I ask, why not mine?
-- Paul C., Boston

Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Challenged Note: It's always nice to see those Raider Nation guys at Not Bankrupt Yet Coliseum are mainstreaming and able to attend sports events and that stuff. But the frightening outfits they wear are mainly made of tin foil. Do Raiders fans seriously think opposing teams are afraid of tin foil?

TMQ Thought for the Day: When did sit-ups become "abs?"

Hidden Indicator: Five teams -- Buffalo, Green Bay, Oakland, New Orleans and the Seattle Blue Men Group -- had more penalty yards than rushing yards. 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: Tiffin 47, Quincy 44. Located "on State Route 53 in Tiffin," this school advertises itself as "one of the least expensive private colleges in Ohio." TMQ is all for that! Formerly a commuter school, in 1981 Tiffin began building dormitories, and since has doubled its enrollment. One of Tiffin's faculty members just published a book called "Operation Lusty," which, unfortunately, has nothing to do with what you're thinking.

Bonus Obscure Score: Hartwick 68, Saint Lawrence 7. Located on Pine Lake in New York's Catskill Mountains, Hartwick boasts "almost 1.25 computers for every student." The school encourages students to invent their own majors and quotes one professor as saying, "I have seen students at Hartwick take charge of their own education, it is a wondrous thing." But if you've taken charge of your own education, why do you need to pay Hartwick a $26,215 tuition?

Double Bonus Obscure Score: Shepherd 60, Concord 14. Located in Shepherdstown, W.Va., Shepherd is expanding, owing to West Virginia's Sen. Robert Byrd's long-serving, long-winded knowledge of precisely where every body is buried on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Shepherd just completed a $9.5 million Robert C. Byrd Science and Technology Center; it is conservatively estimated that two-thirds of public structures in West Virginia are named The Robert C. Byrd Something or Other. Every time TMQ is in Western Virginia, he thinks, "This state is so beautiful, plus it was on the right side of the Civil War, and it gets so much federal money thanks to Byrd, why is West Virginia still poor?" (Second-lowest per capita income in the country.) Occasionally TMQ wonders, "Maybe West Virginia stays poor because it gets so much federal money." But you're not supposed to think that.

JuCo Stat of the Week: Geary Davenport threw for 781 yards and nine touchdowns as College of Marin lost to Solano Community College by a final of 72-69.

New York Times Final-Score Score. The Paper of Guesses returns to its habitual 0-16 in its triumphant attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 1-679 since TMQ began tracking.

Sam Adams
We should be so lucky to be insulted like Sam Adams.
It's An Insult! Sam Adams, who last February said he was insulted when his employers, the Nevermores, offered him $6 million actual for this season, ended up signing with the Raiders for $2 million actual for the season. He sure showed them.

Claiming "it's an insult!" about your team's tender, then ending up somewhere else earning less, is becoming an NFL standard. In winter of 2001, for example, San Diego offered incumbent kicker John Carney a contract that would have paid him $1.2 million for the season. He rejected the offer, calling it an insult. Carney ended up signing with New Orleans for the league minimum of $477,000.

Last winter Jeremiah Trotter cried, "It's an insult!" when his Eagles offered a deal that would have paid him $5.5 million for 2002 and left him an unrestricted free agent in 2003, able to get what the market may bear. Instead he signed with the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons for just $1.5 million this season 2002 and the promise of a $6 million payday next season. Perhaps you'll recall that when Elvis Grbac signed with the Ravens in 2001, he took much of his money as a promise of a $6 million bonus the following winter, then was cut and never got a penny. Considering that the Persons are already over the salary cap for the 2003 season, Trotter is unlikely to see all his promised dough. TMQ bets he'll end up considerably behind what he would have realized from the "insulting" Eagles offer.

WorldCom-Like Financial Acumen: The greatest "it's an insult!" moment came last winter when Michael Strahan not only rejected but angrily rejected a Giants' offer that would have paid him a $10 million bonus for his signature plus a second $7 million bonus in 2003. The total, with salaries, would have been $20.5 million over the coming two years -- two years being the only portion of an NFL contract with any chance of being actual. Strahan denounced the deal as a trick, asserting that, Grbac-style, the Giants would waive him to avoid making the second payment.

But wait; Strahan was already under contract for 2002. What the Giants wanted was to extend his commitment, plus toss the sal-cap damage into future years. If Jersey/A planned to release Strahan in the winter of 2003, it would be insane to give him what would amount to the $2.65 million gift (the $10 million bonus plus $650,000 salary, minus the $8 million called for in his existing agreement), since he had to play for the Giants in 2002 regardless, while the prorated penalties for the enormous bonus would molder the team's books beginning the instant Strahan were waived. In cap terms, the Giants' original offer made sense only if the team intended to carry out the promise and wire the second payment to Strahan's offshore account. The Grbac situation -- he was a free agent whom the Ravens were trying to lure -- was different.

Eventually Strahan signed a fictional "seven-year, $46 million" contract likely to pay him less than the deal he rejected as an insult. Strahan ends up with $11.4 million right away -- only fractionally more than the first year of the $10.65 million "it's an insult" offer -- plus the promise of huge salaries beginning in 2003. Even if Strahan actually receives the promised 2003 huge salary, he will end up with $20.4 million over the first two years, a tad less than the "it's an insult" deal. But because the agreement Strahan finally signed is almost all salary, rather than bonus, the leverage has shifted to the Giants. Owing to most of the money being salary, the cap penalty for waiving Strahan in 2004 will only be about $4.5 million -- very manageable -- versus a killer $13 million penalty that would have been looming over the Giants in 2004 under the original bonus-heavy "it's an insult" proposal. Thus Strahan rejected a deal that would have imposed significant restrictions on Jersey/A, in return for a deal the Giants can walk away from the instant Strahan loses his value.

Catherine Bell
We're honoring our contract by showing you Catherine Bell.
How much chance is there that Strahan actually will receive the promised huge future salaries, considering that by 2004 he will be a 12-year vet whose knees require 3-in-1 Oil before kickoff to prevent creaking? About as much chance as that football fan and hot-tomato actress Catherine Bell will invite TMQ to a late-night session of candlelit attempts to predict exact final scores. (Note to ESPN.com art department -- have just created flimsy excuse for a cheesecake photo of Bell.) By 2004 at the latest, Strahan will be told to take a pay cut or be waived. The salary-heavy nature of the deal might even create enough cap leverage to force Strahan to take a pay cut in 2003, turning the contract into a complete fiasco that pays him substantially less than the "it's an insult" deal.

Strahan declared victory about his contract, claiming he showed them. Strahan's agent declared victory, claiming to be a super-brilliant genius who forced Jersey/A to its knees. TMQ is giving 10-to-1 odds that Strahan ends up with fewer dineros than the it's-an-insult proposal would have provided.

Leisurely living note: After being handed a mega bonus, many players celebrate by taking the remainder of the season off.

Through 10 games Strahan has eight sacks, putting him just barely ahead in this year's sack race of the legendary Jeff Posey. And as reader Vernon Harmon of Rohnert Park, Calif., points out, on Donovan McNabb's touchdown run against Jersey/A earlier this year, Strahan started the play trailing McNabb by a yard and then just gave up -- coming to all-stop and simply watching as 10 other guys tried frantically to run down McNabb. Did the coach yank Strahan from the game and scream at him, or, better, send him to the showers? Far as TMQ could tell, no one said a thing to the overpaid, underperforming Strahan. But don't be surprised during the offseason if the Giants use plays like this to tell Strahan it's pay cut or the waiver wire, turning his rejection of the first offer into a debacle.

New York Times Correction of the Week: "A front-page article yesterday about trading in the stock market on Tuesday misstated the gain of the Dow Jones industrial average in the four days ended April 22, 1933. It was 15.31 percent, not 13.28 percent."

The super-responsible accuracy-obsessed New York Times moves quickly to correct any inadvertent misperception about hundredths of a percentage point in 1933! 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 1-679 since TMQ began tracking.

Reader Animadversion: Regarding not-shy Eagles cheer-babe Kelly T., whom TMQ could link to but not show for thong-based reasons -- several readers have proposed that a Kelly T. link become a permanent feature of this column -- her Penn State classmate Kevin Grant writes, "Kelly played on my intramural co-ed flag football team in college, and we won the whole thing that year!" He haikuizes,

Kelly T. and I,
flag football teammates at State.
Wish she'd tackled me.
-- Kevin Grant, Sayre, Pa.

Mary
Mary, a social worker and hot mom, knocks the Cowboys down a couple more notches.
Reader Jim Houser of Austin, Texas, who reports that he just purchased the Eagles cheerleaders lingerie calendar, writes to bemoan, "As a Cowboy fan, I must admit jealously, now they have us beat at the sidelines too." Dallas-lovers, time to face the sad truth: The Cowboys' cheerleaders, who started it all, aesthetically have slipped to a second-echelon unit, staring at the brake lights of the Dolphins, Eagles, Raiders and Broncos squads. Want more proof? Here's another pose from the Eagles' lingerie calendar, of Mary, a social worker and another hot mom, in her case with a 2-year-old son.

Mike Holman, a chemist from New York, objected to TMQ declaring that if the 25th anniversary is silver and the 50th gold, then the 500th game of Monday Night Football represented MNF's Gadolinium Anniversary because gadolinium sits below silver and gold on the Periodic Table of Elements. Holman notes that various versions of the Periodic Table move the rare elements around; in addition to gadolinium, europium and dysprosium are sometimes located beneath silver and gold. Unununium, an artificial element first made in 1994 by particle accelerators, really ought to be beneath gold on the Periodic Table, Holman maintains, because the atomic number of gold is 32 higher than of silver, and the atomic number of unununium is 32 higher than gold. Consumer tip: If someone tries to sell you jewelry made of 24-carat unununium, the product might be bogus, as this element has a half-life of 1.5 milliseconds.

Greg Lange of Houston, locale of NASA's Johnson Space Center, management center for human space flight -- that's why, when you are an astronaut who has a problem, you call Houston -- reports of TMQ's item on the space-cowboy term Max Q that, "Max Q is also the name of the all-astronaut band here at the Johnson Space Center. Membership changes as astronauts come and go. Max Q plays rock oldies, mostly, and they play publicly only on request, usually at NASA-sponsored events in Houston and at NASA employee picnics." Greg, how about having flight controllers call out, "Max-TMQ!"

Readers from Canada and Mexico have taunted Tuesday Morning Quarterback with the infuriating fact that, while the overwhelming majority of Americans have no access to NFL Sunday Ticket -- it is available exclusively via the satellite service DirecTV, which is in only 10 percent of U.S. homes and which huge numbers of Americans cannot receive owing to technical limitations -- anyone in Canada and Mexico can receive Sunday Ticket on regular cable, at lower cost than in the United States. Comes now reader Jesus Ortiz of Mexico City to point out that Mexican patrons of DirecTV get the entire enchilada of movies, programming and Sunday Ticket for just 789 pesos, less than Sunday Ticket alone costs in the United States. In effect, NFL Sunday Ticket is free in Mexico, while in the United States, millions cannot get it at any price. Sunday Ticket is also effectively free in Panama, reports reader Alex Samos of Panama City. Only the NFL could come up with a master plan in which viewer's choice for its games is for all intents and purposes forbidden to most Americans, but subsidized in Canada and free in Mexico and Panama. A reader haikuizes,

Perot was correct.
Not about jobs, but rather
our Sunday Ticket.
-- Jim Thomas, Washington, D.C.

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

Last Week's Challenge: Last week, TMQ asked readers for cool-sounding NASA or fly-boy phrases that could be applied to football or, even, to real life.


Joe Lindsey of Boulder, Colo., was among many, many readers who proposed that "Negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full," the key phrase in "Top Gun" (you have to have seen the movie), sounds like a great audible. But TMQ sympathizes with another reader who warns in haiku,

Accurate fly-boy
phrases? Ignore anything
from "Top Gun" movie
-- Jared McLain, Mesa, Ariz.

Mike Clark of Philadelphia proposed the fly-boy phrase for speeding up, "Put the spurs to her." I will not even attempt a TMQ-class joke on that. Kathryn Kelchner of San Luis Obispo, Calif., proposed the engineers' description of how a jet engine works: "Suck, squeeze, burn, blow." I will not even attempt a TMQ-class joke on that.

Engineer Geof Morris of Huntsville, Ala., site of a major NASA facility, proposed, "You are go for OMS burn," the signal flight controllers send to the space shuttle for the engine firing that kicks the spacecraft into its final orbit. Atlanta coaches, Morris suggests, could radio the phrase, "You are go for OMS burn" to Michael Vick's helmet, signaling him to take off running.

TMQ his ownself suggests the phrase "into the burn," which is how NASA flight controllers call rocket-firing duration, as in, "We are now 45 seconds into the burn." People could exclaim this was sipping a Jack Daniels.

Louisville resident Jim Hanson, who describes himself as an Army Special Forces member -- media types are coached to be cautious of such claims because the Army, as a matter of policy, will neither confirm nor deny who is in Special Forces -- nominated the fly-boy term "on my six," which means your enemy is directly behind you.

Kerry Smith of Groton, Mass., suggests "dead bug." Aerial stunt teams such as the Blue Angels call, "Dead bug!" when planes are to fly upside-down, or "inverted." Smith suggests, "Picture the Dead Bug Defense. All defenders end up on their backs with arms and legs in the air as the ballcarrier sails by." Hmmm, isn't that what Seattle is running this year? And a reader notes in haiku,

Dead bugs with striped hats:
Bengals flying inverted
since mid-'91.
-- Edwin Hill, Evansville, Ind.


A reader from North Pole, Alaska -- an actual place, here is its current weather -- suggests two haiku apropos of the many interceptions and fumbles dispensed this season by Daunte Culpepper:

Yell, "Twelve o'clock high!"
Defensive players look up,
Culpepper pick coming.

Yell, "Six o'clock low!"
Defensive players hit turf,
Find Daunte's fumble.
-- Shawn Staker, North Pole, Alaska

Rik Kyser of Toledo, Ohio, suggests "going joker," which means being low on fuel. As in, "Let's turn back, I'm going joker." Kyser notes, "Going joker" seems a wholly appropriate euphemism for being drafted by the Bengals.

Mark Petty of Woodbridge, Va., suggests "auger in," which means to crash nose-down into the ground, and "dead-stick," which means flying without power. The Bengals annually auger in by mid-October, Petty notes, while "the Dolphins go pretty much dead stick after every November."

Jessica Schneider of Washington, D.C., suggests "SA" or "situational awareness," which means paying attention to what's going on around you. Dobby the Elf, coach of her hometown Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons, might be accused of "bad SA."

Matt Alfano of San Jose, Calif., notes that Navy pilots must "call the ball" to verify they have sighted the optical lens system that guides a carrier approach. "This could easily apply to Keyshawn Johnson, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss, to name a few," Alfano says.

And the winner of the Challenge is Joshua Carey of Candor, N.Y., one of many, many, many readers -- I had to pick one at random -- who proposed that the motto of the NFL's expansion Texans ought to be: "Houston, we have a problem."

This Week's Challenge: What warning labels would you place on movies, football games, politicians or mega-babes or ultra-hunks? Propose yours here. Cleverness and originality will probably be rewarded, though not necessarily, as the final decision will be completely arbitrary.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 5:14 PM

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November 12, 2002

Muddling along the NFL's middle

POST #    493

Muddling along the NFL's middle
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist


The Rams were nobodies, then a Super Bowl juggernaut, then lost five straight and now have won four straight. Former powerhouse Dallas is down in the cellar with the rutabagas and pickled beets, while former nobody New Orleans is drinking comped champagne in the high-rollers suite. And can you believe 15 of 32 NFL teams are one game above or below .500? An entire division, the AFC East, is one game above or below .500. Once again sportswriters, fans and bobbleheads across the nation are complaining that all this is the result of an insidious outburst of parity.

There's one problem -- parity is a myth. Maybe that's why so many people believe in it!

First, parity is claimed to result from "strength" pairing, a Pete Rozelle idea of the 1980s. Under this system, at the end of each season, weak teams are slated against weak teams for the following year, and strong teams against strong. Parity mythologists claim this pushes all outcomes toward .500.

But from the inception of Rozelle's plan through 2001, only four to five games of 16 were determined by strength pairing; the rest were dictated by division and conference formulas. That meant, at most, 30 percent of outcomes could be parity-related. Beginning this season and continuing indefinitely, NFL realignment dictates that 14 of 16 games be determined by formula and only two by strength pairing. The new formulas mean a mere 12 percent of the schedule can be influenced by league attempts to match poor teams with poor teams and strong with strong. Twelve percent is a pretty weak effect.

Want to know who the Raiders will play in the year 2008? The league's computer has already decided: their division home-and-home plus New England, Jersey/B, Atlanta and Carolina at home and Miami, New Orleans, Buffalo and Tampa on the road. Only two slots available to strength-schedule. Want to know who the Vikings play in 2009? The front-office computer has already decided: their division, plus the Niners, Seahawks, Ravens and Bengals at home and the Cardinals, Rams, Browns and Steelers on the road. Only two games left to strength-schedule.

Next, consider that the teams the league calls weak or strong in offseason scheduling may not be so once play begins. Last offseason, the Chargers were labeled a weak team for pairing purposes, and the Bears a strong team; now their positions are reversed, wiping out any parity-inducing effect.

Next, it's claimed that free agency, almost a decade old, means so much player shuffling that teams undergo wild swings of ability to win. TMQ hates the shuffling effect -- it's an outrage that Jerry Rice is not finishing his career in San Francisco, or Bruce Smith in Buffalo -- but statistically, free agency simply hasn't altered victory continuity as much as people think. Ups and downs in the standings are little different today than they were before free agency.

In 2001, only 41 percent of playoff teams repeated from the previous year. This is said to represent incredible upheaval, but how does it compare with the past? Step back two decades to 1981, supposedly the golden age of continuity. That year, 40 percent of playoff clubs repeated from the previous season. Variation in who makes the playoffs is not a recent parity-driven development. It is the NFL norm.

Now let's look at the muddled middle, with 47 percent of teams currently within one game of .500. Step back two decades to the golden era of 1983 (1982 was a strike season) and a higher number, 54 percent of teams, finished in the middle. Lots of teams fluttering around the middle is not a parity development. It, too, is the NFL norm.

Fluttering around the middle is also the norm in other sports. In major-league baseball, finishing 11 games above or below .500 is the same as one above or below in the NFL -- and last season, 40 percent of MLB teams finished in the muddled middle. In pro basketball, finishing six games above or below .500 is the same as one above or below in the NFL -- and last season 40 percent of NBA teams finished in the muddled middle. The middle, after all, dominates most statistics.


Schedule strength pairing has little to do with the improvement of Drew Brees' Chargers this season.
As for complaints about paucity of dynasty clubs -- the Packers of the 1960s, Steelers of the 1970s, Niners of the 1980s and Cowboys of the 1990s -- these teams straddled all financial and scheduling trends. Occurring at the rate of roughly one per decade, true dynasties are sufficiently atypical that the current absence of a dynastic franchise means nothing.

Why sports nuts and bobbleheads complain about the supposed parity effect is a mystery to TMQ, since to the extent strength-pairing has any effect, it is to keep games competitive, by reducing the frequency of elite teams beating up on perennial losers. But overall, parity is a myth. With the reduction to two of annual strength-of-schedule pairings, the parity myth is over.

In other NFL news, the rash of fines for nasty hits may reflect bad intent or may simply reflect the ever-increasing speed of NFL athletes. But Tuesday Morning Quarterback thinks it has one other impact: Monster hits are causing the epidemic of bad tackling.

Why? Defenders, especially safeties, are hurtling themselves madly at ballcarriers, hoping for the monster hit that will garner them a tough-guy rep, a bigger contract and a highlight-clip moment on "SportsCenter." But when you're playing for the big lay-out, often you fail to get the tackle. Many times this season, TMQ has seen safeties go flying harmlessly past ballcarriers in failed attempts to make a monster hit, when simply wrapping up would have led to a regular tackle. The reward structure for defenders has become perverse: Fans remember the big hits but not the clumsy misses in situations when a regular wrap-up tackle was called for. Until fans and sportscasters start praising the standard, good-form tackle and stop obsessing over the occasional big hit, NFL tackling fundamentals will keep declining.

Sweet Play of the Day No. 1: Leading 13-6 in the third, the plodding Chicago Bears took possession at the Patriots' 44. End around to receiver Marty Booker, who threw a perfect touchdown strike to fellow wide-out Marcus Robinson. The play made Booker the fourth Bear to attempt a pass in the game.

Sweet Play of the Day No. 2: Facing third-and-one on the Chiefs' 6, game tied at 10, San Francisco faked up the middle, then Jeff Garcia quick-flipped a backhand lateral to Kevan Barlow, who ran for the winning points as Kansas City had no idea where the ball was.

Best 95-Yard Drive: The Saints' field-length drive for the winning touchdown against Carolina, with 37 seconds left, consisted of eight pass attempts and three Aaron Brooks runs, meaning Brooks carried the load on every play. TMQ doesn't like this approach, not even if the quarterback is a guy named "Brett." But the Panthers seemed to have no clue New Orleans would put it in Brooks' hands to win or lose.


Brett Favre's so good, he gets his own category.
Guy Named "Brett" Play of the Day: With first-and-goal at the Lions' 5 and trailing 7-3, Favre stepped left, pumped left, then rolled right and tossed to Bubba Franks for an easy six.

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 1: Reader Eric Ratinoff of St. Louis wrote in asking why TMQ does not zing the Eagles for backfired blitzes and suggests the lack of anti-Eagles items proves blitz-happy Philadelphia is profiting from this tactic. Eric, be careful what you wish for!

Leading 7-3, Indianapolis faced second-and-13 at its 43. Since the average NFL passing attempt yields 5.9 yards (note to fans of the blitz who write in protesting this stat -- that is the 2001 whole-season average, yes; this year the current average is 6.4 yards per attempt), all Philadelphia needs to do is play straight defense and the odds favor a stop. Instead, it's a blitz! Seven gentlemen cross the line, 57-yard touchdown to Marvin Harrison. Technique note: Peyton Manning pump-faked, and this froze Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent. But Harrison did not run a stop-and-go, he ran a standard "up." This means Vincent was paying no attention whatsoever to his man; rather, he was looking into the backfield to try to guess what Manning would do.

Converse proves the rule: On the Horsies' next possession, they faced third-and-six and called the same play. Philadelphia was in a standard defense and got the stop.

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 2: Indianapolis 28, Philadelphia 6, and the Horsies faced second-and-10. Since the average NFL pass attempt yields -- anyway, it's a blitz! Forty-eight-yard completion to Reggie Wayne and the icing touchdown three snaps later. Yes, the blitz sometimes works, and this season the Eagles have profited by it more than any other NFL team. But by TMQ's count, on Sunday, Philadelphia blitzed Indianapolis 11 times on long-yardage downs. Six of the plays were converted for the first down or more, four were stops and only one resulted in a loss of yardage.

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 3: Leading 30-19 with three minutes left, Chicago had New England facing third-and-four on the Bears' 36. It's a blitz! Seven gentlemen cross the line, touchdown lob to Kevin Faulk and the defending champ's improbable last-second comeback is under way.


Jerry Rice is one of the best weapons against the blitz.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 4: Trailing 27-10 early in the fourth, the Broncos had the Raiders facing second-and-long on the Denver 34. It's a blitz! Seven Rollerball gentlemen cross the line, touchdown pass to the marvelous Jerry Rice, and TMQ writes the words "game over" in his notebook. True, down by 17, you must take chances. But Denver was in the game until it did exactly what the Raiders wanted by big-blitzing in an obvious blitz situation.

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 5: Trailing 7-3, the Moo Cows had the Flaming Thumbtacks facing second-and-10 in the third. It's a blitz! Six gentlemen cross, touchdown pass to Shad Meier, bye-bye upset hopes.

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 6: Trailing 16-7 at the end of the third, the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons had Jax facing third-and-long. It's a blitz! Six gentlemen cross, 48-yard completion to Bobby Shaw. The Jaguars scored on the next play, and TMQ wrote the words "game over" in his notebook.

Dobby note: During the game Dobby the Elf (Steve Spurrier) at various times threw his clipboard, his headset and his visor. This isn't going to help, Dobby, unless your evil master Lord Voldemort (Dan Snyder) can apparate Rutgers as your opponent.

By the Hammer of Grabthar, He Was Avenged! Running back Leon Johnson, who was drummed out of New York City (which, for NFL purposes, is located in New Jersey) when in 1997 he threw an interception at the goal on an option pass in the waning seconds of a season-ending loss that kept Jersey/B out of the playoffs, connected on a perfect 27-yard option-pass gain for the Bears.

Fraidy-Cat Play of the Day No. 1: Reaching the Falcons' 33 with five minutes remaining in overtime at Ketchup Field, the Steelers punted on fourth-and-10 rather than attempt a 50-yard field goal for the win; the game ended in a tie. Yes, Steeler kicker Todd Peterson already had a 48-yard attempt blocked, and yes, Bill Cowher continues to be the Joe Btfsplk of coaches when it comes to placekickers. But you've got to break a few bottles if you want some ketchup on your omelet. Pittsburgh had a shot to win, and passed on the chance. Ye gods.

Fraidy-Cat Play of the Day No. 2: Leading 24-14 at the start of the fourth quarter, San Diego faced fourth-and-10 at the St. Louis 32. The game was being played in the ideal kicking conditions of the Dome at the Center of the Observable Universe; surely the Bolts would try a field goal? It's a punt, downed at the 15 for a laughable net of 17 yards on the exchange. This mincing, fraidy-cat play set the tone for the Mouflons comeback.

Fraidy-Cat Play of the Day No. 3: Trailing 10-0 at the end of the first, Denver faced third-and-two at its own 39. It's got to be a run, right? Pass, incomplete, punt. This mincing play set the tone for the Broncos' evening of half-hearted effort.

Non-Fraidy Play of the Day: Facing fourth-and-three with 54 seconds left, New England called a quarterback sneak for the first. The Patriots then alertly ran a super-fast spike play to stop the clock, spiking the ball before zebras could signal a measurement for the first down, which New England almost certainly did not get.


After the prevent defense failed, Curtis Conway, left, and Reche Caldwell couldn't prevent Dre' Bly from grabbing the onside kick.
It Only Prevents Punts: Leading 24-14, San Diego had St. Louis pinned at its 6 with 4:58 remaining. Everyone groan in unison: The Bolts shifted into the prevent defense. As the Mouflons marched for the touchdown in seven plays, San Diego had but three defensive linemen on the field the entire possession.

St. Louis recovered the onside, and had the ball at its 46 with three minutes left, needing a touch. Surely the Bolts went back to their regular defense? No, it's still the prevent with three DLs -- remember, this isn't a last-second Hail Mary situation, there are three minutes remaining! San Diego did not finally send its regular defense back into the game until the Mouflons reached first-and-goal in the final minute. In the prevent defense, the Bolts allowed 143 yards on 16 consecutive plays -- an 8.9 yard average per play. The prevent makes sense against the Hail Mary, or when you've got a big lead and the clock is almost dead. To shift into the prevent with five minutes left is nuts unless you're up by 30.

Just to prove the team's poor tactics were no fluke, San Diego worked the ball back to the St. Louis 30 with 18 seconds left and a touchdown still wins it for the Bolts. Drew Brees drops back and pump-fakes for the stop-and-go. Now really! Who is going to fall for a stop-and-go in this situation? Interception, game over.

Worst Defense Snap: Minnesota let Ron Dayne, the Giants' slow back, run 30 yards to the house untouched by human hands.

Best Blocks: Many, including TMQ, have taken potshots at overpaid Falcons tackle Todd Weiner. But, wow, what a block on Warrick Dunn's 59-yard touchdown run on third-and-one; Weiner single-handedly sealed the right side of the line.

Also, the much-criticized Horsies OL shoved Philadelphia around.

The Longest Yard: With 2:27 left and the lead, New England out of time outs, Chicago faced second-and-one, needing only a single yard and the Bears could have knelt to kill the clock. Stuffed. Same situation on third-and-one. Stuffed.


Personette Erin has the same credentials as the Official Wife of TMQ.
Cheerleader of the Week: TMQ dislikes the offensive official name of the team he calls the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons, and dislikes the official owner, whom he calls Lord Voldemort. But there is something TMQ likes about this organization -- the Personettes, otherwise known as the Redskinettes.

The TMQ ESPN Cheerleader of the Week is Erin, a hot redhead who holds a master's degree in international studies. TMQ very much approves of this combination as the Official Wife of TMQ, Nan Kennelly, is a hot redhead with a master's in international studies. According to her team bio, Erin has taught ballet and jazz dance and currently works for a political consultant. Her hobbies are dancing, running and the violin; she hopes to get her PhD. Unfortunately, Erin says she values "high moral standards," which would pretty much rule out any chance any TMQ reader might have with her.

Stat of the Week: Carolina and Chicago began the season a combined 5-0; these teams have since gone a combined 0-13.

Stat of the Week No. 2: After opening a combined 1-8, St. Louis and Pittsburgh have gone a combined 8-0-1.

Stats of the Week No. 3: Every field goal attempt against the Miami Dolphins this season has been successful.

Stat of the Week No. 4: Pittsburgh tied Atlanta despite advantages of 198 yards of offense, nine more first downs, one more takeaway and 70 fewer penalty yards. San Francisco just barely beat Kansas City despite advantages of eight more first downs, one more takeaway and 17 minutes in time-of-possession.

Stat of the Week No. 5: Chicago could not hold a 21-point third quarter lead at home -- bearing in mind that for NFL purposes, Chicago is located in Champaign, Ill.

Stat of the Week No. 6: Kansas City has a losing record despite outscoring its opponents. Buffalo, Jersey/A and Tennessee have winning records despite being outscored.

Stat of the Week No. 7: Rich Gannon is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,152 yards. And if he doesn't, the mark looks safe, as Drew Bledsoe has slipped to a pace for 4,981 yards. (The season record, held by Dan Marino, is 5,084 yards.)

Stat of the Week No. 8: The Broncos and Raiders combined for 612 yards passing but just 104 yards rushing. The football gods winced.


Dr. Evil is taking the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons and the points against the Giants this week.
Together, Dr. Evil and I Could Rule the World: Reader Roger Denning of Phoenix has conducted an incredibly scientifically advanced analysis:


Have you noticed that teams play much better -- and win more often -- in the week after you pick one of their women as Cheerleader of the Week? Setting aside Week 8, in which Miami had a bye following your selection of a Dolphins cheerleader, teams are 6-3 on the Sunday after you feature one of their cheerleaders. And it's not that you just pick babes from winners; those same teams are a combined 32-33 over the rest of the season. Can you control the weather, too?


If NFL teams wish to bribe me to select Cheerleaders of the Week from their squads, a Swiss bank account number can be arranged. It would be money better spent than many of the bonuses teams hand out. Also, individual cheer-babes are welcome to attempt to influence my rigorous selection process!

And Her Ring? The Federal Budget Deficit Just Increased: Middle-aged White House spokesman Ari Fleischer married 26-year-old Rebecca Davis, described in the wedding announcement as a "confidential assistant" at a government agency. So Fleischer is married: What TMQ wants to know is, has he already denied it? And what's a "confidential" assistant: Does this mean no one knows who she works for? Here is an actual excerpt from the wedding transcript:

Rabbi: "And do you, Ari, take this confidential assistant to be your wedded wife?"

Fleischer: "I have no comment at this time."

Rabbi: "Will you love her and cherish her, forsaking all others?"

Fleischer: "That depends on her poll numbers."

Rabbi: "I now pronounce you spokesman and confidential assistant."


Ari Fleischer promised to respect and honor a confidential assistant, at least until they decide on a regime change.
Fleischer: "This is off the record! The marriage license should only say Rebecca married 'a senior administration official.' "

Rabbi: "You may now go on deep background with the bride."

From photographs of the happy couple, TMQ is guessing she married him for his looks and he married her for her access to power. Of equal interest, Ari registered at Target while Rebecca registered at Macy's. They already have the $249.99 Lennox McKinley coffee pot, but still need 10 Waterford Maeve drinking glasses at $75 each. Now's your chance to suck up to powerful insiders!

Skinny Guy Play of the Week: With his team trailing by four and a minute left, Bolts kickoff returner Ronney Jenkins broke into the clear at midfield and had only Mouflons kicker Jeff Wilkins to beat. Wilkins ran him down in the open field. Oh, you do not want to be Ronney Jenkins when it's time to watch game film.

Beefcake -- Run for Your Lives! TMQ has gotten countless requests from female and nontraditional male readers to balance the cheesecake with a little beefcake. Officially, I give in. Here is James S. of the Ravens -- one of the few NFL clubs with cheer stud-muffins. For one week, James S. may hold the temporary designation of TMQ ESPN Ripped Ultra Hunk of the Week.


James S. will tumble 4 ya.
According to his team bio, James S. likes cute puppy dogs, walks on the beach at sunset, flowers, candlelit dinners and long, serious relationship talks. Not! Well, for all TMQ knows he does like these things, but actually his bio says James S. is a college student who works as a tumbling coach, owns a hamster named Spartacus, listens to 99.1 FM (the alternative station in Baltimore, so he must be cool) and if he could meet anyone from history, would choose Frank Lloyd Wright. Sorry, female and nontraditional male readers, though the Ravens' buff mega-babe cheerleaders are scantily attired, their ripped ultra-hunk cheerleaders always appear fully clothed. As Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jimmy Carter once noted, "Life is unfair."

Reader Haiku: Submit yours at the Reader Animadversion link below. Joe Basile's notes that Green Bay cheeseheads are made of foam, not plastic, as was erroneously stated in last week's TMQ. Bill Swayze's notes that two of the year's most boring low-scoring games have involved the Cowboys on the road. Anne Schuette's notes that Bird of Prey originated neither with Boeing nor the Klingons but with Charles Dickens in his novel "Our Mutual Friend." Paul Kaufman, your wish is my command -- see below. Emily Beck, your wish is my command -- see above.


A species all their own, Green Bay's Cheeseheads pack lots of love for the Green and Gold.
Joe Sedon's plays on the fact that the popularity of last week's TMQ links to swimsuit photos of scrumptious mega-babe Bolts cheerleader Sarah Reichert caused the entire San Diego Chargers official website to crash last Tuesday afternoon. Tim Bryner of Anchorage, Alaska, must have read the column during that period, as he wrote to complain, "Why no link to the Charger cheerleaders' 'we-are-definitely-not-shy' swimsuit calendar?" The reason is that after TMQ readers hosed the Chargers' system, ESPN.com removed the Reichert and swimsuit-calendar links from the column for a few hours, at the Chargers' request, so team techno-persons could reinitialize the server. The links were restored later when the Chargers' system came back up.

Here, as a public service, is a repeat of the Sarah swimsuit pose and of the swimsuit calendar link. At the calendar link, click "sneak peek."

Though foam, not plastic,
cheeseheads do not represent
every Packer fan.
-- Joe Basile, San Jose, Calif.

Browns on second coach:
should now be known as Cleveland
(Release 2.1)
-- Mike Rubin, Salt Lake City


Because you asked nicely, here's the Charger Girls' Sarah Reichert again.
Babe in bikini
causes website to be jammed;
long wait on Tuesday
-- Joe Sedon, Allentown, Pa.

First Bird of Prey was
craft for seeking dead bodies --
Dickens' "O.M.F."
-- Anne Schuette, Manitowac, Wis.

Articles which mix
football with aerospace tech
should win Pulitzers.
-- Beth Christensen, London, Ohio

Fans at Yale Law School
have but one request: More Frank,
Official Brother.
-- Paul Kaufman, Yale Law School

How to guarantee
Sominex Game of the Week?
Cowboys on the Road.
--Bill Swayze, Southfield, Mich.

The game that proves truth
of "Stop Me Before I Blitz!"
Eagles vs. Colts.
-- Steve Haack, Hockessin, Del.

Even worse broadcast
city -- San Antonio.
Cowboys. Texans. Bleh.
-- Adam Gallegos, Dallas

First: Check out cheesecake.
Second: Read fine article.
Hooray, it's Tuesday!
-- Jim Moran, Madison, Ohio

The Houston Moo-Cows
was my favorite team name.
Why don't you use it?
-- Emily Beck, Franklin, Mass.

It's not just the Hawks
unis, but also Hawks fans
who are feeling blue.
-- Scott Armstrong, Olympia, Wash.

Kordell Stewart benched,
Tommy Maddox now in charge.
Thank you XFL!
-- Corey Clayton, Lancaster, Pa.

Women, gay men not
stroked by Star Trek beauties. Try
Zach Thomas shirtless.
-- Lisa Smith, Montclair, Va.

Lisa, Page 2 will ask for a beefcake photo of Thomas, but we expect to hear that, while the cheerleaders will disrobe for the camera, the players will not. As Nobel Peace Prize laureate Jimmy Carter once noted, "Life is unfair."

"Retro Sexy" Is The Way TMQ Always Felt the Morning After a Failed Date: Last week, TMQ praised the swell powder-blue throwback jerseys the Chargers sported whilst being pounded by Jersey/B, and wondered why the team does not revert to these on a permanent basis. Reader Pam Holmberg of San Diego, who attended the game, reports that Bolts cheerleaders also went throwback with replicas of 1963 cheering outfits. "Definitely had the nice, old-fashioned girl with a naughty streak look going on," Holmberg writes. "The women really got into it, teasing their hair into a frenzy. But somehow, 1960s innocent cute doesn't work when you are bumping and grinding to the latest Eminem." Pam did, however, find the overall effect "retro sexy."


After rewriting Steelers passing records, Tommy Maddox will target broadcasting and long-distance ads.
Pittsburgh, Your Long National Nightmare Is Over: It took Tommy Maddox exactly six starts to set the Steelers' all-time single-game passing yardage record, eclipsing Hall of Fame and four-time-ring QB Terry Bradshaw and old-time great Bobby Layne. The inexplicable seven-year Steel City experiment of playing a good wide receiver, Kordell Stewart, as a bad quarterback is finally at its end.

Facing Fourth-and-Long, Warner Barked Out an Audible: "Press to MECO!" In The Sporting News, NFL writer Dan Pompei recently described "Max Q, the NASA goal of having all systems performing at their highest levels simultaneously."

But that's not what Max Q means -- it means the moment of utmost aerodynamic vibration during launch. Max Q for the original Mercury spacecraft came at T+1:29, or a minute and 29 seconds after launch: Watch a Mercury launch simulation here. Max Q for the space shuttle occurs at a speed of 2,257 feet per second. And though Max Q is nerve-racking, all systems do not perform at their highest levels simultaneously. Prior to this event, the shuttle's main engines are throttled down to 65 percent power to reduce oscillation, returning to full thrust only after Max Q has passed. TMQ knows this sort of thing from tracking the approach to Earth of Kurt Warner's starcruiser.

Don't understand the item headline? See TMQ Challenge below.

Silver Is 25, Gold Is 50, So 500 Must Be -- the Gadolinium Anniversary! "Monday Night Football," longest-running show in broadcast history, celebrated its 500th game. Greatest show on television! Other than the old ESPN bikini beach-volleyball games.


Did somebody mention beach volleyball?
Note: TMQ policy is to shamelessly suck up to ESPN.com's corporate-parent company. This is fine so long as it is disclosed.

Don't understand the item head? Look on a Periodic Table. Silver is element 47, gold is directly below as element 79, then look directly below gold.

And Then, the Heavens Opened No. 1: In the early Sunday slot, CBS showed much of the country Indianapolis at Philadelphia. When this game became a blowout at Horsies 35, Eagles 6 early in the fourth quarter, rather than air every sleep-inducing snap while another good game went unseen, the network actually switched to the down-to-the-buzzer Bolts at Mouflons. How to be, CBS! Many readers including Michael Grandfield of Virginia Beach, Va., wrote in to praise the Black Rock network for this progressive decision. Let's hope it is repeated.

And Then, the Heavens Opened No. 2: On Michael Bennett's 78-yard touchdown run for the Vikings, Randy Moss threw a block.

And Then, the Heavens Closed: After the Vikings lost to Jersey/A, Minnesota tackle Bryant McKinnie, last No. 1 pick to sign, boasted of his performance, declaring, "Not too many people could come in with one week of practice and play that well." On the Vikings' final possession, McKinnie was beaten by Giants journeyman Kenny Holmes, whose sack and forced fumble ended the game. This is what McKinnie considers top play? He and Moss will make perfect roommates.

Un-Fun Mega-Babe News: The Web page of the Miss World pageant, to be held in Nigeria in December, prominently displays the bizarre announcement, "Nigerian Minister of State for Foreign Affairs: We restate that no person shall be condemned to death by stoning in Nigeria." Why such strange words on a beauty pageant promotion? Because women from all over the world are boycotting the event owing to the status of Amina Lawal, a 30-year-old Nigerian whom an Islamic law or "sharia" court has sentenced to be stoned to death for having an out-of-wedlock child.


Combining politics and beauty pageants will get Costa Rican Shirley Alvarez's photo in TMQ.
TMQ, who knows a few Muslims (I once lived in Pakistan, explaining why TMQ is pretty much the only ESPN.com columnist with a pro-Pakistan bias), can offer assurance that although most of the world's adherents to Islam are to the right of U.S. culture, most are also horrified by the Nigerian situation and generally by the fanatics who have hijacked their faith's name and heritage.

Obviously, no one should attend or watch the Miss World event. Yes, Americans and Europeans disagree on the morality of the death penalty, and this should not prevent Europeans from attending events in the United States. (TMQ is anti-death-penalty for religious reasons, though not Muslim ones.) But there's quite a gap between whether capital punishment should be imposed for the taking of life by murder, which is the question between the United States and European Union, and whether a woman should be tortured to death for a moment of romance in an unhappy world.

This item won't end without a picture -- of Shirley Alvarez, Miss World contestant from Costa Rica, who is boycotting. How to be, Shirley!

Why Buy the Cow If the Milk Is Free: Sharpie markers, preferred pen of autographing athletes, got invaluable publicity when Terrell Owens of the Squared Sevens whipped a Sharpie out of his socks and signed a ball for a fan during a nationally broadcast game. This weekend, Sharpie unveiled a television commercial spoofing the moment. But did Owens appear, or were any Niners uniforms or symbols seen? The commercial is strictly a generic affair with actors dressed in generic logo-free blue uniforms. Apparently, Sharpie's way of saying thanks is to avoid paying a commercial-use fee to Owens or the Niners.

Dwayne-Rudd-Class Plays: The football gods chortled when Ed Reed of the Ravens, seemingly on his way to a touchdown with an interception return, began waving the ball over his head at the 10, only to have it tomahawked out with the Bengals regaining possession. As for Plaxico Burress yet again spiking a live ball when he had gone down without contact, seeming to think the ball was dead as it would have been in college ... no, TMQ has no idea why zebras let the Steelers keep the ball. Perhaps Burress yelled, "Down!" In the old days of leather-helmet football, if the ballcarrier yelled, "Down!" -- even when standing up -- the play immediately ended.

Afterward, Oakland Players Threw Him Fish: At kickoff on Monday night in Denver, it was 32 degrees with a 6 mph wind. Nevertheless, Oakland coach Bill Callahan came out in ridiculous K-2 survival gear, ultra-heavy parka and triple-sized snowmobile gloves so enormous he had trouble holding the play chart. Callahan looked like a character from "The Pebble and the Penguin." Mysteriously, the Raiders went on to win, violating TMQ's immutable law that for cold-weather games, the team with the overdressed coaches always loses. Investigators are probing the incident.

New Frontiers in Sports Management: During the offseason, Jax and the Persons, who met Sunday, conducted the first off-the-books salary-cap trade. Jacksonville released defensive end Renaldo Wynn to save cap space; the Persons signed him. The Persons then released defensive end Marco Coleman to save cap space; Jacksonville signed him. This may sound like a perpetual motion machine -- how could both come out ahead in cap terms on the exchange? Both teams took penalties in the present year, but shifted a larger amount of cap fiction into the future, via bonuses and other details of the new signings.


Marc Bulger's playing out of this world. Does West Virginia count as part of Earth?
Fox Mulder, Call Your Office! Does anyone seriously believe "Marc Bulger" is of this Earth? A reader haikuizes,

The Rams quarterbacks?
Must be St. Louis water.
Or -- they're aliens.
-- James Smyth, Irvington, N.Y.

Page 2 Sympathy Card: Two night road games in six days, and three out of four games being night road games: Miami Marine Mammals, TMQ feels for you.

TMQ Insider Exclusive! Tuesday Morning Quarterback has learned on an exclusive basis that Jamie Nails of the Mammals, who lost 40 pounds in the offseason, has tested positive for Little Debbie Oatmeal Cream Pies. "He's relapsing," said an informed league source. Remember, this is a Tuesday Morning Quarterback exclusive.

Running items department
Obscure College Score of the Week: Lambuth 41, Virginia-Wise 6. Located in Jackson, Tenn., Lambuth is a we-are-definitely-not-shy university, asserting that it has "academic quality" and "premier fine-arts institutions" and a "beautiful campus" and is also an "athletic powerhouse."

Bonus Obscure Score: Linfield 35, Whitworth 0. Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth recently spent $20 million on a new athletic complex and fitness center. So far the school is not getting its money's worth.

Double Bonus Obscure Score: Pittsburg of Kansas 48, Southwest Baptist 13. Located in Pittsburg, Kan., Pitt State's claim to fame is that it is the sole institution of higher learning in the United States whose sports teams are called the Gorillas. "Home of the Nation's Only Gorillas," read Pitt State banners; presumably, this means the Bronx Zoo has been put on probation by the NCAA. The men's teams of Pitt State have always been Gorillas; recently the women's teams, who were known as the Gussies, voted to be Gorillas as well. Missing their chance to become the Hussies!

Obscure College Statistical Feat: Reader Sam Wade of St. Louis reports that in the recent Principia-Luther contest, Lewis Howes of Principia College caught 17 passes for 418 yards, setting the record for most receiving yards in a game by any player at any level, college or pro. Principia lost.


Even the photographers went home before Guy Morriss was drenched and LSU doused Kentucky with a Hail Mary.
Collegiate Football Gods Divine Intervention: Kentucky coach Guy Morriss was showered with Gatorade while LSU still had a million-to-one chance. Sensing hubris, the football gods intervened on LSU's improbable length-of-the-field final-second winning play. In haiku,

Morriss doused early.
Football gods frown on such things,
and exact vengeance.
-- Pat Casslmen, Sacramento, Calif.

New York Times Final-Score Score: The Paper of Guesses returns to its habitual 0-14 in its attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 1-663 since TMQ began tracking.

Misery loves company: The Miami Herald numbers among many papers engaged in quixotic attempts to predict an exact NFL final score. Needless to say, when TMQ checked this week, he found all Herald predictions wrong.

Reader Animadversion: On the item comparing the low-priced Boeing Bird of Prey to the astonishingly expensive F22 Raptor, reader Ryan Drake of Palmdale, Calif. -- location of an important Air Force production facility -- was among many to protest that the Bird of Prey is a modestly equipped subsonic test bed while the Raptor is a supersonic mil-spec finished product crammed with weapons and gizmos. True enough, but TMQ still finds the glacial pace of the F22 project stunning. The prototype flew 12 years ago, and it has taken 12 years, and tens of billions of dollars, to get the Raptor to the stage of finished product crammed with gizmos. Full deployment status still isn't planned until 2005: 17 years from prototype to patrolling the skies. Worse, each F22 will cost a stunning $200 million, more for a single-seat fighter than for the latest model of the 747.

All the buzz is that the Raptor is the best flying machine ever, but it's so overpriced and behind schedule that even the richest nation in the world cannot afford many. Originally there were supposed to be 648 F22s. Today the "buy" is down to 295 and likely to keep declining, owing to cost. There may end up being so few Raptors that each one can be named after a state, like submarines.

TMQ was wrong to say, however, that the Raptor program had yet to produce "operational aircraft Number One." Apparently Number One was accepted by the zoomies a few days before last week's column. A reader notes in haiku,

First F-22
rolled out just one week ago.
Still far too pricey.
-- Beth Christensen, London, Ohio


Eagles cheerleader Janet might put a lot of TMQ readers out of joint.
TMQ got barraged by mail about the Philadelphia Eagles' cheerleader lingerie photos, which you can peruse by going to philadelphiaeagles.com, then clicking cheerleaders, then 2002 squad, then choosing a name -- if a mysterious, unexplained paper clip appears in the upper right corner, that takes you to a lingerie pose. Last week's column urged readers to gawk at scrumptious Eagle cheer-babe Kelly T., a chemical engineering major at Penn State, whose lingerie pose we may link to but not show for thong-based reasons. This week TMQ highlights this classy, showable portrait of Janet, a chiropractic assistant. TMQ can hear hundreds of guys saying, "Adjust me!" Readers expressed themselves in haiku,

Kelly T.? Mercy!
First Philly gives world cheesesteak,
now leads in cheesecake.
-- Jason White, Providence, R.I.

Risk termination,
clicking Philly babes at work.
It was so worth it.
-- Craig Lile, Indianapolis

On the continuing debate regarding 22nd century Romulan technological development, many readers objected to TMQ's contention that a cloaking device could hide a Romulan battle cruiser via bending starlight only if that vessel had at least a solar mass, because the Einsteinian bending of starlight requires powerful gravity, such as that of a star. Peter Clark of San Mateo, Calif., among many readers, pointed out that an episode of the Captain Picard version of "Star Trek" reveals that Romulan ships are powered by an on-board black hole, and black holes do generate enough gravity to bend starlight. Though it's never explained how the Romulans keep the black hole from swallowing up the ship, or for that matter from making the ship so heavy that it cannot move. A reader haikuized,

Romulan power?
Quantum singularity.
That's one heavy ship.
-- Michael Kasten, Houston

Even heavier than Ted Washington! The technical specification would have to read, "Warbird displacement: infinite tons." Is the Romulan on-board black hole some sort of advanced artificial singularity that can be turned off and on? In that case, reader Chuck Hagenbuch of Somerville, Mass., wondered: When the cloaking field is turned on, why doesn't gravity from the singularity distort space around the Romulan ship -- placing it at the bottom of a curved bell, as Einstein conceptualized gravity -- and cause all asteroids, starcruisers and planets in the vicinity to come crashing inward toward the cloaked ship?

Frank Easterbrook, Official Brother of TMQ and a physics buff, ventures this incredibly scientifically advanced explanation:

"It is quite possible for a "small" black hole, let's say the mass of Mount Everest, to exist, and it would be tiny enough to be placed aboard a starcruiser. Compress the mass of Everest to the size of a molecule, and its gravitational distortion will be so great that light could not escape. But it would not suck in the rest of the Romulan ship any more than Everest sucks in mountain climbers. The tiny black hole would trap only things that got inside its "Schwarzschild radius," which is very tiny for Everest-size masses. And tiny black holes could produce a lot of power, via Hawking radiation. The entire mass of a tiny black hole eventually is turned directly into energy!

"But the rate of conversion is too slow to power a starship, and the ship would become invisible (that is, light would be bent around it) only if the event horizon of the black hole were at least as large as the ship. That would require a great deal of mass, probably planetary mass at least; and if the event horizon encompassed the ship, then nothing could ever emerge, including the ship. The Romulans would remain cloaked until the black hole evaporated through the Hawking process -- and they'd evaporate with it! Then there is the problem that, cloaked or not, the Romulan ship has to tug all the extra mass around. Who wants to expend enough energy to accelerate Mount Everest to the speed of light, let alone Warp Five, and then slow it down again to come into an orbit?

"Would natural black holes swallow up passing Romulan or Starfleet vessels? Not unless they had terrible pilots. We don't crash into the sun, which projects strong gravity, because we are in motion relative to it. Likewise, the black hole at the center of the Milky Way (estimated at 3 million solar masses) does not suck in the rest of the galaxy; as long as we keep moving, we stay in orbit around the galactic gravitational center. A ship that keeps moving on the proper trajectory could skirt even a very massive black hole. Anyone flying along in a starcruiser ought to be able to recognize that any area from which they are receiving no photons must contain a black hole, and simply set course somewhere else."


The forgetable "South of Sunset," starring Glenn Frey, Maria Pitillo and Aries Spears.
Regarding the item asking whether, by being canceled after just two shows, the latest David Kelley assembly-line product "Girls Club" had set a record that will never be broken, many readers, including Jeff Pasquale of Mississauga, Ontario, noted that the excruciating "South of Sunset," starring Eagle Glenn Frey as a hipster detective, was canceled after a single airing. Reader John Munn reminds us that such was also the fate of a "Laugh In" clone called "Turn On," possibly the worst show in the history of television -- which is a lot like saying the worst game in Cincinnati Bengals history -- and turned off after a single airing. A reader haikuizes,

Kelley's "Girls Club" death:
Just the shortest skirts, not the
fastest guillotine.
-- Tory Tomlinson, Arlington, Va.

Many readers, including Brian Stokes of Jacksonville, Fla., objected to TMQ's item praising obscure Fort Lewis College for rolling the dice with a two-point conversion attempt in overtime against Western New Mexico, with the score WMU 66, Fort Lewis 65 and a PAT insuring another overtime, a deuce meaning victory and a failed deuce meaning defeat. Readers pointed out that under NCAA rules, beginning with the third overtime, teams are required to go for two, to increase the odds of ending the contest. But the all-or-nothing Fort Lewis gamble occurred at the end of the second overtime.

Of the TMQ item saying he wished to see Thomas More College, named for the Catholic saint, play Luther College -- the losers would be burned at the stake -- Theodore Kufahl of New Ulm, Min., reported that Luther College (Iowa) could play Martin Luther College (Minnesota). German princes could serve as the referees! A reader haikuizes of a possible Thomas More-Luther game,

Thomas More-Luther:
Each team is flagged for taunting
on every play.
-- Tom Kreitzberg, Silver Spring, Md.

Last week Canadian readers taunted TMQ with the annoying fact that while few Americans can get NFL Sunday Ticket owing to its exclusive availability on DirecTV, which goes into only 10 percent of U.S. homes, anyone in Canada can get Sunday Ticket on cable and it even costs 40 percent less than here. Comes now reader Will Weissert of Mexico City to report that anyone in Mexico can get Sunday Ticket on cable for 789 pesos, or about $79 -- 60 percent less than it costs here. Only the NFL could devise a master plan under which viewers' choice on NFL games is denied to most Americans, but subsidized in Canada and Mexico.

And on the question, "How bad is Hiram?" reader Scott Lee of Cleveland, an alum, reports that the correct answer is "real, real bad." Eight games into the season, Hiram had been outscored 330-31 and failed to record a point in the second half. Check Hiram stats here. TMQ especially likes the red-zone stat -- Hiram has allowed 42 scores in its red zone, while itself scoring three times. New question: Could the Cincinnati Bengals beat Hiram?

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

Last Week's Challenge: In keeping with election fever, TMQ asked what NFL figures should run for office, and what their campaign slogans would be.

Many, predictably, locked in on Randy Moss. Terrence Watkins of St. Louis suggested his slogan be VOTE MOSS: WORK WHEN YOU WANT. Nathan Rockwell of Berkeley, Calif., added that, as a half-effort type, Moss would make an ideal vice presidential candidate.

Ed McDonough of Burlington, Vt., proposed, ELECT DOUG FLUTIE: HE'S FOR THE LITTLE GUY.

Bob Cook of Oak Lawn, Ill., suggested that Jeff George run on the Libertarian ticket under the slogan, GEORGE: HE WON'T LISTEN TO ANYBODY! Cook further suggested that John Shoop, offensive coordinator of the low-low-voltage Bears, run for office under the slogan, MOVING AMERICA AHEAD 2 YARDS AT A TIME.


David Carr needs your support ... heck, anybody's support.
Robert Hays of Houston suggested that David Carr of the Moo Cows run for president, because the Secret Service could protect him better than the Texans' line.

Fiona Parks of York, Pa., suggested Tuesday Morning Quarterback run for office with bringing NFL Sunday Ticket to the masses as his issue and under the slogan, A SUNDAY TICKET IN EVERY POT.

TMQ's own proposal is that Ricky Williams run for office using the bumper sticker, HE'S ON PAXIL SO HE WON'T START ANY WARS.

Edwin Hill of Evansville, Ind., suggested that Daunte Culpepper, who has already turned the ball over 21 times on fumbles and interceptions, run with the slogan, HE'S DISTRIBUTED MORE BENEFITS THAN ANYONE SINCE THE NEW DEAL.

A reader calling himself Confucius from Beijing, China, proposed that Lincoln Kennedy of the Raiders run for president offering the historic ticket, LINCOLN-KENNEDY IN 2004.

Brad Fagan of Denver proposed that Keyshawn Johnson run under the inevitable slogan, JUST GIVE ME THE DAMN VOTE.

The Challenge goes to Zach Zimmer of Champaign, Ill., which for NFL purposes is Chicago, who suggests that the entire Bengals' front office run under the slogan, BRING BACK THE KNOW-NOTHING PARTY.


Wait, don't press to MECO yet!
This Week's Challenge: "Facing fourth-and-long, Warner barked out an audible: 'Press to MECO!'" In NASA argot, MECO means Main Engine Cut-Off. During a space shuttle ascent, there is a phase after the solid-rocket boosters burn out in which pilots can change their minds, throttle down the main engines and return to land. Then the shuttle reaches a point at which it's too high up to go back to Florida and moving too fast to decelerate in time for the emergency landing fields in Gambia, Morocco and Spain. At this point, around eight minutes after liftoff, flight controllers call out "press to MECO!" No matter what may go wrong, the crew is to keep the main engines roaring till the shuttle reaches orbit, and then try to deal with any problems in space. To TMQ, "press to MECO!" sounds like it would be a great NFL audible. Sense of urgency, totally cryptic, it's got everything.

Since aerospace items have been popular lately, this week's TMQ Challenge is to think of a NASA or fly-boy phrase cool enough to be used in football, or in any regular walk of life. Propose your clever idea here. We promise nothing, the rules are kept secret even from the judges and the final decision will be completely arbitrary. That's what makes it a Challenge!

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 9:17 AM

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October 29, 2002

Dishing out the dirt about DirecTV

POST #    527

Dishing out the dirt about DirecTV
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

Wow, look at the card for Sunday afternoon -- San Francisco at Oakland, Pittsburgh at the Cleveland Oranges, Tom Brady's Patriots at Drew Bledsoe's Bills. Too bad most of the country won't see these monster games. On a weekly basis, much of the country cannot tune in the best NFL contests; even people willing to be charged for the privilege often find that a monopoly prevents them from paying to watch the games they want. Therein lies a tale that ought to be of interest to lawmakers in Washington.

While the NBA, college football and other sports allow fans to pay extra to watch the games of their choice via cable, "NFL Sunday Ticket," which charges household viewers $199 annually to tune in any game, is available solely via DirecTV, the satellite service. DirecTV is really terrific -- if you can get it, which most Americans cannot. Only homes with an unobstructed view of the sky above the southwest, where the DirecTV satellite hangs, can access this service. If you live in a city with tall buildings, a suburb with trees or in the countryside around rolling hills, you're out of luck.

Fewer than 10 percent of American households receive DirecTV. Officially, DirecTV contends that almost anyone can get its signal, but the reality is that the majority of U.S. homes can't or don't. (Speed reading note: if you perused TMQ's recent Wall Street Journal article on this subject, skip to "in other NFL news.") TMQ personally knows seven people in four states who have tried to sign up for DirecTV, and only two were able to receive it. In my own case, of four antenna companies that came to the Official House of TMQ, three said no way and the fourth quoted $1,300 to install an elaborate pole-mounted receiver that would not be guaranteed to work. Greenhouse-gas-absorbing trees is TMQ's problem, as it is for millions who wish they could get NFL Sunday Ticket. DirecTV's advice? Cut down the trees. Sure, Al Gore lost to George W. Bush, so you might get away with this. But even if you actually wanted to cut down the trees around your home in order to watch television, this would cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Because DirecTV is so difficult to receive and often so expensive to have installed, NFL Sunday Ticket is restricted to a lucky few -- and is something of a rich man's toy. Cable, on the other hand, is already in the majority of American homes, already readily available to almost everyone else, and cable installation charges rarely exceed $100.

If you're infuriated, as you should be, that NFL Sunday Ticket can be obtained only via a monopoly that most Americans don't or can't get, be aware that the league's monopoly arrangement with DirecTV is up for renewal at the end of the year -- which is why Congress should get interested.

The DirecTV exclusive was a fluke. In the early 1990s, rumors circulated that the NFL would stop free, over-the-air broadcasts and move its product to cable pay-per-view. Congress threatened antitrust retaliation. The NFL responded by making a big public commitment to free broadcast, while granting a monopoly on residential pay-per-view to the brand-new service called DirecTV, then being promoted as something anyone easily could receive.

The decision enabled the NFL to assure Congress that games shown on cable would remain free, and at the time was hailed as a consumer victory: free games preserved, while anyone who wanted more could opt for DirecTV. Now that the cost and unavailability of DirecTV have become clear, in retrospect was happened was a consumer disaster.

Forbidden to sell Sunday Ticket, cable providers may on Sunday afternoons show only whatever game the local CBS or Fox affiliate chooses. (Note to conflict-of-interest fans: Because ESPN and ABC air NFL night games that do not compete with CBS and Fox afternoon offerings, the corporate parent of ESPN.com has no dog in this hunt.) Aside from home-team games, local affiliates tend with smart-bomb efficiency to lock in on the worst matchups of the week. Or they insist on showing what seems like "regional" matchups, when a much better national game is available. For example, reader Scott Krasner of Charlotte reports that a week ago Sunday, the Charlotte local affiliate aired the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons-Green Bay matchup, a boring blowout, when the much-more-heralded Tampa at Philadelphia game was available on the same network in the same time slot.

Local affiliates, as this column has dismally documented, also rarely switch away from a boring blowout to whichever game is going down to the wire, though they are allowed by the NFL to switch. The lucky elite with Sunday Ticket can decide for themselves which game seems hot, and switch to whatever is going down to the wire. The 90 percent of American homes that don't get DirecTV are stuck with the woofer matchups and boring blowouts.

DirecTV
If your DirecTV dish won't pick up the satellite, you could always move.
The situation is worst in the nation's largest city, New York, and in the nation's capital, Washington. Because New York has the Jets and Giants, these teams occupy most Sunday-afternoon slots, meaning the nation's largest city routinely does not see the top Sunday matchups. Washington local affiliates show all Persons and Baltimore Ravens dates, meaning rare is the Sunday afternoon game not involving these two teams.

Sunday Ticket could be broadcast on digital cable, which is already in almost twice as many homes as DirecTV and, at current trends, will be in five times as many homes soon. Because the exclusive deal with DirecTV ends this year, the NFL would be expected to extend Sunday Ticket to digital cable, in order to expand the market and increase revenues. The fly in the ointment is that the NFL's master contract with CBS and Fox runs till 2006, and contains a clause allowing these networks to block Sunday Ticket from cable.

Fox and CBS oppose moving Sunday Ticket to cable because they know it would be incredibly popular there, shifting more of the balance of power from networks toward cable carriers. (Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., which owns Fox, is involved in a convoluted hostile takeover attempt against DirecTV; it's unsettled how this impacts the Sunday Ticket issue.) Fox and CBS also have a legitimate concern that at present, Sunday Ticket carries only national commercials; the more the current version of Sunday Ticket expands, the more this would harm local-affiliate income. Digital cable technology could splice local commercials into Sunday Ticket, solving the problem for Fox and CBS affiliates. But until cable carriers win rights to the games, they have no incentive to install the gizmos that do this.

The NFL, CBS and Fox are discussing an agreement that would allow Sunday Ticket on digital cable in return for revenue-sharing payments from cable carriers to the networks. This would be the ideal, win-win resolution of the problem. But if CBS, Fox and the cable carriers cannot agree on revenue-sharing terms, the NFL is expected to renew the DirecTV monopoly through the 2006 season.

So far these machinations have escaped the notice of lawmakers, and that should change. Congress ought to get involved and pressure for the end of this unnecessary monopoly and the expansion of viewer choice. NFL games are played in publicly subsidized stadiums; the over-air, cable and satellite spectra used to broadcast the games are publicly regulated. Congress should work to maximize choice for the voters who are taxed to make NFL profits possible. If the NFL is willing to sell viewing of any game for $199, this deal ought to be available to everyone. Sunday Ticket belongs on cable where anyone can see it, not on satellite where it is restricted to the favored few.

In other NFL news, thousands of Americans have already cast their votes for next Tuesday's elections via early-voting or vote-by-mail programs recently adopted in many states. Not waiting for Emmitt Smith to break the record, thousands of Tuesday Morning Quarterback readers have already early-voted on the subject of who is the best back in history. See their verdict at TMQ Challenge below.

Best Play That TMQ Was Sure Was a Bad Play: Trailing Jersey/B 21-3, the Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.0) faced fourth-and-five at the Jets 19 in the second quarter. In trotted the field-goal unit. No! shrieked TMQ, sensing another timorous NFL coach playing to reduce the margin of defeat rather than playing to win. The Oranges went on to a 24-21 victory, in which this figgie represented the deciding points.

Best Flag-Football Play of the Day: Trailing by a point with three minutes left, the Texans lined up to receive a Jax punt. Jabar Gaffney took a couple steps then tossed a throwback lateral across the field to Aaron Glenn, who ran 43 yards to set up the winning field goal. Jacksonville defenders never saw the truck that hit them. Fresh from flag football practice, my 13-year-old son asked, "Why don't teams do that more often?" Why not indeed, TMQ wonders.

Emmitt Smith
And by 3:32 ET, Emmitt Smith went on an Easter egg hunt.
Verily, They Had Spoken: Last week, TMQ channeled the football gods, saying they had foreseen that Emmitt Smith would break Payton's record on Sunday before the home crowd and that "the transfer of history would occur around 3 p.m. Eastern." Smith surpassed the record at 3:23 Eastern.

Worst Trifling with the Football Gods: When Emmitt broke the record in the stadium with the big white star, officials allowed the Cowboys to stop the game for various celebrations. The Seattle Blue Men Group, rightfully insulted that their presence on the field was being treated as a mere prop, came back to win with the figgie on the closing play. TMQ was reminded of the October 1995 game, at Miami, in which Dan Marino passed Fran Tarkenton for the all-time completions record. Officials allowed the Dolphins to stop play for various celebrations. The Indianapolis Colts, rightfully insulted that their presence on the field was being treated as a mere prop, and down 24-3 when play was stopped, stormed back to defeat the Dolphins 27-24.

Best Stuffs: Trailing by six, Cincinnati had fourth-and-goal at the Flaming Thumbtacks' 1 with a minute remaining. Corey Dillon up the middle, stuffed, game over. Trailing by seven, Detroit had fourth-and-one at the Bills' 20 with two minutes remaining. James Stewart up the middle, stuffed, game over.

Corey Dillon
Corey Dillon comes up short.
Worst Play Radioed In: Leading 23-7 in the middle of the third, the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons had fourth-and-one on the Colts' 5. Rather than take the field goal and a secure lead, Persons coach Dobby the Elf (Steve Spurrier) radioed in a shot to the end zone. Incomplete, Indianapolis drives for a touchdown, and suddenly it's a tense game. Dobby will come to woe if he does not realize that the point of NFL games is not to run up the score, the point is to get a W in the next morning's newspaper. Verily, the football gods hath foreseen a coming woe.

Worst Failure to Read 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. With first-and-goal on the Broncos' 8, New England play-faked; touchdown pass to Christian Fauria. Converse proves the rule: Facing second-and-goal on the New England 1 after the first-down rush was stopped, leading 21-16 in the fourth, Denver play-faked. Now really, who is going to fall for this? Brian Griese throws it away, barely avoiding a big sack; the drive ends in a field goal.

Lump of the Week: Chicago surrendered a safety to Minnesota when Anthony Thomas was stuffed attempting to run up the middle from his goal line. Bears fullback Daimon Shelton was supposed to lead-block. Check the tape; the ball is snapped and Shelton just stands there, watching as his man hammers Thomas.

WhereWas the Defense? Leading Arizona 24-7 with 24 seconds before the half, the Niners had the ball on their 39. Jeff Garcia threw a short under pass to Terrell Owens, who caught the ball at his 45 in the middle of the field and went the distance. Where was the defense? TMQ watched the tape three times and could hardly even locate any Cardinals DBs. Arizona faced an obvious "prevent" situation, yet a receiver took a short dump pass, looked up and saw no one between him and the goal line.Where was the defense?

Trent Dilfer
Trent Dilfer and the Seattle Blue Men Group perform their impersonation of an NFL team.
NORAD Has Been Alerted! At 1:29 Eastern on Oct. 27, the Cincinnati Bengals held a lead for the second time in the 2002 NFL season.

Improbable Plays of the Week: Indianapolis runs the play-action fake more than any team in the league, and this action can be devastating when the Colts are ahead or Edgerrin James is running well. In obvious passing situations, nobody buys the play-fake. Trailing 23-7 in the third against the Persons, Peyton Manning play-faked on first down. Nobody fooled, interception. On the next Horsies possession, still 23-7, Manning again play-faked on first down, sack. Exception to the rule: On Monday Night, the Eagles play-faked on third-and-16 from the Jersey/A 32. Normally a play-fake would be doomed on such an obvious passing down, but since many teams call the draw in this situation to improve field-goal position, defenses might be expecting run. The result of this play was an incompletion, but it wasn't a bad idea.

Best Hands in Letter T: New England scored a touchdown to make it Broncos 21, Patriots 16 in the fourth, and surprised Denver by lining up to go for two. Denver called timeout and, after switching defenses, stopped the try. Defensive coordinators and captains tend to think they should save the timeouts for the offense, but forming your hands into the letter T is the smart move when the other team lines up for something you're not ready for. Cincinnati might have won its Super Bowl against the Niners in 1989 had the Bengals defensive backs, seeing San Francisco come out in an unusual formation they couldn't match up with, simply formed their hands into the letter T before the winning touchdown pass to John Taylor with 34 seconds left.

Michael Vick
Michael Vick magically appears in the Saints' end zone.
Wow Play of the Week: On Michael Vick's 32-yard touchdown run, did he engage the cloaking device or project a positron backscatter field to fool Saints sensors? New Orleans players appeared to have no idea where Vick was.

Stat of the Week: Carolina, Chicago, New England and Oakland opened a combined 12-0, and have since gone a combined 0-17.

Stat of the Week No. 2: New England won 12 straight and now has lost four straight.

Stat of the Week No. 3: Kansas City allowed a 300-yards-plus passer for the seventh time in eight games.

Stat of the Week No. 4: Against the once-mighty Baltimore defense, the once-feeble Pittsburgh offense scored touchdowns on each of its first four possessions.

Stat of the Week No. 5: Bills running back Travis Henry has lost six fumbles in eight games, while Wayne Chrebet fumbled for the first time since 1996. Henry is fumbling once every 29 touches; Chrebet went 323 touches between fumbles.

Stat of the Week No. 6: Rich Gannon is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,443 yards. And if he doesn't, the mark looks safe, as Drew Bledsoe has slipped to a pace for 5,000 yards. (The season record, held by Dan Marino, is 5,084 yards.)

Stats of the Week No. 7: Seven teams -- Buffalo, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Jersey/B, New England, Oakland and St. Louis -- are passing on 60 percent or more of their snaps. Cleveland!

Stat of the Week No. 8: David Carr was sacked 26 times in September and 18 times in October. The Texans had a bye in October.

Courtney
Would Courtney find TMQ uniquely funny or disturbing?
Cheerleader of the Week: Rocketing up the charts are the cheer-babes of the Philadelphia Eagles, who recently set the bar with a we-are-definitely-not-shy lingerie calendar, though TMQ was seriously disappointed that for last night's Jersey/A-Philadelphia game at the Vet, the Eagles cheer-babes did not wear the sprayed-on unitards they sported last season on chilly days. These outfits met with the hearty approval of thousands of guys.

This week's TMQ ESPN Cheerleader of the Week is Courtney of the Eagles. Disturbingly, she is a psychologist, which means that none of your lines would work on her. ("So, TMQ, what deep-seated inadequacy caused you to call my profession disturbing?") According to her team bio, Courtney's favorite book is a real book, "A Separate Peace." There's a lot of "Who Moved My Cheese" and similar literature among cheerleader favorite books. Her bio also includes, "What is the most attractive quality I find in someone? A unique sense of humor." Courtney, TMQ has a unique sense of humor! And I've written real books! Oh, that's right -- lines don't work on her.

Posted Without Comment: Blair Thomas, Keith McCants, Andre Ware, Anthony Smith, Percy Snow, James Williams: players taken before Emmitt Smith in the 1990 NFL draft.

Eagles cheerleaders
Philly's squad will cheer in all sorts of weather ... or are those Seahawks uniforms?
Attack of the Pants! Buffalo, Jersey/B, New England and the Seattle Blue Men Group wore monochrome outfits of colored pants that matched their jerseys. All looked, to TMQ, like malfunctioning screen savers. Have NFL scouts been infiltrating the CFL to steal its theories of the uniform?

TMQ Thought for the Day: Former CIA chief William Webster is named to head the new federal panel that will oversee accountants to prevent fraud. If he brings to this task the same sharp-eyed, penetrating technique the CIA has recently displayed, the fleecing of shareholders and 401(k)s has barely begun.

Was He a Flight Risk? Ejected from the game at Baltimore, Plaxico Burress was accompanied off the field and up the tunnel by a police officer. Police officers usually accompany ejected players to the showers. Why?

Fun Fact: Publishers estimate there have been 80,000 books about Napoleon Bonaparte, more than the number of days since his death, currently 69,413. For an elaborate article contending Napoleon was poisoned by the dastardly Count Montholon, click here. For electronic jigsaw puzzles of Napoleon, click here.

Karma-Altering Addition: Last week Sam Madison, Brock Marion and James McKnight of the Marine Mammals complained in public about teammate Oronde Gadsden's contract offer. Is it just seem that way, or did Miami start public bickering basically to the minute the Dolphins signed Cris Carter?

Cris Carter
Look at me, I'm a Dolphin.
Under Dave Wannstedt, the Mammals have been one of the league's cohesive, good-karma units -- they win with medium-strength talent because they stand together. Cleaving to this policy, Miami got rid of Daryl Gardener last summer, because he was an insufferable me-first guy. Now the Dolphins have signed one of the most insufferable me-first players ever. Carter will strut around shouting "me, me, me" to anyone who will listen, and how many days till the first time he denounces his new teammates? TMQ has trouble seeing how this is good for Dolphin karma.

Fold-out of the week: Playboy unveiled a "Women of WorldCom" pictorial, featuring several alluring WorldCom employees with nothing to hide. And TMQ thought the watch-word at WorldCom was cover-up! This follows Playboy's previous "Women of Enron" pictorial. (Regrettably, these are links not to the photos but to newspaper articles about same.) The Enron spread included two fun revelations, first that one of the women who posed wears a padded bra -- so everything at Enron was padded! -- and second that one of the posing babes "has a degree in environmental science." Now, TMQ has written often about environmental science, attended conferences on same, heard many a lecture on how a single molecule of sawdust can cause global ionospheric antidecompensation, and has never glimpsed any double-XX individual who could moonlight for Playboy.

One of the WorldCom exhibitors, Shellie Sloan, is attempting to rebuild her portfolio by direct-marketing various naughty photos of herself; check her web site.

Knowing that babes from Enron and WorldCom have dropped their shirts to the floor for Hefner's rag made TMQ wonder these things:

Shellie Sloan
The entrepreneurial Shellie Sloan.
# Are their claimed measurements phony?

# Did the companies book the $25,000 per woman modeling fees as $25 million corporate profits?

# Since a total of about a dozen women posed, did this cause Enron and WorldCom to announce that thousands of their employees were featured in Playboy?

# Thank goodness there are no nudes of Andrew Fastow or Bernard Ebbers. But surely there were some ultra-hunks in the WorldCom mailroom. Playgirl should get on this case.

Also, Arthur Andersen has certified that each and every one of the women in the pictorials really, really wants to hear from Playboy readers.

Can't Anybody Here Grind the Clock? A week ago at Miami, Buffalo held a 13-point lead and got the ball with seven minutes to play. Rather than grind the clock, the Bills went pass-wacky: incomplete, incomplete, incomplete and punt with hardly any time used up. This Sunday versus Detroit, Buffalo held a 10-point lead and got the ball with six minutes left. Run, incomplete, incomplete and punt with hardly any time used.

After jumping to a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter the Jets, playing at home, went 22 minutes without a first down and rushed for just 19 yards in the second half, failing to grind the clock and allowing the Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.0) time for their comeback.

Martin Gramatica, Tom Tupa
Martin Gramatica, on top of Tom Tupa, celebrates winning the Sominex Game of the Week.
Sominex Presents the NFL Game of the Week: Tampa 12, Carolina 9, with all scoring by field goals.

We're All Professionals Here: In the above-cited Bucs-Panthers game, there were six turnovers, nine sacks and 15 punts.

Bengals Strategy for Holding a Lead: Punt on First Down: In the preseason, Chris Berman called the Bengals his "sleeper" team. Perhaps he meant to say "mummified" team, as Cincinnati fell to 0-7. Berman is not alone; despite failure after failure this year, on the Sunday CBS pregame show, Jim Nantz called the Bengals his "sleeper" team.

Scoring Note The box score for the Vikings-Bears game reads, Safety: Thomas tackled in end zone.

Yet the box score for the points prior to the safety reads, "Moss 39 pass from Culpepper." By the logic of the way safeties are scored, it should read, Touchdown: Reggie Austin burned on deep out.

When a player scores a touchdown or field goal, the scoring player is credited. But when there's a safety, the line score mentions the victimized gentlemen, while saying nothing about the scoring player -- the guy who caused the safety. On touchdowns, line scores never mention the guy who was burned or missed the tackle or fell down. Vikings DT Fred Robbins got the safety. The box score should read, Safety: Robbins tackle.

And it surely need not add "in end zone," since where else can you record a safety? Touchdown line scores don't say, "Moss 39 pass into end zone."

Reader Haiku: Submit yours using the link below at Reader Animadversion. Steve Stenton's refers to fact that last week on the lateral, scorers credited Michael Vick with "zero receptions for 28 yards." Karen Locascio, see TMQ's answer below.

Blitzing doesn't get
the defensive coaches fired.
Prevent defense does.
-- David Scardaville, Houston

Why does K.C. blitz?
Our pass defense would be burned
by Stephen Hawking.
-- Cory Laflin, Wichita, Kan.

Cornerbacks dwindling
for Saints; dear Tagliabue,
free Dale Carter now!
-- Neil Anthony, Darwin, Australia

Emmitt, full of class,
surpasses Sweetness. Jerry?
The word rhymes with class.
-- Joel Sikora, Stockholm, Sweden

The Lions blitzed -- burned!
The Bills faked blitz -- D prevailed!
Which reads TMQ?
-- Eric Zasada, Rochester, N.Y.

Leave Strahan alone.
The sack record stands; Brett Favre
takes dive for no man.
-- Karen Locascio, Allston, Mass.

Naked O-lineman?
I sense a spike in bad snaps
and V-Chip TVs.
-- Mike McDaniel, San Diego

Alas, TMQ,
L.A. was a layover.
Rams sprang from Cleveland.
-- Jeff Schorr, Austin, Texas

Vick's in express lane
for Canton. Career yards per
catch -- infinity!
-- Steve Stenton, Austin, Texas

Sapp Is Right, But Don't Get Used to That: Brett Favre laid down to let Michael Strahan get the single-season sacks record in the final game last year. Brett's lame, Martha-Stewart-class explanation made no sense. Why, with a big lead late in a game and needing to grind clock, would Favre have called a naked bootleg pass requiring a rollout directly toward Strahan? Other than to create an excuse to take a dive in front of the gentleman and give him the record. Warren Sapp's point is the finisher. If it was a rollout pass, Sapp asked, where was the intended receiver? Check the tape. The Green Bay line is rush-blocking. The wide-outs are leaning against their DBs. No one's running a pattern.

Michael Strahan
Brett Favre trades some shame for a piece of Michael Strahan's fame.
But though Favre's action was brazen, bear in mind he did it not as a present to Strahan, but for selfish reasons. Favre is a gifted self-promoter who has numerous endorsement deals. Adopting a line often used of politicians, the most dangerous place in the world is between Brett Favre and a television camera. Before the game, Fox had devoted a lengthy segment to Favre and Strahan. Brett knew that if the record was set, he would get significant air time after the game too, and be featured on all sports-roundup shows. If there were no record, there would be nothing to say and no reason to show Favre. Brett traded a small tranch of his reputation for air time; it's a deal almost any politician would make. Considering that football is an entertainment industry and the play had no impact on the outcome of the game, the football gods appear to have let this one slide.

Favre generosity note: Jersey/B defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell says Jets DE John Abraham "has the ability" to break Strahan's quasi-record. The ability, maybe -- but will Favre give Abraham a gift, too? The Jets play the Packers in this year's season finale, just as the Giants played Green Bay in last year's finale.

Strahan riches note: After being handed a mega bonus, many players celebrate by taking the remainder of the season off. Strahan got an $11 million bonus this summer and, through seven games, has just 3.5 sacks. Monday night Strahan was pushed around like a practice-squad player by the Eagles' Jon Runyan; from the middle of the second quarter on, Strahan was no factor.

Vote Early, Vote Often: Regarding the fad for early-voter and vote-by-mail programs, TMQ expects many to be found unconstitutional, at least as regards presidential elections, as Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution specifies that everyone must vote on the same day. The wisdom shown by the Framers in making this stipulation is demonstrated by last week's heartbreaking death of Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone. Minnesotans who had already used early-voter programs to cast ballots for Wellstone now find their votes must be tossed into the recycling bin. There's a good reason why everyone should vote on the same day and no reason TMQ can see, other than health complications or being overseas, for remote or early voting.

The League Had to Prevent Lord Voldemort from Introducing Himself as Best-Ever Owner: Sunday night the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons celebrated their 70th anniversary by announcing their 70 best players. There was time to introduce 10 of the chosen at halftime of the nationally televised Persons-Horsies tilt on ESPN. Malevolent Persons owner Lord Voldemort (Dan Snyder) personally chose the 10. They were Billy Kilmer (QB), Sonny Jurgensen (QB), Joe Theismann (QB), Bobby Mitchell (WR), Art Monk (WR), Charley Taylor (WR), Mark Moseley (K), Darrell Green (DB), Kenny Houston (DB) and Sam Huff (LB).

Notice -- zero linemen. So Lord Voldemort, none of the really important players in Persons history were linemen, eh? So the team has consisted entirely of glory boys, eh? Check the list of 70. Sixteen of the 70 are linemen, or 23 percent. Forty-one percent of NFL starters are linemen.

Verily, a Warning: Despite terrific play and a seventh game, television ratings for the World Series hit an all-time low, falling to a mere 50 percent of what ratings were just 11 years ago. Now, could this possibly have something to do with the fact major-league baseball players and management have spent the past 11 years with their middle fingers raised to the fans? Baseball is cruisin' for financial collapse owing to its open contempt for the fans; imagine what will happen if Fox, which is financially troubled and now will have to pay give-backs to advertisers because of low Series ratings, defaults its contract with baseball. Verily, NFL players and management, thou hast been warned, do not fall into this slough of despond.

Hidden Indicator: In close defeats, New England and Oakland passed a combined 84 times and ran a combined 36 times. This is the kind of hidden indicator that is essential to an insider's understanding of the game. In this case, everyone knows exactly what it means.

Running items department
Obscure College Score of the Week: Rhodes 59, Colorado College 0. The obscure alma mater of TMQ his ownself, Colorado College honestly admits it finished only 28th in its US News ranking. Home of the Block Plan -- students take one course per month, pretty much making all learning into a seminar -- CC offers a spectacular location near the base of Pike's Peak, an unbending commitment to liberal arts and a breath of fresh air amidst the state of Colorado's football-factory approach to higher education. But this does result in 59-0 scores.

Bonus Obscure Score: Northwest Missouri State 31, Truman State 24. Northwest Missouri takes home the Hickory Stick, the oldest Division II football trophy. Located in Kirksville, Mo., Truman State offers "an Ivy League education at an affordable price" and like, so far as TMQ can determine, every single institution of higher learning in the United States other than Colorado College, it claims to have finished high in the infamous US News college rankings.

Affordable majors include pre-law, pre-med, pre-engineering and "pre-physician's assistant/exercise science," which perhaps is attractive to the football team members. Exercise science? Controlled studies of situps? TMQ warns students away from the affordable journalism major. Aspiring writers should have a general liberal-arts background; see a cogent argument against the journalism major.

Double Bonus Obscure Score: Wabash 51, Oberlin 9. On an 8-118 streak, Oberlin the previous week had defeated Kenyon by a final of 56-17. This represents a minus-81 point swing for Oberlin in just one week and once again raises the musical question, How bad is Kenyon?

Triple Bonus Obscure Score: Christopher Newport 20, Methodist 9. One single guy defeated an entire denomination.

Arnaz Battle
As Arnaz Battle and Notre Dame try to make history, they might cause the BCS to become history.
Nice Little BCS You Have There, Too Bad If Anything Should Happen to It: Note from TMQ to the mavens of the BCS: Tweak the computer criteria now. If Notre Dame finishes undefeated and does not play for the national championship, which could happen on the current course, the BCS is history.

New York Times Final-Score Score: The Paper of Guesses returns to its habitual 0-14 in its triumphant attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 1-635 since TMQ began tracking.

Last week when the Times broke its 0-621 streak and finally recorded a correct prediction -- bear in mind this was the streak since TMQ began tracking at the beginning of the 2000 season; most likely the Paper of Guesses went much longer without being right -- readers were promised an assessment of the odds of predicting an exact final NFL score.

First, reader Scott Yonts of Green Bay, Wis., engaged in an incredibly scientifically advanced attempt to determine how many possible final scores there are. Limiting the range to the most regular-season points scored by any team (72, the Persons versus Jersey/A in 1966), the most total points scored by two teams (113, in that same game) and the most points scored in a shutout (64, by Philadelphia in 1934), then computing the permutations, Yonts determined there are 4,672 possible pairs of scores. (Pairs in the sense that you can't just pick an outcome of 23-20, you have to pick Team A 23, Team B 20.) Because the Times struck gold on its 621st try since TMQ began tracking, the paper would appear to have done better than chance.

But aha! Yonts' breakdown assumes there is an equal probability that an NFL game will end 65-62, or 70-3, or with any number set within the range, than ending in one of the likely outcomes such as 20-14 or 27-21. The Times, TMQ feels, really shouldn't get statistical credit for never predicting that a game will end 70-3. Reader Steve of Mesquite, Texas, proposes that the Times would have been better off endlessly predicting that every game would finish 17-14. In haiku,

Times should guess every
game 17 to 14.
Sometime will be right.
-- Steve, Mesquite, Texas

Reader Bill Davidson of Cambridge, Mass., hit the books and discovered that if the Times had endlessly predicted that every game would end 21-17, it would have been right seven times since TMQ began tracking, as this score has happened seven times since 2000. Next-best choices, Davidson reports, were 17-10 (six times) and 21-14 (four times).

But why stop here when you could have lots of confusing math? Judge Frank Easterbrook, Official Brother of TMQ, estimates there are about 500 plausible score-pairs in NFL contests. On the surface, if there are 500 plausible final score-pairs, and it took the Times 622 tries to get one right, the paper finished somewhat behind random chance. The Official Brother presents this incredibly scientifically advanced analysis of why the performance was worse:

1. If there are 250 plausible scores according to the rules of football (which exclude 7-1), the usual scoring modes (which exclude 5-4), and the length of the contest (which excludes 97-82), and thus 500 plausible score pairs (score + winner in each game), and 622 games, then (499/500)^622 = 0.288. So if the Times is choosing randomly, there is a 71 percent chance of one hit in that span.

2. If the Times' incredible insider acumen doubles the odds (by knowledge of teams, injuries, trends etc.) then we have (249/250)^622 = 0.0827. That's about a 92 percent chance that the Times would have one hit in the span.

3. Someone who had enough football skill to rule out three-quarters of the plausible scores would produce (124/125)^622 = 0.007, or a 99.3 percent chance of a hit in 622 tries. It is safe to say that the Times is not improving on chance, and it may be doing worse than chance.

So someone making 622 guesses within the range of 250 plausible scores would have a 99.3 percent chance of being right at least once -- TMQ loves that Mr. Spock-style decimal-place precision. Next week, TMQ will begin nagging other newspapers, touts and sports websites that are never right when they predict exact final scores.

Hugh Hefner and girlfriends
Hugh Hefner's just living the dream.
Transaction of the Week: Michael Jordan's Washington Wizards traded Chris Whitney to Denver for George McCloud, then immediately cut McCloud, though they had just acquired his guaranteed contract that specifies McCloud be paid $2.6 million if waived. What was the point of all this? To get Whitney's contract off the Wizards salary cap for the year 2003-04. McCloud's guaranteed deal expired sooner than Whitney's guaranteed deal, and the team was willing to hand a $2.6 million check to McCloud to be rid of its larger obligations to Whitney. McCloud keeps the money even if he signs on with another NBA team. Two point six million dollars from total strangers for doing nothing; nice work if you can get it.

Reader Animadversion: Regarding last week's 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?" -- reader Aaron D. of Windsor, Ontario, answers yes: Hugh Hefner.

Reader Scott Piehler of Atlanta points out that the puppet in the Emmitt Smith commercials is Alf, not a Muppet. Alf is now the spokes-puppet for the 10-10-220 service, which is owned by MCI, which is owned by WorldCom. TMQ mentions this solely to create a cheap, flimsy excuse for the ESPN.com art department to add another "Women of WorldCom" cheesecake picture.

Alf
Sorry, no more WorldCom cheesecake. Alf dressed as Hef will have to do.
Bill Lester of Merritt Island, Fla., notes of TMQ's use of the maxim "close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades" that there is one other activity in which close counts: lap dancing. Now Bill, any cheap, flimsy excuse for cheesecake is fine with this column, but do you seriously expect a lap-dancer photo? TMQ wonders if Bill Lester has some personal experience in this area, given that between its supply of beach-bred babes and libertine local ordinances, Florida is viewed as lap-dancing cloud nine. Which will actually be the subject of an upcoming TMQ item! Note to ESPN.com art department -- I'll provide the cheap, flimsy excuse, you provide the picture.

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

TMQ Challenge: Anticipating Emmitt's record, last week's Challenge was to name the best-ever running back. Unlike the previous Challenge on best-ever defensive ends, which drew a wide diversity of suggestions, in this case nearly all respondents zeroed in on the big four: Emmitt, Sweetness, Jim Brown and Barry Sanders. Michael Kaminski of Milwaukee lamented that Bo Jackson might have become best had it not been for injuries and the baseball distraction. Jim Keenan of Berkeley, Calif., noted that Gale Sayers not only juked away from defenders but faked out the cameraman more than any back ever. A few readers tossed out the names Marcus Allen, Eric Dickerson, Thurman Thomas and "Refrigerator" Perry, the latter somewhat limited by having eight lifetime carries. E.C. Greenwood of Tacoma, Wash., said Earl Campbell ought to be on the list solely for the famous play on which he ran out of his own jersey. Otherwise it was all Barry, Emmitt, Walter and Brown -- 126 pages single-spaced of various arguments for these gentlemen.

Barry Sanders
Barry Sanders was electrifying when he wanted to be, but he folded under pressure.
First, Sanders. Many readers, including James Newman of Lynchburg, Va., lauded Sanders as fastest-ever, in straight-line, cutback speed and his blur-fast feet. Nduka Ibekwe of Orange, N.J., lauded Sanders' famed one-shoe touchdown run, and noted that Barry played most of his career without a lead-blocking fullback to take out the first obstacle. Many readers noted that had Sanders not walked away with his puzzling premature retirement, he might have passed Sweetness by a substantial margin and we would not now be having this debate. Adam Closson of Stockholm, Sweden, zeroed in on the fact Sanders played most of his career on crummy teams; imagine what he would have done on the high-quality teams Smith ran for. A reader summed the lesser-teammates argument in haiku,

If Barry Sanders
ran behind the Cowboys' line?
Fuggedaboudit.
-- Brent McIntosh, New York

But TMQ wonders, why were his teams always so crummy -- wasn't Sanders partly to blame? He was self-centered, aloof, concerned exclusively with his stats. Sanders refused to block -- became angry on the couple of occasions coaches tried to put in plays in which he was a blocker or a decoy -- and never learned anything in the passing game beyond the screen pass. He staged unexplained walkouts, and was often uncommunicative; frequently denounced the Lions in public and endlessly complained about his pay, though Sanders was always among the best-paid backs. Then he got mad, took his ball and went home.

In short, Barry Sanders was a jerk, and his me-first character is a reason the Lions usually were losers with him on the field. In a weird way, you sensed Sanders actually wanted the Lions to be losers, so he'd be the only exciting thing about the team and so he would never be tested under the ultimate pressure of the Super Bowl. Remember how poorly Sanders performed in his few postseason tests -- such as his minus-1 yard rushing day against Green Bay in the 1994 playoffs? Whenever the pressure was on, Barry folded.

Jim Brown
Jim Brown averaged 5.2 yards per carry, but several runners are passing his career numbers.
As for the peculiar snap retirement, it was his choice to walk away, of course, though Sanders seemed incapable of doing so with class -- he walked away denouncing his teammates and the city that had cheered for him, plus, of course, complaining about money. Sanders turned his back on the game that made him famous and wealthy; TMQ here turns his back on Sanders.

Next, Jim Brown. Only sixth all time in yards, and may slip to nine as Curtis Martin, Jerome Bettis and Marshall Faulk have reasonable shots at passing him. Brown was the greatest highlight-reel back. There were times when the old Browns (before they became the new Browns, and now the new Oranges) were just handing it to Brown, defenders knew that was going to happen and nobody could tackle the guy. Brown put up big numbers at a time when defenses were totally oriented toward stopping the run, and has the highest yards-per-carry average among all-time top runners. Readers haikuize,

Jim Brown: The only
top back ever to average
5-plus per carry.
-- Jeff Nye, Cleveland

Jim Brown played only
nine years, had 12,000 yards.
No one can touch that.
-- David Scardaville, Houston

Forget all the stats.
In order to compare them,
watch them play the game
-- Drew Malakoff, New York

Like Sanders, Brown walked away too soon, but at least Brown offered an explanation -- that he was tired of playing a game for a living, and wanted the glamour of an acting career. Also, he mistakenly thought he'd set marks no one could equal. Brown ended up performing in a lot of bad blaxploitation flicks -- "The Dirty Dozen" is his only film anyone remembers -- and getting into numerous petty beefs with the Los Angeles police. What to make of his black-power politics? Brown supported anti-gang programs in Los Angeles, and initiatives to help African-American small business. But he undercut his chances of being a serious political figure by appearing in so many silly B-movies, and ended up enviously denouncing figures such as Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley for being more successful in business than he was.

Next there's Emmitt, man of the hour. Rarely hath the football gods produced better. Power-rushing, breakaway speed (people forgot how many long runs he had), good blocker, skilled receiver. Excellent overall football smarts, and a leader by example. Everything the self-absorbed Sanders lacked in terms of helping motivate teammates, Smith had. The three Super Bowl rings Smith wears attest to the team-oriented nature of his game and the positive impact he had on those around him. Emmitt Smith has an excellent case for being best back of all time. There is only one reason he is not: Walter Payton.

Sweetness is the best.
The most heart, did more with less.
Out of bounds? Never!
-- Dave Ramos, Huntington Beach, Calif.

Walter Payton
Walter Payton did it all, played tirelessly, never complained during the lean years and was finally rewarded with a ring.
Payton and Smith each ran for roughly the same stats in the same number of games, but Payton played with less able teammates. Consider Smith's magnificent supporting cast, at least eight others from his offense making the Pro Bowl -- Aikman, Allen, Irvin, Johnson, Newton, Novacek, Stepnoski, Tuinei, am I missing anyone? -- versus the basically average supporting cast for Sweetness. Jim McMahon, for example, was an average quarterback rendered potent by lining up next to a guy defenses were terrified of. Payton is both the Bears' all-time rusher and all-time receiver, and for good measure the best option-back ever, throwing eight TD passes. He was the best blocker of the elite RBs. He played tirelessly, never complained during the Chicago lean years, and was rewarded by the football gods with a ring.

As Greg Kelley of Great Falls, Mont., notes, Payton sat out for injury only once in his career, and always said his best-ever play was not a run but a block thrown for a teammate in a 1985 contest against the Vikings. Plus we have to be a bit sentimental, since Sweetness is now in Asgard, enjoying song and feasting with the football gods. Payton was best-ever -- who else would you pick to start a team? -- and this week's Challenge goes to Greg Kelley.

This Week's Challenge We've done best-ever DE and RB, and there's no need to do best-ever WR, as TMQ would allow only one nominee. How about, Who was the best-ever long snapper? Submit your nominee and clever reasoning here.

Perhaps you protest, "This one's hard." That's why it's called a Challenge!

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 5:00 PM

5
Comments

 
 

October 22, 2002

There's nowhere to run to, baby!

POST #    530

There's nowhere to run to, baby!
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

So nobody can run anymore. During the 1970s, the top rushing club averaged 180 yards per game. Through the last decade, the top-rushing team has averaged 163 yards per game, which is exactly the current average of the Kansas City Chiefs, the best rushing team of 2002. Eleven teams are rushing for an average of less than 4 yards per carry. On Sunday, Oakland ran for 37 yards at home. It's been 24 years -- the 1978 New England Patriots -- since an NFL team rushed for 3,000 yards in a season. Just about every barometer of running success is down.

Deep thinkers attribute the problem to pass-wacky modern offenses. A TMQ reader warns in haiku of the pass-wacky folly,

If you can't run in
December-January,
call for a tee time.
-- Evan Sandman, Venice, Calif.

But Tuesday Morning Quarterback has a simpler explanation for the decline of the run: depletion of room in which to run. Linemen have gotten too big.

Consider that the starting offensive linemen at the 1972 Super Bowl averaged 248 pounds; at the 1982 Super Bowl, 262 pounds; at the 1992 Super Bowl, 281 pounds; and at February's Super Bowl, 304 pounds. That's an average gain of 15 pounds per decade for NFL offensive linemen. Long-term, this means that for the 2152 Super Bowl -- when, depending on longevity-drugs research, Clarence Thomas may still be a Supreme Court justice -- offensive linemen will average 529 pounds. At the moment, this means runners are running out of spaces to squeeze through. The sheer bulk of linemen is clogging up the holes.

And the overall average for NFL linemen is probably higher than the Super Bowl average. Super Bowl teams seem to tend to be relatively light, nimble OLs, which may correlate with victory. Lower down the echelon, Detroit's starting offensive line now averages 319 pounds; the Cowboys' averages 325; Arizona's averages 326 pounds. In turn, these are merely official weights. Just as your actual gas mileage will be lower than the EPA estimate, many linemen's actual weights are higher than the listed number.

Ted Washington
Ted Washington is a trim 355 pounds, and Enron stock is a buying opportunity.
The gentlemen on the opposite side of the line are not exactly withering away, either. During the 1970s, starting defensive linemen averaged 270 pounds. Today's Bears defensive line averages 324 pounds, and that is if you believe Ticonderoga-class DT Ted Washington, currently injured, actually is his listed 355. If you really believe Ted Washington only weighs 355, you believe Enron will hit $125. (This is what Ken Lay actually predicted in public, while privately cashing out like mad.) Philadelphia lists linebacker Levon Kirkland at 275 pounds; Seattle cut him this summer partly because he stepped onto a scale and proved to be 314 pounds. He's since slimmed to an actual 295 or so.

With all this bulk in the trenches, there's ever less space to run through. Many short-yardage rush attempts resemble freight trains colliding on a dark siding; so many huge bodies pressed into such a small area that the runner can't see daylight from the opposite side of the pile. As NFL players keep getting bigger and bigger -- today Daunte Culpepper, a quarterback, weighs more than the starting linemen in the 1972 Super Bowl -- breathing room at the line of scrimmage will keep getting smaller, rendering running ever less productive. Runs are getting ever less pretty, too, since today's offensive guards are often too oversized to pull well, unlike, say, the 265-pound guard Larry Little, who pulled with such grace and effect for the Dolphins' 1972 perfect-season team. Maybe in the future, field size should be adjusted upward annually, based on linemen girth.

Why are NFL linemen getting so much bigger? Partly, they merely mirror the national trend toward being overweight. According to the WorldWatch Institute, the typical American each day now consumes 682 calories of sugar -- the equivalent of four candy bars. Today the typical American is overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control, with 65 percent of Americans exceeding the recommended "body-mass index" figure for their height. Fully a third of today's Americans are obese, versus 12 percent in 1960. According to this article from the Journal of the American Medical Association, obesity and weight-related maladies now kill 280,000 Americans annually -- almost seven times as many as die in automobile crashes.

Huge NFL waistlines are also a consequence of the league's strict anti-steroid rule, of which TMQ certainly approves. In major-league baseball, where drug use is now practically mandatory, even the infielders are bulked up, but imagine how sick these guys are going to be (especially their orthopedic degeneration and cancer rates) in 25 years. Because NFL players cannot use steroids, they have turned to the grocery store to gain size. True, better to snarf down tuna fish, steaks and protein shakes in astonishing quantities, as opposed to shooting steroids. And true, it's hard to imagine how the league could start conducting random tests for overeating. But in the NFL, line size has become an arms race, with the offensive and defensive fronts both eating themselves up to record girths. This is making runs between the tackles almost impossible, while reducing potential marketing-to-women income from beefcake photos of shirtless linemen.

In other NFL news, once again the New York Times failed in its quixotic attempt to predict -- wait, stop the presses! Notify the president, put NORAD on alert! Somebody get Madonna off that beach and tell her! A puff of white smoke has risen from The Times building on West 43rd Street. The Times predicted a final of Detroit 23, Chicago 20 and that is how the game ended. A reader celebrates in haiku,

NYT predicts
but never, ever, ever,
right. Until today.
-- Bryan Martin Firvida, Washington

Madonna
Madonna can return after being "Swept Away."
Champagne, cigars and bobbleheads are being passed around at the Times sports desk: its long, national nightmare is over. Still, this does leaves the New York Times Final-Score Score at a relatively humble 1-621 since TMQ began tracking. In order to keep the item alive, next week we'll delve into the odds of picking a correct final score solely at random.

Best throwback play: Leading 20-9 in the fourth, Green Bay had first down at the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons' 8. The Packers lined up in a modified wing-T formation, with three running backs. The Persons appeared never to have seen a wing-T, and Ahman Green scooted in untouched for the icing touchdown.

Best junky-looking play: Facing fourth-and-four at the Houston 32, score tied at 17 in the third, the Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.0) went for it. A shaggy, junking looking quick hook got the first, and on the next play the Oranges hit a 25-yard touchdown pass and began to pull away. The NFL even celebrated the new Halloween look of the Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.0) by making their banners in the official play-by-play account bright orange.

Wow play of the week: Michael Vick's happened-in-a-blur 44-yard run. Was he on impulse engines, or did he engage the warp drive?

Coverage so disguised even the defense didn't know what it was No. 1: Leading 24-13 early in the fourth, San Francisco defenders jumped around like mad to try to confuse Aaron Brooks before the snap. So totally did they bollix themselves that linebacker Julian Peterson ended up man-covering Joe Horn, New Orleans' best receiver, deep. Easy touchdown, and the Saints' comeback was on.

Coverage so disguised even the defense didn't know what it was No. 2: On Pittsburgh's first touchdown against the Horsies, Hines Ward came in motion from right to left across the formation. Indianapolis defenders were jumping around like mad to try to confuse Tommy Maddox before the snap. As Ward reached the left side, Colts DE Chad Bratzke realized there was no one available to cover him, so Bratzke bounded out of his stance and wound up covering Ward deep: 17-yard touchdown catch. Note to Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks -- it's impressive that a lineman noticed a blown coverage scheme, but neither of your safeties noticed, ignoring Ward deep to double Plaxico Burress on the short curl.

Mo Lewis
Jersey/B linebacker Mo Lewis had nice clear view to pick off Daunte Culpepper.
Cover-your-eyes play: Offensive linemen are not necessarily moving at random, though often it looks that way. Sometimes their job is to push defenders to certain points to create a passing lane -- an open area through which the quarterback can see his primary receiver. Trailing by three, the Vikings faced third-and-four at the Jersey/B 17. They called a blocking scheme designed to open a passing lane in the middle. The line executed perfectly, and Culpepper had a clear view of Chris Walsh down the middle. Culpepper also had a clear view of the two gentlemen double-covering Walsh. Culpepper threw anyway, interception. Ye gods.

Cover-your-eyes October: A week ago Sunday, the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions. This Sunday, they turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions.

Best gift touchdown: Leading by one, New Orleans scored a touchdown on the play after the two-minute warning. But the Saints were flagged for 12 on the field, which would have pushed them back to first-and-goal from the San Francisco 6. Niners coach Steve Mariucci then declined the penalty -- declining a penalty that would have prevented a touchdown! But the Niners had only one timeout. From first-and-goal at the 6 with 1:58 left, the situation after the penalty, New Orleans could have knelt to expend the remaining clock. By handing the Saints the touchdown, Mariucci kept alive a chance that San Francisco could get a last-second score and two-point conversion to force overtime -- and the ploy might have worked had San Francisco not been called for tripping on the kickoff, stranding the Niners at their 9. As for New Orleans, the Saints would have been better off penalized -- the penalty would have created an extra snap for New Orleans, which was all it needed to bury the clock. But there's no way a team can insist a penalty be enforced against it.

Matt Murphy: Tuesday Morning Quarterback Player of the Week: Trailing by three with the ball at the Chicago goal line, five seconds remaining and no time out, the Lions inexplicably decided to try one more pass. You're crazy! What if there's a sack or the ball is downed in play, you'll never get the field goal off! Sure enough: snap, sack, game over.

But wait -- rookie tight end Matt Murphy of Detroit jumped offsides. As motion against the offense is a dead-ball foul and negates the play, the Lions were marched backward 5 yards and awarded one more down. The field goal hit, and Detroit went on to win in overtime. The Bears would have been better off declining the penalty, but there's no way a defensive team can insist it does not want a dead-ball foul against the offense enforced. Murphy finished the game with no catches, no carries, not even a special-teams tackle, and is the Tuesday Morning Quarterback Player of the Week.

This Bud's not for you: Under tackle after a short pass early in the game, former beer-truck driver Michael Lewis of the Saints tried to lateral to an offensive lineman. Fumble, San Francisco recovers.

Tom Coughlin
Tom Coughlin suffers from Barring-Epstein syndrome.
Worst calls radioed in: Trailing by 10 on the first possession of the fourth quarter, Jax faced fourth-and-seven at the Baltimore 24. A 41-yard field goal attempt, right? The Jaguars went for it, incomplete, and ultimately lost by seven. True, novice kicker Hayden Epstein had missed from 39 earlier. But if insult-spewing Tom Coughlin, the league's worst-sport coach, doesn't think Hayden can hit a 41-yarder, what is this gentleman doing on an NFL roster? Trailing by three, the insult-spewing Coughlin also ordered a punt from the Baltimore 31 because he didn't think Epstein could hit a 48-yarder. The ball rolled into the end zone for a touchback and a net of 11 yards.

Best blocks of the week: Guard Randy Thomas, on the trap pull, and fullback Jerald Sowell, leading to the hole, absolutely pasted their men as Curtis Martin waltzed in from 5 yards out to turn the Jersey/B-Vikings game into a runaway. The entire Niners OL also had great blocking on Garrison Hearst's 8-yard touchdown run. Heading straight up the middle, Hearst wasn't touched till he reached the 3.

Stop me before I blitz again! Leading by seven with 2:27 remaining, Kansas City had Denver facing fourth-and-six at the Chiefs' 29. Since the average NFL pass attempt yields 5.9 yards, all the Chiefs had to do was play straight defense and the odds favored a stop, if by a 10th of a yard. Instead, it's a blitz! Note to Greg Robinson, defensive coordinator of the Chiefs -- a blitz in this situation is so predictable! Completion for the first down, of course. The Broncos score six plays later and force overtime.

In overtime, it's Denver facing third-and-seven, again at the Kansas City 29. Since the average NFL pass attempt yields 5.9 yards ... anyway, it's a blitz! Six gentlemen cross the line, Rod Smith is singled on a cornerback deep and beats him, corner Eric Warfield grabs to prevent the catch. After the walkoff for pass interference, it's a short field goal for the Denver win. Note to Greg Robinson, a blitz in that situation is so predictable.

Note to outraged fans of the blitz: Yes, it sometimes works, such as the Eagles blitz that caused the clinching interception against the Bucs, or the Colts blitz that caused Maddox to throw an interception just before halftime Monday night. But chart the tactic, and you are likely to find that the blitz backfires more often than it works.

Speaking of Greg Robinson ? Against Robinson's charges, Shannon Sharpe set an NFL single-game record for tight ends with 12 receptions for 214 yards. The outing included a 82-yard touchdown, a 28-yard touchdown and a 26-yard snag. Not only were all three big catches simple "up" routes on which Sharpe sprinted straight down the center of the defense, ignored; on all three big catches, no one jammed Sharpe. What happens to any tight end trying to get off the line? A linebacker jams him. Sharpe was torching the Chiefs, yet no Chiefs coach ordered that Sharpe be jammed, and no Chiefs player took it upon himself. Ye gods.

It helps to know what you're doing: Early this year in the Mouflons-Bucs game, Kurt Warner's two fourth-quarter killer interceptions came when rookie Lamar Gordon, subbing for Marshall Faulk, ran the short curl pattern over the tackle that St. Louis loves -- but never looked back for the ball. Sunday against the Hawks, the first St. Louis touchdown was the short curl pattern over the tackle to Faulk, six points.

Emmitt Smith
The the big blue stars are aligning for Emmitt Smith this weekend.
Message from the football gods: Emmitt Smith needs 92 yards to eclipse Sweetness for the all-time rushing record, and Sunday the Cowboys will line up against Seattle, which sports the worst run defense in the league. The game is at the stadium with the big blue star; following that, the 'Boys are on the road two straight. TMQ has consulted the football gods, and they have foreseen that the record will be surpassed in front of the Dallas home crowd. TMQ prophesies that the transfer of history will take place by 3 p.m. Eastern.

Stat of the week: Marshall Faulk (235 yards) and Shannon Sharpe (214 yards) outgained two entire teams, Tampa Bay (207 yards) and Carolina (205 yards).

Stat of the week No. 2: In the seven Kansas City games so far, a total of 469 points have been scored -- almost as many as the 568 points scored in last year's entire Baltimore Ravens season.

Stat of the week No. 3: Marty Schottenheimer is on a 14-4 coaching streak -- during which he has been fired.

Stat of the week No. 4: Linebacker Derrick Brooks, a defensive player, has four touchdowns. The entire Cincinnati Bengals team has six touchdowns.

Stat of the week No. 5: Rich Gannon is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,461 yards. And if he doesn't, the mark looks safe, as Drew Bledsoe has slipped to a pace for 5,028 yards. (The season record, held by Dan Marino, is 5,084 yards.)

Stat of the week No. 6: If every pass you throw clangs to the ground incomplete, your number is 39.6 under the NFL passer rating system. On Sunday, Ray Lucas achieved a rating of 26.3.

Stat of the week No. 7: The Bills recorded their first interception since 2001.

Paula
There are worse habits Paula could have.
Cheerleader of the Week: On the critical public-policy issue of who has the hottest cheerleaders, Tuesday Morning Quarterback believes the Broncos, Dolphins and Raiders lead the pack. (Though the Philadelphia Eagles cheerleaders lingerie calendar puts this squad on the map -- we'll get to Eagle cheer-babes soon.) This week's TMQ ESPN.com Cheerleader of the Week, from the Dolphins, is Paula. According to her team bio, Paula is Brazilian, a student, and her goal is to be a professional dancer. Paula likes yellow Audis, and she says her worst habit is, "Being trusting and gullible." So, Paula, I promise I can get you an exciting career as a professional dancer, if you will agree to meet me at the couples massage suite of the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe. Trust me!

Gawking paradise: you can collect Dolphins cheerleaders "video trading cards." Be sure to click "flip," which turns over the card for a swimsuit photo.

Sominex presents the NFL Game of the Week: Arizona 9, Dallas 6 ... in overtime.

Scoring mystery of the week: Julius Peppers deflected a Michael Vick pass, which spiraled around and was caught by Falcons tackle Todd Weiner 12 yards behind the line. Weiner lateraled back to Vick, who ran for a net of 16 yards. Yet the official NFL Game Book scores this play as a 28-yard pass reception by Vick.

First, Vick didn't gain 28 yards, he gained 16 yards. When a screen receiver catches the ball 5 yards behind the line and ends up 5 yards downfield, he is not credited with a 10-yard reception. Second, Michael Vick did not catch the pass. Weiner caught the pass. Weirdly, Weiner is credited with a reception for negative 12 yards -- how could Weiner lose yards when he was never tackled or downed! -- while Vick's line in the Game Book says "zero receptions for 28 yards."

Best replay: Two weeks ago against Jax, Todd Pinkston of the Eagles dropped the ball in the end zone on a right-sideline fly pattern. Looking at game film, the Buccaneers appear to have said, "There's one play we don't have to worry about." On Sunday, 42-yard right sideline fly pattern to Pinkston for the touchdown.

Miss Universe update: Apropos the many Miss Universe items, reader Amy Yu of Karlsruhe, Germany, reports that the original 2002 Miss Germany, Katrin Wrobel, resigned in protest over a clause in the pageant contract that prohibits the winner from posing nude. This is the kind of principled protest movement that thousands of guys worldwide could get behind! Read about Katrin's dramatic blow for freedom here. Check out Katrin on her personal site. Regrettably, the photos she posts of herself are tasteful. Katrin, where's the follow-through?

Mary-Ann Ayanette
In the interest of fairness, here's Miss Curacao, Mary-Ann Ayanette.
Apropos of the all-important Miss Universe swimsuit pictures, a reader from Uruguay haikuizes,

TMQ fan club
tends toward vanilla tastes.
Try Miss Curacao!
-- Sergio, Punta del Este, Uruguay

Reader Haiku: Eira Rojas of Miami Beach offers a triptych on the ongoing controversy regarding whether TMQ should run beefcake as well as cheesecake. Gary Hart's refers to the 1948 perfect season of the Calgary Stampeders. And Mark Rose of Seattle points out that 1948 was a very good year -- the Browns of the old AAFC also went undefeated.

Red-blooded woman
agrees with TMQ. Don't
add male cheerleaders

Forego men with pep;
quarterbacks are so darned hot.
Gimme Brett, Kurt, Rich.

Can't do topless babes
on Disney-owned site? How 'bout
shirtless QBs then?
-- Eira Rojas, Miami Beach

Commercial, kickoff,
commercial. Exciting game
slows to a snail's pace.
-- Tom M., Washington, D.C.

New Seahawk unis --
where have I seen that color?
Blue Man Group plays ball!
-- Ryan Horsfall, Sacramento

About those beer ads:
Forget the unreal parties,
who drives those drunks home?
-- Kate Goetz, Pittsburgh

Handoff to Ron Dayne,
once again he goes nowhere.
They call this offense?
-- Kevin Koffenberger, Timonium, Md.

CFL counts too!
Perfect Stamps of '48,
Champagne is on ice.
-- Gary Hart, Toronto

Trapped in Ireland,
so I must read TMQ
for both sports AND news.
-- George Chaplin, Dublin

TMQ's obscure
links entertain. His work? Nah.
Must have an intern.
-- John Trenholme, Kingston, Ontario

George! Pick up the Irish Times at any newsstand! It's even in English, mostly. And Ryan Horsfall, thanks for creating a new TMQ cognomen. To this column, Paul Allen's team will henceforth be the Seattle Blue Men Group. Maybe they will start painting their faces!

As for John Trenholme's speculation, sadly, TMQ is a one-man show, though the ESPN.com art department finds the photos. I have no intern, and certainly would be interested in one with Monica-like devotion to duty. Please send résumé and swimsuit photo.

T'Pol
T'Pol, the decontaminated Vulcan.
This Week's "Star Trek" complaint: The cute little doggie Porthos contracts an extraterrestrial disease while accompanying Archer to a meeting with some aliens on their homeworld, and the episode turns on scenes of the cute little doggie lying in sick bay. Archer fumes that the aliens failed to anticipate his beagle's vulnerability to their pathogens, even though he transmitted the dog's DNA sequence before the visit.

What good was the dog's DNA sequence supposed to do? They're aliens, they don't know anything about canine biology. More importantly, why is a dog going along on an important meeting with space aliens? It's ridiculous enough that in all "Star Trek" serials, the captain constantly assigns himself or herself to lead various dangerous missions away from the ship. The captains of aircraft carriers do not lead landing parties, TMQ assures you. Set that aside. Now a dog is part of the Enterprise away team. Aye, caramba!

Compensating virtue of the episode: we did get to see T'Pol, the Vulcan mega-babe, and cute Ensign Sato strip to underwear in the "decontamination chamber," then slowly rub themselves with a decontamination medium that looked suspiciously like massage oil. But TMQ wonders, if the purpose of this scene was medical, why were T'Pol and Hoshi still clad in underpants and scanty tank-tops. Wouldn't they have had to decontaminate their entire bodies?

The Sacajawea defense (Coins, think about it): Late in the second quarter at Your Trademark Here Stadium in Miami, the Dolphins faced third-and-seven. Since the average NFL pass attempt yields 5.9 yards ... anyway, it's a blitz! Completion, first down. Later in the drive, the Dolphins faced third-and-10. It's a ... wait, Buffalo rushed just two. Ray Lucas was so flustered he threw underneath to a safety valve receiver, and the Marine Mammals punted.

Hoshi
"Enterprise" could have shown more of Hoshi, striclty for medical realism.
Federal judge predicts Super Bowl! Frank Easterbrook, Official Brother of TMQ and a federal judge on Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals -- whose "filing tips" guidelines warn lawyers not to submit briefs longer than 14,000 words, and to check the count-footnotes box if word-counting using Microsoft Word -- has conducted an incredibly scientifically advanced analysis of the relationship between performance and appearing on national television.

The below chart shows currently scheduled nationally televised night or doubleheader-slot games per NFL team, followed by the combined winning percentage of the teams in that rank. (Disclaimers: doubleheader schedules may change later in the season, and the lead-announcer 1 p.m. selection for CBS and Fox is not included as the lead 1 p.m. contest generally shows in less than half the country.) For example, San Francisco and Denver are each scheduled for 10 national TV appearances and are playing a combined .692; St. Louis and Oakland are each scheduled for nine national TV appearances and are playing a combined .461; and so on. The chart:

10: San Francisco (4-2), Denver (5-2) = .692
9: St. Louis (2-5), Oakland (4-2) = .461
8: New England (3-3) = .500
7: No team with seven scheduled appearances.
6: Green Bay (6-1), Philadelphia (4-2), Potomac Drainage Basin (2-4) = .631
5: Chicago (2-4), Miami (5-2), Jersey/B (2-4) = .473
4: Jersey/A (3-3), Tampa (5-2), Pittsburgh (3-3) = .579
3: Minnesota (1-5), Dallas (3-4), Seattle (1-5), Indianapolis (4-2) = .360
2: Arizona (4-2), Baltimore (3-3), Tennessee (2-4) = .500
1: Detroit (2-4), New Orleans (6-1), Atlanta (3-3), Cleveland (3-4),
Cincinnati (0-6), Jacksonville (3-3), Houston (1-5), Kansas City
(3-4), San Diego (6-1) = .465
0: Carolina (3-4), Buffalo (4-3) = .500

Official Brother Frank notes that for each of the last three seasons, the eventual Super Bowl winner was a team (the Rams, then Ravens, then Patriots) downplayed by the league in terms of national television exposure. This year San Diego and New Orleans stand out on that basis, both 6-1 yet scheduled for just one national television appearance. Based on this incredibly scientifically advanced insight, the Official Brother picks the Saints to meet the Bolts in the Super Bowl.

We're all professionals here: The Dallas-Arizona snorefest went into overtime after the clubs combined to miss three field goal attempts in the final 3:28.

Great moments in management No. 1: After giving up 218 yards rushing to the Rams and falling to 1-5, the Emmitt-friendly Seahawks are last in the league in run defense. Bear in mind that Guru Genius coach/general manager Mike Holmgren cut Sam Adams and Levon Kirkland, the team's two best run defenders.

Great moments in management No. 2: Detroit won despite the distraction of Matt Millen -- whose actual title is president and chief executive officer -- saying one of his own players was a "devout coward." Bear in mind that Millen, who had no management experience before starting at the top with the Lions, in 2000 inherited a team that had just gone 9-7 and missed the playoffs only by virtue of an improbable 54-yard field goal on the final play of the final game. Millen immediately declared that he would make his mark by cleaning house, firing the coach and releasing players left and right. Since this canny decision, Detroit has gone 4-18 and become the punchline of bad-team jokes.

Point one: Maybe this same canny personnel judgment is one reason the Ford family, owner of the Lions and effective owners of Ford Motors, is running both into the ground. Point two: To show his total commitment to the job, Millen refused to move to Detroit. He lives in Pennsylvania, air-commutes, and is unavailable on some working days.

On the plus side, they were nice punts: NFL Game Book drive chart entries under "how ended" for Miami's final seven possessions Sunday:

Interception
Punt
Downs
Punt
Fumble
Punt
Interception

On the plus side, they've played six and Spurrier hasn't been fired yet: "It's frustrating, but I can't get all mad every week" -- Dobby the Elf (Steve Spurrier) on the latest loss by the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons. But Dobby, your evil master Lord Voldemort (Dan Synder) gets all mad every week! Lord Voldemort got all mad at Marty Schottenheimer when he didn't win the Super Bowl despite having one entire season to work with. Since being cashiered by Voldemort, Schottenheimer has gone 6-1.

Dobby note: Spurrier has already ordered his third quarterback change. Now, that's sure to establish consistency and confidence. Dick LeBeau at Cincinnati and Bobby Ross at Detroit come to mind as other recent coaches who couldn't make up their minds about starting QBs, and you can see how well this worked out for them.

NFL takes anti-globalization stand: Following the Terrell Owens "Have Sharpie, Will Travel" incident -- which TMQ thought was fun -- the league announced that henceforth players will be fined for "foreign objects" on their person. What, you can't have something from France? And the NFL front office needs to realize that, if enforced, this would compel players to trot out half-naked, as much of what they wear is manufactured in China. Possibly half-naked players will expand the league's appeal to the female demographic, so long as they aren't offensive linemen.

Pure-class play of the day: In the closing seconds of a 23-10 game, Buffalo linebacker Eddie Robinson intercepted beleaguered Marine Mammals quarterback Ray Lucas. Robinson ran the ball back to the Miami 18 and then stepped out of bounds, though he had blockers and a path to six. The 11-year veteran said afterward he didn't want to embarrass his opponent. Huh? What? Tapes of this should be sent to Randy Moss, Owens, "Dobby" Spurrier, etc.

Flozell Adams
Flozell Adams is also rumored to go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.
TMQ insider exclusive! Tuesday Morning Quarterback has learned on an exclusive basis that Cowboys tackle Flozell Adams has tested positive for Count Chocula. "Levels in his bloodstream were incredibly high," sources told TMQ. Adams is believed to be "mainlining" Count Chocula by eating directly from the box, without milk. League investigators plan to subpoena his grocery-store receipts. Remember, this is a Tuesday Morning Quarterback exclusive.

Running Items Department
Obscure College Score of the Week: Bemidji State 37, Southwestern of Minnesota 0. With a lovely lakeside campus in Minnesota, Bemidji State is so marketing-oriented you can't even access its FAQs page without filling out a six-screen questionnaire that demands your Social Security number, address, and home telephone, the latter surely to be used to harass your parents with telemarketing. It also demands your birthdate -- TMQ had to answer 1977, the lowest value the screen would accept, though not exactly precisely correct in my case. You even have to fill in extensive information about your personal interests. TMQ selected Bahai Club and the Lutheran Campus Ministry, which the Bemidji State computer did not seem to find an odd mix. (After all, it already had my Social Security number and home phone, which is what it really wanted.) Once I was finally in, I discovered the FAQs area held such super-sensitive information as, "Is there a place where I can learn to skateboard or snowboard on or near campus?" Sorry, TMQ can't tell you the answer unless you send your Social Security number and home phone.

Bonus Obscure Score: Walsh 55, Taylor 0. Established in 1958 by the Brothers of Christian Instruction, Walsh showed no mercy as it ran up the score.

Double Bonus Obscure Score: Mary Hardin 42, Howard Payne 17. One single woman beat one single man! But at what, tennis?

TMQ Obscure College Game of the Year: It was Indiana of Pennsylvania 20, California of Pennsylvania 9 in steady rain before 2,577 people at George P. Miller Stadium in Indiana, Pa., in the incredible Tuesday Morning Quarterback Obscure College Game of the Year. Click here for the line score. Elice Parker -- he's a guy, TMQ is reasonably sure -- scored all three touchdowns for the Indiana of Pennsylvania Indians, whose symbol is a bear, as the team advanced to 7-1. (IUP alum and honorary mega-babe Lori Smith, who attended the incredible Tuesday Morning Quarterback Obscure College Game of the Year, suggests the school solve the problem by changing its byname to the Indianans.) The California of Pennsylvania Vulcans showed no emotions in defeat.

Little college tidbit of the week: Oberlin, which is on an 8-117 streak, defeated Kenyon by a final of 56-17. This raises two questions: First, did the famously ill-tempered female students of Oberlin play in this game? That's pretty much the only way TMQ can imagine college football's worst-ever team winning by 39 points. Second, how bad is Kenyon?

Matt Elrod, Jason Criscione
Oberlin College's new $65 million science complex explains why the football team has gone 8-117.
Big college tidbit of the week: Alabama, on probation by the NCAA, plays at Hawaii in November. Tide fans have booked many excursion trips to the island game and printed T-shirts that read, To heck with the NCAA, we're going to Hawaii to get lei-ed. Alabama newspapers are now engaged in earnest debate about whether they can print the slogan. TMQ adds, since this is Alabama fans we are talking about, all that's going to happen is wearing leis around the neck, trust me.

Reader animadversion: On the continuing debate regarding 23rd century Vulcan technological development, TMQ asserted that the Vulcans acquiring a Federation-designed starship would be "kind of like Pakistan buying our F16s." Reader Faraz Ahmed of Silver Spring, Md., notes a crucial difference: At least the Vulcans took delivery of their starship.

Pakistan has one wing of F16s. In the late 1980s, Islamabad paid the United States for an additional wing of F16s but never received them, owing to congressional unhappiness with Pakistan's atomic program. People are even unhappier with Islamabad this week, owing to reports that it traded atomic secrets to North Korea for missiles. Pretty bad, if true. But if you were a poor nation wedged among three nuclear powers -- Russia, China and India -- wouldn't you feel your national security required a missile deterrent?

Even after Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf sided with the United States in the war against al Qaeda, placing his own body and the stability of his country at considerable risk, Washington has refused to authorize additional F16s for Pakistan, or to lift trade barriers against Pakistani textiles. America is not exactly sagging under the weight of its Islamic-nation allies. Pakistan is one: Why is it that we treat the Vulcans better than our Pakistani friends? Lamenting in haiku,

Vulcans received ships
while Pakistan still awaits
paid shipment of jets.
-- Faraz Ahmed, Silver Spring, Md.

Davis Monthan Air Airbase
What can we do to put you in the cockpit of one of these barely used F16s?
Currently, 28 F16s for which Pakistan years ago paid $685 million are in storage in Arizona at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, the Air Force's "Boneyard." Read the sad saga of the grounded fighters. The United States tried unsuccessfully to resell the planes to Indonesia and then the Philippines, after painting them with USAF designations, presumably so Filipino buying agents would not ask, "Hey, guys, how come this F16 says 'Property of Pakistan' on the side?" Islamabad's money has been returned, though without interest. If you'd like to bid on the planes, please contact the Cost Overruns Division at the Department of Defense.

Check out the official government website of the Islamic Republican of Pakistan. Check current Pakistani weather conditions here . Go here for the English language edition of Dawn, Pakistan's best newspaper, which consistently was one to three days ahead of the U.S. media in reporting events of the U.S. campaign against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Last year, when this battle was hot, many mornings TMQ read Dawn before reading The New York Times.

Planning an exotic vacation? TMQ recommends the Hunza region in the Pakistan Himalayas, a high-altitude valley that was the inspiration for "Lost Horizon." You fly to Gilgit on a Fokker prop plane that feels 1930s-vintage, seeming to float amidst the Himalayas at 26,000 feet. You then spend hours in a Jeep climbing toward China on the one-lane Karakoram Highway, a Himalayan mountain road blasted out of sheer rock; it has no shoulders and a 5,000-drop to certain doom at many switchbacks. Oh, and there are "dacoits" -- bandits -- along the highway, so bring a bodyguard! TMQ and Nan Kennelly, Official Wife of TMQ, traveled the Hunza Valley around a decade ago. The region receives perhaps a few hundred Western visitors per year. At the only hotel in Karimabad, we bumped into someone we knew.

A reader asks in haiku,

Rams are called "Mouflons"
I have no clue why this is.
Tell me, TMQ.
-- Daniel Burke, Notre Dame, Ind.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback had been planning to nickname the St. Louis franchise the Lakers, in a nod to its L.A. origins and Kurt Warner's high-scoring ways. When these gentlemen stumbled out of the gate, they were instead nicknamed the Mouflons. A mouflon is a wild European sheep, Ovis musimon, indigenous to Sardinia and "having large curving horns in the male," according to the Columbia Encyclopedia -- just like Rams helmets. Should the St. Louis franchise begin to play less sheeplike, its cognomen may change.

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

TMQ Challenge: Last week's Challenge noted that Bruce Smith has entered twilight, and asked readers to name the best-ever defensive end: Was it Reggie, Bruce, Deacon Jones or someone else? TMQ received 58 pages, single-spaced, of replies. I didn't even try to count them, and must admit could not read every one. Another reason I need a babe intern with Monica-like devotion to duty!

Many readers suggested Lawrence Taylor, an entry TMQ disqualified on the super-hyper-technical grounds that Taylor was not a defensive end. TMQ believes Taylor does not belong in Canton either: though great on-field, his off-field activities crossed the line of injurious to the sport. His runaway ego is also insufferable. Moments after his Canton induction ceremony, Taylor denounced the sports press corps -- the very persons who had just voted him into the Hall of Fame, as sportswriters make the selection. Taylor is an egotistical, mean-spirited man without a milligram of class. I suppose I'd want him on my team, but I sure wouldn't want him in my home.

Luther Miller of Timonium, Md. -- what are the odds of two comments from Timonium, Md., in the same column? -- said Gino Marchetti, for his combination of prowess and best hamburger chain ever established by a defensive end.

Jeffrey Staggs of Baltimore nominated Norm Willey of the Eagles, who on Oct. 26, 1952, recorded 17 sacks in a single game. Sacks were an unofficial stat then -- tackles behind the line on running plays tended to get mixed in -- but Staggs sees this as the equivalent of Wilt's 100-point night. The official record is seven sacks in one game, held by the late Derrick Thomas.

Chris Begley of Vancouver, British Columbia, voted for James "Quick" Parker of the CFL, whose 26.5-sack year exceeds Michael Strahan's Favre-flop-aided "record," and who led his team to four Grey Cups. A reader notes in haiku of Strahan,

Michael Strahan must
be the best DE ever;
you just need ask him!
-- Chad Jackson, Savannah, Ga.

Andrew Rush of Albany, N.Y., proposed that "The best defensive end of all time is easily William Jefferson Clinton. Not only did he have to defend himself from hundreds of screaming Republicans and thousands of screaming citizens, he had to defend himself against Hillary."

Noting that last week's Challenge specified "Howie Long not eligible to submit entry," a reader commented in haiku,

Howie can't enter
as best end ever. Maybe
Teri will write in.
-- Mike Limrick, Indianapolis

Brigitte Nielsen
Sure, blame Brigitte Nielsen for Mark Gastineau's decline and for Sylvester Stallone's "Rhinestone" or "Stop, or My Mom Will Shoot" while you're at it.
Reader C. Crincoli of Seattle proposes Mark Gastineau, whose career, Crincoli notes, was sacked by his Delilah, the once-renowned once-mega-babe model Brigitte Nielsen. TMQ does not believe Gastineau belongs with the other elite players here. He is mentioned solely to create a cheap excuse for the ESPN.com art department to append a dated cheesecake photo of Nielsen.

Another reader haikuized,

Lee Roy Selmon, since
enshrined at Canton, OH.,
despite John McKay.
-- J.V. Colvin, Orlando, Fla.

Eric Nungesser of New Orleans casts his lot with Alan Page, noting he was the sole defensive performer to win the MVP award. Several readers voted for Charles Haley, only gentleman ever to wear five Super Bowl rings.

Which leaves us with Reggie, Bruce and Deacon Jones.

Many voted for Jones, whose career sack total is disputed, owing to the official sack having been instituted midway through his career. Probably the figure is 173.5, which would put Jones third all time. A reader notes,

Must be the Deacon:
the NFL invented
the sack stat for him.
-- Anderson Coppack, Vista, Calif.

Reader Joseph Finn of Chicago notes that Jones was a man of courage, since he appeared on "The Brady Bunch." Reader Chad Owen of Louisville, Ky., notes that Jones was a man of seriously misplaced priorities, since he told an interviewer, "To me, a sack was better than sex." But seriously misplaced priorities are behind many great athletes! TMQ believes there were times when Deacon was pure disruption like no other. But it's hard to be sure how much was him and how much the other members of the Fearsome Foursome -- Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy. Being on the Fearsome Foursome meant Jones was rarely double-teamed, while his fellow DLs amassed an amazing 18 total Pro Bowl appearances, meaning Jones had more help than any other great DE.

Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith had to fight through tougher blocking than his fellow great defensive ends.
Next comes Bruce. Vincent Girardi of Buffalo, N.Y., notes that Smith played most of his career in the 3-4, a defensive scheme where ends are supposed to hold territory while linebackers make sacks. "See if you can name one Steeler DE over the past 15 years," Girardi proposed: Pittsburgh, a 3-4 club, has produced many star LBs supported by anonymous ends. Girardi continues, "The top sack-artists of all time are all either 4-3 ends like Reggie or Chris Doleman, or 3-4 linebackers like L.T., Derrick Thomas or Kevin Greene." Matt Drabczyk of Shenandoah Junction, W.Va., adds that Bruce was better against the run than given credit for -- a DE must play the run in the 3-4 set, while a 4-3 DE can be a glory boy. For instance, in the 1991 Super Bowl, Smith dropped O.J. Anderson for a loss on fourth-and-one; Smith once caught and dropped Barry Sanders in the end zone for a safety, one of the best athletic plays TMQ has ever seen.

Reader Jim Bonsignore nominates Smith because he starred in one of the coolest-ever sports ads, the "baaadd things, man" commercial with Dennis Hopper. In haiku,

Bruce Smith is the best,
just go ask Dennis Hopper.
Verdict: Baaadd things, man.
-- Jim Bonsignore, Oakville, Conn.

TMQ would add that Smith attained his level of disruptiveness without great DL mates. In 15 years at Buffalo, Smith saw just one Pro Bowl appearance by a fellow on the defensive line, Fred Smerlas. The combination of a 3-4 front and lack of top linemates meant Smith was double-teamed more, TMQ thinks, than any defender in NFL history. (Many pass rushers claim, "I'm always double teamed," just like receivers claim "I'm always open" -- watch tape, actual double-teams are fairly rare because they leave the rest of the offense outnumbered.) Downside argument: Smith had four Super Bowl chances and came up big only once, against the Giants.

Now to the Minister of Defense. Three readers laud him in haiku,

Best end was Reggie.
Twenty-one sacks in 12 games,
Won't happen again.
-- Tony D'Alonzo, North Wales, Pa.

Minister of D:
He created the swim move.
The best end ever
-- Jonathan Storfer, Bedford Hills, N.Y.

White extraordinaire:
never to a store he goes,
already has sacks.
-- Kraig Krueger, Plum City, Wis.

White's swim and also his "rip" move had no peers. Owing to size and strength, he was the best of the big three against the run, and of course Reggie is No. 1 all time in sacks, his mark likely safe from the fading Smith. Reggie wears a ring; he had two Super Bowl chances and made both memorable. Even some of his goofy political views must be given a grain of notice. For example, Reggie got in trouble for saying that slavery was worse than the persecution of American Indians because the latter were defeated in war, whereas the former were enslaved, and society generally recognizes the results of wars (otherwise the United States couldn't own the United States), whereas slavery is now universally considered invalid. Reggie made this position sound anti-Indian, but there's a weird honesty to it.

White may well have been best ever. His downside: The majority of his sacks were piled up playing with fabulous teammates. The Eagles line of White, Jerome Brown, Clyde Simmons and Mike Pitts might have surpassed the Fearsome Foursome as best ever. This meant Reggie had great support, and really wasn't double-teamed much till the late phase of his career. Of course, being great, he still brought it even when doubled.

It's the double-teaming factor that makes TMQ side with Bruce Smith as best-ever. He accomplished about the same as Reggie or Deacon, while playing with significantly less-potent linemates. TMQ would guess that Bruce has faced two blockers on at least half the downs of his career, whereas for Deacon and Reggie, it was perhaps a quarter of their downs. Fighting through more guys, with less help from linemates, makes Bruce best ever, and the Challenge goes to Vincent Girardi.

This week's Challenge: Now that we've settled best-ever DE, the question of best-ever running back will come up if Emmitt passes Walter Payton. So who was best ever -- Emmitt, Sweetness, Jim Brown or some less-lauded gentleman? Present your clever reasoning here. (Muppets and gentlemen whose password is "Catch-22" not eligible to submit entries.) Be sure to include your e-mail address in the unlikely event your submission is chosen.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 5:06 PM

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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!"

BMWs
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

Witchblade
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
continuity.

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

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October 8, 2002

Shrink-wrapped help for your teams

POST #    523

Shrink-wrapped help for your teams
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

The Jacksonville Jaguars have retained a "sports psychologist" to help players think winning thoughts. So far, Jax is getting its money's worth, with a big win Sunday over the Eagles. This is not the first time an NFL team has gone to head doctors. During the 1970s, the Cowboys fell for a supposed cranium-enhancing program called SyberVision that was to allow players to "dream visualize" success. And Ryan Leaf, as everyone knows, was turned into a great NFL quarterback by the psychiatrist Bobby Beathard hired to analyze him.

If NFL teams are going to lay players on the couch, TMQ wondered which therapeutic philosophy might be used. Here's what the sessions might sound like depending on the treatment, starting with the first major school of psychotherapy, Freudian analysis:

Player: Doc, I'm not getting along with the coach.

Freudian analyst: This is an expression of your repressed desire to kill your father and marry your mother. Subconscious hostility regarding your father has been transferred to the coach, whose place with his wife you long to assume.

Player. Say what, the coach's wife! No way. Have you ever gotten a look at her?

Freudian analyst: Everything is determined by your infantile sexual compulsions. You are doomed to a life of meaningless misery, and the most you can hope for is to convert debilitating neurosis into ordinary unhappiness.*
* Actual Freud quote!

Player: Doc, you're supposed to help me stop dropping touchdown passes.

Freudian analyst: Even if you catch the pass this will not bring fulfillment because football is a pallid re-enactment of primitive patriarchal manhood rituals. Symbolically you will never reach the end zone. The end zone represents gladness, which is nearly impossible to achieve, while unhappiness is much less difficult to experience.*

* Actual Freud quote!

Player: Are you saying that even if I get featured on "NFL Primetime" I will never feel good about myself?

Freudian analyst: We have no interest whatsoever in making you feel good. Our goal is weekly billings.

Freudian analysis gave way to behaviorism, which holds that human beings are mindless rats in a social maze, seeking rewards and avoiding punishments but bereft of ethics, dignity or purpose. So suppose the NFL psychologist were a behaviorist.

Behaviorist therapist: Here is a bottle of ice-cold Gatorade. If you catch the touchdown pass, you will be allowed to drink the beverage. If you drop the pass, you will be subjected to electric shocks.

Player: Man, I make $5 million a year. I already own a Gatorade distributorship.

Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones
These guys can offer some motivation.
Behaviorist therapist: Very well, we will alter the reward and the punishment. If you catch the touchdown pass, you will be given an additional $5 million. If you drop the pass, you will be executed.

Player: Johnnie Cochran is my lawyer. You couldn't convict me if I did it on videotape in front of the entire Supreme Court!

Behaviorist therapist: Very well, we will alter the reward and the punishment. If you catch the touchdown pass, you receive a date with one of the cheerleaders. If you drop the pass, you will be required to watch "Men in Black II."

Player: (Suddenly highly motivated.) I'll catch the pass! I won't fail!

Behaviorism then gave way to cognitive therapy, which holds that everything is in your mind. Suppose the sports psychologist were a cognitive therapist.

Player: Doc, I keep dropping the touchdown pass.

Cognitive therapist: Your own mind is what is preventing you from catching the pass.

Player: I think it's the defensive backs.

Todd Pinkston, Ike Charlton
Philadelphia'sTodd Pinkston gets a learning opportunity against the Jaguars.
Cognitive therapist: We will give you coping tools and success therapies. For example, if you drop a pass, don't think of it as a humiliating failure. Think of it as a learning opportunity.

Player: Coach says if I have any more learning opportunities, I'll be cut.

Cognitive therapy then gave way to Dr. Laura. Suppose she were an NFL psychologist.

Dr. Laura: You pitiful whining liberal pinko! You godless lesbian group-sex addict! It's people like you who are ruining this country with your debased movies and loud music and demands for higher taxes.

Player: Doc, you may be looking at the wrong file. You see, my problem is ...

Dr. Laura: Shut up! I'm the doctor, I'll tell you what your problem is!

Recently, Dr. Laura gave way to Dr. Phil. Suppose he were an NFL psychologist.

Dr. Phil: Out with it, my audience doesn't have all day.

Player: It's kind of hard to talk about. You see, when I try to ...

Dr. Phil
Catch a pass or look hard to catch Dr. Phil's TV show, books or lectures.
Dr. Phil: Aha! (Turns to audience.) Obviously this man is suffering from self-doubt, inadequacy, acute sexual dysfunction, mood disorders, inability to express feelings, undifferentiated somatoform anxiety, sleep apnea, social phobia, pre-traumatic stress, disassociative amnesia and numerous disorders so cutting-edge they don't even have names yet. That is my professional judgment based on this consultation.

Player: But I haven't said anything yet.

Dr. Phil: (Looks only at audience.) This man needs to get in touch with this himself! And also to get in touch with my TV show, radio spots, "books," tapes, CDs, lecture appearances and 24-hour all-Phil channel.

Player: No, I need to catch the pass.

Dr. Phil: Well if that don't beat a coon dog in a buzzard's nest on a hazy day in the high hickory hills.

Player: What's that supposed to mean?

Dr. Phi: I have no idea. My marketing consultants want me to sound folksy.

Player: Stop hugging me!

Adam Archuleta, J.J. Stokes
J.J. Stokes and the 49ers easily brushed aside the quiting Rams.
In other NFL news, that curly horn on St. Louis helmets should be replaced with an curlicue letter Q -- for Quitters. Rarely has TMQ seen a team so totally, utterly quit as the 0-5 Mouflons. The 0-5 Bengals put out more effort Sunday. St. Louis played with no heart and, trailing in the fourth quarter, lackadaisically strolled up to the line on offense making no attempt whatever to hurry-up for scores. When Tony Parrish of the Niners intercepted a pass deep with San Francisco leading 17-3, eight of the 11 Mouflons on the field made no attempt to chase him. Check the tape; just three St. Louis players pursued, Parrish went 50 yards, a field goal followed and the Mouflons were down by 17. With 10 seconds left in the first half, Jason Webster of the Niners intercepted again. This time no one from the Rams chased him -- not one player -- as he scooted 37 yards to make it a 24-point hole at the half.

But why shouldn't Rams players quit when their coaching staff has quit? Officially, Mike Martz quit on the 2002 season when it was San Francisco 27, St. Louis 3 with five minutes remaining in the third and the Mouflons facing fourth and 17 on the Niners' 19. Martz sent in the field-goal unit. Yes, fourth and 17 is a long shot, but the Rams had to score a touchdown at that point to hold any hope of a comeback. Rather than leave what he had on the field as champions do, Martz wanted a figgie to hold down the final margin of defeat. That is called quitting.

St. Louis is now the first Super Bowl contestant ever to open the next season 0-5, discounting the 1987 strike year when records were scrambled by "replacement" teams. Ye gods.

Pretty play No. 1: Clinton Portis on the shovel pass for the touchdown that makes it Denver 10, Chargers 0 and the Bolts were on their way to stepping aside as one of the two remaining undefeated teams. With Junior Seau out, the Broncos directed much of their action at the San Diego middle linebacker position. The Bolts acted surprised.

Donald Driver
Donald Driver hauls in a Brett Favre pass for an 85-yard touchdown.
Play play No. 2: Game scoreless in the first, Green Bay ball on its 15. Brett Favre fakes the handoff right and bootlegs left, using the "hidden ball" move in which the QB keeps the rock on his back hip. Donald Driver runs a deep cross from the right, beauty pass, 85-yard touchdown. Best part: Bears "will" linebacker Mike Caldwell is so mesmerized by the fake that when Favre bootlegs and ends up right in front of Caldwell, the Chicago gentleman just stands like a statue watching rather than rush forward and break up the play.

Pretty play No. 3: Trailing 13-6, the Arizona (caution: may contain football-like substance) Cardinals faced third-and-seven on the Panthers' 15. Jake Plummer pumped a screen fake right, did a dancer-style "turn out" pivot back the other way and threw the left TE screen to Freddie Jones, who went for six.

Bounces of the day: New kid Patrick Ramsey of the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons flipped a lateral to WR Kevin Lockett for the receiver pass. Lockett fumbled the ball, it bounced back into his hands and he heave-hoed to RB Stephen Davis for six. Once-was-a-new-kid Jake Plummer was hit by new kid Julius Peppers and fumbled. The ball bounced back into Plummer's hands and he heave-hoed a 12-yard completion that moved the Cards close to position for what would prove the winning figgie.

Fastest chip-speed play: Intercepting a deflected pass against the Falcons, Bucs DT Warren Sapp immediately lateraled to quicker teammate Derrick Brooks, who ran in his third return touchdown in just five games. Watch the tape; it's amazing how rapidly Sapp realizes the ball is bouncing around, grabs it and gets it out of his hands and into Brooks'.

Scoring quibble: The line score for the game says, "Brooks 15 interception return." It should say, "Brooks 15 lateral pass from Sapp."

Best non-panic: After Jersey/B took a 25-22 lead with 2:48 to play, Kansas City got the ball on its 22. The Jets defense fell back to defend against long passes. The Chiefs noticed, went "under" with short plays and moved to the winning touchdown using safety-value passes, quick outs and draws exclusively.

Best use of TMQ: This column's current hobby horse is that if you are going to play-fake near the goal line then do it on first down, when the defense is thinking run, not on second down after the defense is just stuffed a run and is thinking pass. It's first-and-goal for Jax on the Eagles' 2; play-fake, touchdown pass to TE Kyle Brady. It's first and goal for the Horsies on the Bengals' 2; play-fake, touchdown pass to TE Mike Roberg. Um, wait, overturned on review, but Indianapolis scores on the next snap. It's first-and-goal for the Bears on the Packers four; play-fake, touchdown pass to TE John Davis. Um, wait, he drops it, but Chicago scores two plays later.

Worst by last year's No. 1 defense: "One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, four-one thousand, five one-thousand." That's how far TMQ got counting the time Aaron Brooks spent in the pocket before zinging a touchdown pass; no Steeler was near him.

Patrick Ramsey
Patrick Ramsey got the bounces going his way and time to operate in Week 5.
Worst by the 2000 season's No. 1 defense: "One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, four-one thousand, five one-thousand." That's how far TMQ got counting the time Pat Ramsey spent in the pocket before zinging a touchdown pass; no Tennessee Titan was near him.

Worst by last year's Super Bowl-winning defense: "One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, four-one thousand, five one-thousand, six one-thousand." That's how far TMQ got counting the time Jay Fiedler spent in the pocket before taking off for his touchdown scramble; no Patriot was near him.

Worst by last year's No. 1 rushing offense: Trailing by 11 early in the fourth, Pittsburgh faced third and two; the call was pitch right to Amos Zereoue, and he was hit in the backfield by three Saints defenders for a loss. Pittsburgh is predictable in running the pitch right on third-and-two. This same action failed for the Steelers at the same down and distance in last year's AFC championship game.

Illiteracy epidemic plagues reading of defense: Trailing 10-0, the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.0) faced third-and-one on their 29 late in the first half. Lining up in a jumbo set, had the Browns looked they would have seen Baltimore in a nine-man overstack against the run -- a very inviting situation to audible to a play fake. Instead Tim Couch stuck with the called run. No gain, punt, Ravens make it 13-0 at the half and the rest is catch-up ball.

Worst hair tonic: Saints players dumped a bucket of ice cubes over Jim Haslett's head as the New Orleans-Pittsburgh game wound down, scattering ice across the playing surface and hurting their coach; would you care to be hit by a bucket of ice cubes? More important, New Orleans players did this when there was still a minute on the clock and the Saints ahead only by a field goal. The football gods are not amused by premature celebration; New Orleans ought to fear their wrath.

Mike Brown play of the week: Thirty-five-yard fumble return to the Green Bay 4, setting up the first Chicago touchdown.

Stats of the week: On Kansas City's last-minute winning drive against Jersey/B, waiver-wire gentleman Priest Holmes gained 72 of the 78 yards.

Stats of the week No. 2: Buffalo recorded 479 yards of offense and 29 first downs, and lost by 17 points.

Stats of the week No. 3: At 3-2 the Chiefs are last in their division while the Ravens, at 2-2, lead theirs.

Stats of the week No. 4: Drew Bledsoe is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,638 yards. And if he doesn't, Rich Gannon is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,420 yards. (The season record, held by Dan Marino, is 5,084 yards.)

Stats of the week No. 5: It has been 12 years since the Bengals won a road game against a team with a winning record.

Stats of the week No. 6: In the third quarter against Oakland, Bledsoe set a Buffalo franchise record with his 173rd consecutive pass without an interception. He proceeded to throw three interceptions in his remaining 26 attempts.

Stats of the week No. 7: In their last two outings, the Raiders have scored 101 points.

Stats of the week No. 8: Nine teams recorded at least 400 yards of offense, and three of them lost.

Stats of the week No. 9: The Rams and Steelers, Super Bowl favorites of most touts, are a combined 1-8 and 1-10 stretching back to the end of last season.

Angel
Angel proves the beach theory correct again.
Cheerleader of the Week: Stereotypes usually have some basis in fact, and one cheesecake stereotype -- that beaches are good for babe-ness -- is factually supported by the cheerleading squads of the beach-centric Dolphins and Buccaneers. Case in point, this week's TMQ ESPN.com Cheerleader of the Week, Angel Haywood of City of Tampa.

According to her team bio, Haywood just graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in biology, and is now a pre-med student. TMQ can hear hundreds of guys saying, "Examine me!" Haywood's bio also says she has broken eight bones in her relatively short life -- hence, perhaps, the interest in medicine. Her "most embarrassing moment" was "losing my skirt on a stage while performing for the Operation Desert Storm troops." That must have been a very popular performance. Although since Desert Storm was 11 years ago, how old was she when this happened? Haywood also says her favorite vacation spot would be "any island." Greenland is an island.

Check this ultra-serious description of the history and operation of the Bucs cheerleaders' squad, including the warning, "Many women do not realize the time commitment, hard work, dedication, and regulations involved in being a Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleader." Arrrggggghh ... one of the regulations is, "No sucking up to ESPN.com columnists."

Most complicated incomplete pass in NFL history: Trailing 21-7 in the second, Chicago faced fourth-and-four at the Green Bay 36. First the field goal kicker trotted out, then raced off. Then the Bears' kicking unit lined up in a high-school gadget-play formation with four guys on one side of the field and seven guys on the other side, the center split on the four-guy side and at the end of the formation making him eligible. (There's no rule that says the center has to be in the center; the snap can come from anyone on the line of scrimmage.) Then one back went in motion from the four-guy split toward the seven-guy group. Then reserve center Patrick Mannelly snapped to receiver Marty Booker, who started to run toward the sideline. Then Booker flipped a lateral to linebacker Brian Urlacher. Then Urlacher threw a pass to Mannelly, who had run a short out. Then Mannelly dropped the pass.

OK, so the result of all this trickeration was a linebacker throwing to a center, not exactly a percentage pass. Two notes. First, in the typical high-school gadget, the point of the trick alignment is to draw defenders over toward the skinny part of the formation where the ball is; then, usually, the play ends up being a screen pass to someone standing behind all the blockers on the heavy side. Chicago cleverly simulated this by sending the man in motion toward the heavy area, hoping to make defenders think "it's that high-school play!" But the Packers didn't fall for it, and covered Mannelly. Why didn't they fall for it? Because the ball was on the 36, and there were only four yards to go for the first -- this is the kind of down, distance and field position where teams often eschew the field goal and go for the first down. Had the play been called closer in, it might have worked. (Part of the fun of sportswriting is using the word "eschew.")

Official nickname change: TMQ, who has been calling Dan Snyder the "Owner/Menace to Western Civilization" for a year, feels it is time for a name change, if only because Western civilization seems determined to undo itself with or without Snyder's aid. His new nickname: Lord Voldemort.

Sinister, scheming, power-mad -- just like Lord Voldemort. Loves to fire people -- just like Lord Voldemort. (OK, Lord Voldemort loves to kill people, but it's the same premise; Snyder takes pleasure in firing those faithful to him, Lord Voldemort takes pleasure in otherwise disposing of those faithful to him.) And that can't be Snyder's real body, can it? He must be capable of taking over other forms -- just like Lord Voldemort. As the world braces for release of the next Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Global Marketing Campaign of Doom," Dan Snyder will become Lord Voldemort to TMQ.

Butch Davis
Tootsie Roll coach Butch Davis should know by now to save as much time as possible.
Official name change from "Browns" to "Tootsie Rolls" still under consideration: Trailing 10-0, the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.0) stopped a Ravens third-down play on their 6 with 43 seconds remaining in the first half. A field goal attempt was sure to follow. The Browns had all three time outs. But rather than call time so that after the figgie and kickoff they'd have about 35 seconds and two time outs with which to try for a score, Cleveland was content to watch the clock tick down till Baltimore called time with just seconds left and completed its figgie on the final snap of the half. Browns coach Butch Davis seemed to think a 13-0 halftime deficit was just fine.

Why coaches should be cold: Later this season as the weather changes, TMQ will proclaim one of his immutable laws of football: Cold Coach = Victory.

In any cold-weather game in which one sideline dresses in heavy K2 survival gear and balaclavas while the other wears varsity jackets and shrugs at the cold, the team with the overdressed coaches invariably meets defeat. Monday night in Champaign, Ill., kickoff temperature was 46 degrees, according to the official gamebook. Forty-six degrees? Maybe a sweater. Yet several coaches on the Chicago sideline sported heavy North Face-style ski parkas, and one wore gloves. Packers coaches wore windbreakers and several assistants were in shorts. If you'd tried to don gloves on the Green Bay sideline you would have been instructed to return to the team bus. Needless to say, the team with the cold coaches jogged up the tunnel victorious.

Death by return: Buffalo has given up five return touchdowns in five games -- two kick runbacks, two fumble runs and an interception run -- while scoring only one return touchdown itself. Nothing is more disheartening than to work, work, work for field position and then suddenly see some skinny gentleman sprinting untouched the length of the gridiron to enter your house. The Bills have significantly outgained opponents on offense but been crunched by easy return touchdowns; without them, Buffalo might be 3-2 or even 4-1 rather than 2-3.

Fun factoid: on average, the typical NFL team gives up a return touchdown every eighth game. Thus, Buffalo has allowed 2½ seasons' worth of return TDs in just five outings.

The "46" creates big plays, all right, but they are big plays for ... Returns are not the only Western New York problem. Despite playing the reckless "46" defense that gives up big plays but is supposed to compensate by getting multiple sacks and monster turnovers, in five games Buffalo has yet to record an interception -- the only team in the league without a pick -- and is tied with Cincinnati for last in the NFL in takeaways. Subtracting for return scores, the Buffalo defense is surrendering 29 points per game and stands 26th statistically; before tastefully named coach Gregg Williams tossed out the Bills' old conservative defensive scheme and installed the "46" promising huge turnover totals, Buffalo had finished first overall on defense (1999) and third overall (2000). Williams will brook no comment that just because his defensive philosophy has consistently been a fiasco, this means there's something wrong. He seems to think that on the rare occasion his defense registers a big play, he should be lauded as a defensive genius, but when the norm is that the defense gives up big play after big play as it did against the Raiders, that's because the players are not executing properly.

Kevin Lockett, left, celebrates with Rock Cartwright
Titans gambling allowed Kevin Lockett, left, to throw and catch TD passes Sunday.
Against the Raiders, the Bills defense engaged in wild shoot-the-gap gambles on almost every down; the net was one sack and no takeaways, while Oakland completed 10 gains of 20 or more yards. Raiders gentlemen repeatedly looped past defenders who were making reckless gambles rather than keeping their men in front of them. From the JV level on, defenders are taught, "Keep your man in front of you." If Williams somehow thinks this law of football does not apply to him, he might watch a few seconds of his own team's game film.

Tennessee, which finished first overall defensively in 2000 playing the "46," continues to show that year's performance was blind luck. Last season the Flaming Thumbtacks were 25th overall in defense, and this year they are 27th, plus surrendering 32 points per game. On Sunday, Flaming Thumbtacks defenders repeatedly took reckless gambles for big plays they never made, while no Titan was anywhere near Kevin Lockett when he caught a touchdown pass, and no Titan anywhere near Stephan Davis when Lockett threw him a touchdown pass. Ay caramba.

The "46" is a gambling-based system, and gamblers occasionally benefit from good fortune, as Tennessee did in 2000. Most of the time when you gamble, the house wins. All NFL defensive coordinators know the theory of the "46." There is a reason hardly anybody plays this instant-fiasco scheme.

Forget the Titans: In January 2001 Tennessee had just finished with the league's best record, had the top-rated defense and a power running game, was everyone's favorite for the Super Bowl crown and was at home in the playoffs versus Baltimore. That day the Flaming Thumbtacks thoroughly outperformed the Ravens, the eventual champs, but lost on kicking-game blunders. Since the start of the Ravens-Titans playoff contest, Tennessee has gone 8-14, culminating in Sunday's pounding in Nashville by the underwhelming Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons.

Maybe the problem is simply that Tennessee's terrific 2000 performance resulted from blind luck with the "46," and you can't count on blind luck to continue. Since 2000, Tennessee has been getting what you should expect from the "46," namely big play after big play by opposing teams. Yea, verily, the Titans hath lost favor with the football gods.

Bryant McKinnie
Bryant McKinnie's comments show he's a team guy, after all.
A hang-up in contract talks is McKinnie's demand that the Vikings throw him the tackle-eligible on 40 percent of offensive plays: The only unsigned NFL draftee, Minnesota first-round pick left tackle Bryant McKinnie, last week ridiculed Lewis Kelly, the man now playing LT for the Vikes, saying the team was losing because it could only run to the right. (That is, away from Kelly.) McKinnie further declared that if he had been in the lineup, the Vikings would have won at least two of their first four games.

This gentleman will fit in very nicely in Minnesota! Maybe he can room with Randy Moss.

Can they perform Lasik on the brain? Peter Warrick is finally wearing contact lenses, but ability to see has not helped him think. Against the Colts he attempted to field a punt standing on his own 6, surrounded by cover men; muff, Indianapolis recovery leading to an easy Horsies touchdown. Never shag a punt inside your own 10.

Grade inflation comes to bowls: This year there will be a record-setting 28 Division I-A bowl games. Since the NCAA Division I-A has 117 members, sending 56 of them to bowl games means that 47.9 percent are above average. Math departments, contact the NCAA please!

To replace Seder, Dallas signed kicker Ross Hashana: Dallas lost to the Giants partly owing to a fake field goal attempt that fizzed out, ending in loss of yardage. The football gods chortled -- because during training camp the 'Boys waived placekicker Tim Seder, one of the best fake-kick men ever. The short, scrawny Seder has two career touchdown runs on fake field goal attempts, and scored both by taking a handoff from the holder and running straight up the middle.

TMQ has long maintained that teams should fake kicks more often. There is a strong correlation between executing a successful fake kick and winning an NFL game, hence one of TMQ's immutable laws of football, Fake Kick = Victory. But don't tempt fate by cutting the guy who knows how to do it! TMQ hopes another NFL squad offers gainful employment to Tim Seder, a two-touchdown man where most kickers end their careers without ever running, blocking, throwing or catching.

This week's Star Trek Complaint: So there's a Romulan mine attached to the hull of the Enterprise, and Archer and Reed go out in space suits to defuse it; Reed gets hurt and has to talk Archer through the delicate procedure. How does Reed have the slightest idea how to defuse an alien mine? He announces that he's "had training" in fuses, but how would that help him with alien devices -- let alone teach him the elaborate sequence required to neutralize the Romulan mine, an elaborate sequence Reed mysteriously seems to know by heart. To top it off, we are told that at this point neither Earth nor Vulcan has ever had any contact with the Romulans. And yet Reed knows exactly how to defuse Romulan ordnance.

Next, what is Archer doing out on the hull in the first place? Seven-year-old Spenser, Official Youngest Child of TMQ, when watching this episode shook his head and said, "The captain wouldn't do that. If he got killed the ship would have no leader. The captain would never be the one who does that." Yet on "Enterprise," like all the Star Trek serials, the captain is constantly assigning himself the most dangerous task or going on extraneous missions far from the ship.

Next, an earlier Star Trek Complaint noted that while time travel is taken for granted in the new serial, which supposedly happens a century before the Captain Kirk episodes, in the Captain Kirk episodes time travel was depicted as a stunning discovery. Similarly the Captain Kirk episodes, and then the Captain Picard and Captain Janeway episodes that followed, depicted the Romulan-Klingon cloaking device as a huge technological mystery the Federation had been unable to solve. But now on "Enterprise," in episodes that happen 100 years before Kirk and 200 years before Picard, Archer has a beam that counteracts cloaking devices! Are we to believe the Federation later forgot about this vital acquisition?

Finally in all Star Trek serials, when a Klingon or Romulan ship cloaks, you can see through it. A device that foils sensors might be one thing, but how could you see through a solid metallic starship? Are we to believe the cloaking device makes the metal of the ship transparent?

Stop me before I blitz again! Game tied 15-15 in the fourth, Kansas City had Jersey/B facing third-and-12 on the Chiefs' 27. Since the average NFL passing attempt yields 5.9 yards, all the Chiefs had to do was play straight defense and the odds favored a stop. Instead, it's a blitz! Kansas City sent six, big-blitzing on third-and-long being predictable, predictable, predictable. Chad Pennington hit Santana Moss for a 27-yard touchdown against single coverage.

Stop me before I blitz again No. 2: Leading 13-0, New Orleans had Pittsburgh facing third-and-six on the Saints' 30. If the Saints play straight coverage, chances are they force a long field goal attempt. Instead it's a blitz, six gentlemen cross the line; Steelers complete the pass for the first and score a touchdown on the next play.

Stop me before I blitz again No. 3: On the first New Orleans snap after it became 13-7 owing to the touchdown the Saints surrendered by big-blitzing, the Steelers big-blitzed six. Jerome Pathon single-covered, 64-yard gain to the Pittsburgh 1, New Orleans touchdown on the next play.

Dr. Phil
One of these guys is not like the other. Is it, from left, Andrew Davoli, Seth Green, Barry Pepper or Vin Diesel?
In the sequel, Geena Davis will play a criminal mastermind: The apparently cringe-worthy new flick "Knockaround Guys" features Seth Green as a tough guy. Seth Green, who has spent his acting career playing nerds and dweebs (he was Dr. Evil's sniveling son) grows some stubble, tries to look mean and walk twisted around sideways as though this will make him a tough guy. Seth Green playing a tough guy is like Dame Judi Dench playing a bombshell.

Quote of the week: "If people want to jump off our bandwagon, I understand"
-- Tackle Willie Anderson of 0-5 Bengals.

Willie, in order for anyone to jump off the Bengals bandwagon, they would first have to be on it.

Reader haiku: Got one? Propose it here. The haiku from the seer-like Russ of West Orange, N.J., was received last week, before it was known that the Bucs offense would score 13 at Atlanta (the 20-point Tampa final being aided by a defensive score).

Bonus Obscure Score
appears every article.
Why call it bonus?

-- Mat Thomas, Dallas

Each Tuesday "Morning"
Quarterback appears after
noon -- a misnomer?

-- Ryan Booth, Baton Rouge, La.

Dungy to Gruden
was supposed to bring offense.
Bucs still score thirteen

-- Russ, West Orange, N.J.

Imparting knowledge
while also entertaining;
Tuesday Morn QB.

-- John Cococcza, Staten Island, N.Y.

Rams are oh-and-five.
Warner's hurt, can things get worse?
Just play the Niners.

-- Matt Kenerly, Haywood, Calif.

TMQ true man,
confessed to watch Meg Ryan.
Hint: "Wife made me watch."

-- Steve, West Lafayette, Ind.

Oh Kordell Stewart,
inept as a quarterback.
Line up at wide out!

-- Reggie, Birmingham, Ala.

God help Stuart Scott
If T.J. Houshmandzadeh
ever makes highlights.
-- Chris, Chicago

Not just female fans --
TMQ gay mafia
demands mega-hunks.

-- Jeff Warren, Harrisburg, Pa.

Ray Lewis scary
LB, but we always knew
he could execute.

-- Lisa Smith, Montclair, Va.

You are cold, Lisa, cold. I hope Johnnie Cochran is your lawyer.

On the Tuesday "morning" issue, Page 2 has always said that it posts they day's new page at "noonish Eastern." That's still morning in five of our great nation's six time zones! And as for Jeff Warren's demand, Jeff, I am already struggling with double-X requests for chiseled mega-hunk beefcake rather than buff mega-babe cheesecake. I'm trying to open my mind on this one, really I am. But female readers/gay mafia -- you've got the players to look at!

Isn't bling-bling slang for bada-bing? The media world is atwitter over CNN's ridiculous new corporate policy of inserting hip-hop terms such as "flava" into newscasts on Headline News. AOL Time Warner top management must be livin' the down life!

The policy is especially ridiculous because the CNN Headline News audience consists primary of senior citizens. Who else has the time to sit around monitoring the latest West Nile bite reports? Why else are all the ads on Headline News for prescription drugs whose purpose the ad never mentions?

Kerry Collins
Kerry Collins counts another $278,000 here.
And worth every penny: Kerry Collins of Jersey/A lost a fumble near his goal line, setting up a Dallas touchdown. Last season Collins set an all-time record with 23 fumbles, then in the offseason signed a contract that pays him $6.4 million in 2002. That's $278,000 per fumble!

Our long national nightmare is over: The Yankees were eliminated from the MLB playoffs.

Yo Murphy should be consulted: Yesterday was cellist Yo Yo Ma's birthday. TMQ plans to learn cello just so he can take the stage name Yo Yo Mama! (Hey, I could get that on CNN Headline News.)

Great moments in management: Last season the Jets finished 19th in total defense, and came on late defensively. Nevertheless the Jersey/B braintrust decided to clean house, evicting numerous veterans and using the cap space to bring in five new starters. Now the Jets are 31st overall in defense and Sunday could not hold a fourth-quarter lead at home, allowing Kansas City to fly the length of the field in just 2:14 for the winning touchdown with 27 seconds remaining.

Hidden indicator: In the weeks since they played the Bills, the Bears, Broncos, Jets and Vikings have gone a combined 1-8. 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: Mary 39, South Dakota Tech 7. One woman defeated an entire team! Located in Bismarck, N.D., the University of Mary, "America's Leadership University," boasts an unusual 4-4-1 format: not a defensive scheme but two four-month semesters followed by an "optional Mary term" during which students may either take courses or, apparently, just hang out in the dorms on Mom's and Dad's dime. At the school's Harold Schafer Leadership Center, you can become an all-caps "Certified Schafer Leader." TMQ was not able to figure out from the University of Mary website who Harold Schafer is, or for that matter which Mary is being honored. Anybody know?

Bonus obscure score: Mississippi Valley State University 52, Paul Quinn 16. Well of course an entire team would beat one guy! Located near Dallas, Paul Quinn College is an affiliate of the AME Church and has a 63 percent female student body, which may explain something about the above score. The school urges students to attend the nearby 10th District AME Church, which calls itself the "Talented Tenth," a great play on words if you know African American political history. TMQ was not able to figure out from the school's website who Paul Quinn was. Anybody know?

Double bonus obscure score: Saint Norbert 60, Illinois College 9. Would a saint run up the score?

Triple bonus obscure score: Frostburg State 48, Oberlin 14. Oberlin, whom reader Todd Lang of Phoenix asserts is "the worst college football team of all time," is on a 7-116 run. A bastion of excruciating PC -- this fall's courses include "Gender, Nature & Culture," which will "focus on ecosocial context, which explores the intersections of gender, race, class, sexual orientation and ecological setting/history" -- Oberlin "has a heck of a time recruiting in-state guys to play," Lang reports.

At Oberlin the women are tougher than the men -- considerably more ill-tempered, anyway -- so perhaps recruiting emphasis should change. If an Oberlin coach told an all-female squad of the opposing team, "You see that player No. 72? He once made an inappropriate remark about the intersections of gender, race and class in Peruvian rainforest development issues!" the guy would be battered into pieces within moments.

Quadruple bonus obscure score: (This is what happens when readers send in haiku complaining about TMQ bonus coverage.) It was the Attack of the Concordias! Concordia of Saint Paul 63, Minnesota-Morris 0. Concordia of Nebraska 14, Midland Lutheran 0. Concordia Moorhead 40, Hamline 7. And they showed no mercy to each other -- Concordia of Wisconsin 64, Concordia of Illinois 3. The 10 schools of the Lutheran-affiliated Concordia University Education Network confusingly do not include Concordia-Moorhead.

TMQ Obscure College Game of the Year ramp-up: Indiana of Pennsylvania continued its winning ways, defeating Clarion 28-14, but California of Pennsylvania suffered its first defeat, falling to Slippery Rock 41-6. Since their nickname is the Vulcans, presumably the California of Pennsylvania squad showed no emotions during the defeat. The two mini-giants continued their ramp-up to the incredible Tuesday Morning Quarterback Obscure College Game of the Year -- California of Pennsylvania at Indiana of Pennsylvania on Oct. 19. You'll want to arrive at this game in style (in "flava" to CNN), so arrange your limo services now!

New York Times final-score score. 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 0-594 since TMQ began tracking.

Frank Wycheck
Frank Wycheck sets up to make the game-winning TD pass for the Music City Miracle.
Reader animadversion. Many readers objected to the word "rout" appearing as "route" numerous times in last week's column. I plead the Microsoft Word spell checker, which failed to undue my mistake! One reader haikuized,

Rout is not spelled with
an "e." Please, never take Bill
Gates' Word for it.

-- Mike of Washington

And no e-mails on "undue" please, that was supposed to be a spelling joke.

Several readers added, apropos the Bubba Franks touchdown pass, that Ken Dilger, then with the Colts, also is a tight end who has thrown a touchdown pass -- last December, against Jersey/B. Many readers objected to my snide remark that tight end Frank Wycheck once threw a touchdown pass called the Music City Miracle. Readers earnestly lectured me that a lateral on a kick return is not scored as a touchdown pass. My point was that it wasn't a lateral! Wycheck was standing behind the 25 when he released the ball, and Kevin Dyson was a yard in front of the 25 when he received the touchdown pass. Ah well. Reasonable people may disagree, although as the late Mike Royko liked to say, "I may be wrong, but I doubt it." Here, in reasonable disagreement, a haiku:

Wycheck's amazing
play, while well-thrown, was no pass;
only lateral.

-- Chris Forbis, Houston

Natascha Borger
Miss Germany entices us to take up gardening.
Many readers exercised their First Amendment rights to check out the numerous hot swimsuit photos at the Miss Universe web site, and protested that I had missed gawk-worthy contenders. Leslie Koorhan of Standhope, N.J., strongly recommends Miss Germany -- both her swimsuit shot and her "national costume" photo, in which she appears in a bikini made of grapes. TMQ has been to Germany on a few occasions, and does not recall glimpsing any mega-babes in such Dionysian attire; maybe you have to know the right clubs. Other readers recommended for aesthetic reasons Miss Netherlands and Miss Ireland, whose "national costume" shot, a naughty leprachuan number. Gawk by going here then clicking "delegates," the nation of your choosing, then "photos" then "swimsuit" or "national costume."

Richard Coo of Rockville, Md., wrote to protest that TMQ was wrong to say Wofford College performs "at a high school stadium." Rather, Coo reported, "The stadium that Wofford College plays in is two-thirds owned by the college. Spartanburg School District Seven owns the other third. Both schools play there." The shared stadium, where Coo has attended games, is modern, "nice, clean, has a luxury box level and a nice press box and seats 12,000 with standing-room capacity of 15,000." A high-school stadium with a luxury box! What do they serve, tuna subs and 3.2 beer? Also, Coo reports, "The high school sells out more games than Wofford."

Regarding the items on Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, an alum haikuized,
Fighting Engineers;
football is not our best game.
Hand me my slide rule!
-- Andy Miller, Dearborn, Mich.

Lisa O'Sullivan
Miss Ireland models her national costume.
Reader Bill Marra of Pittsburgh wrote to note that his brother-in-law graduated from Indiana of Pennsylvania and now teaches at California of Pennsylvania. A man after TMQ's heart! Let's hope he will attend the incredible Tuesday Morning Quarterback Obscure College Game of the Year, California of Pennsylvania at Indiana of Pennsylvania on Oct. 19. Book your party rooms and kegs now!

Reader James Delle reported he recently left a job at Franklin & Marshall to work at Kutztown University. Another man after TMQ's heart. He adds that Franklin & Marshall, whose teams are officially the Diplomats, are known to everyone as "the Dips."

Reader Jeffrey Puma of Sacramento, Calif., noted that in his interview with ESPN last week, Randy Moss declared he "had tried to turn his life around 360 degrees." Turn 360 degrees and you remain facing in the same direction! At least Moss was being honest.

Reader Chris Palma of Pleasant Gap, Pa., ("Cradle of Obscure Colleges") noted the garbled typo in last week's column, referring to years as "turns of revolutions of the sun." Earth's orbit, not the sun's revolutions, determine the years. And the sun is not moving across the sky, it only looks that way! Palma cryptically added that this correction is essential because he "knows at least two Ph.D. astronomers who read TMQ." No doubt when they need a break from scanning for the approach of more starcruisers from Kurt Warner's homeworld.

On the running question of the state of Vulcan technological development in the 23rd century, reader Rick Margulies of Philadelphia points out that in the giant amoeba episode of the original Captain Kirk serials, Spock telepathically hears the screams of the crew of a Vulcan starship that had once been swallowed by the creature. This appears to contradict TMQ's claim that in the Kirk episodes the Vulcans are "an insular, technologically modest people." Well, maybe it was a modest starship! (And if Vulcans have no emotions, why did they scream?) Patty Henshaw of Seattle contends that it is not necessarily a contradiction for the Vulcans to have been a major spacefaring power in the 22nd century of the Captain Archer episodes, then "insular" and "modest" in Kirk's 23rd century. "If you replace Vulcans with Britons and spacefaring with seafaring, that's pretty much the decline of the British Empire," Henshaw writes.

Finally, Jeff Pasquale of Mississauga, Ontario, notes of the recent episode in which the Vulcan mega-babe T'Pol plays her own great-grandmother stranded in a 1950s small U.S. town, "Why did she change into Earth clothes behind a backlit white sheet? Isn't modesty an emotion? Wouldn't lust on the part of her companion, if he saw her naked form, also be an emotion?" Jeff, she changed behind a backlit sheet so that producers could add a gratuitous naked silhouette shot. That's the most you can get onto network television, and we should express gratitude for it.

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

TMQ Challenge Last week's Challenge was to liken an NFL player to a character from Shakespeare.

Randy Moss
"What an ass I am!" Randy Moss would be a natural as Hamlet.
Many, many readers locked in on Randy Moss. Megan Flanagan of Chicago likened Moss to Malvolio in "Twelfth Night," noting, "He's got the same overblown sense of self-importance that leads to a rather uncomfortable comic relief." Some likened him to Hamlet, Steve from Phoenix proposing Moss would ask, "to give effort or not to give effort/that is the question." Steve Gozdecki, also of Chicago, placed into Moss' mouth the Hamlet line, "What an ass I am!"

Heather New of Lockhart, Texas, proposed that the recently retired Tony Siragusa would be Falstaff, while Dan Snyder would speak Richard III's line, "Now is the winter of our discontent." But Heather, with Snyder, it's also the spring, summer and autumn of his discontent. Tell me when this guy isn't in a childish rage about something?

Gerrit Ayers of Tacoma, Wash., proposed that Mike Martz would be Macbeth and haunted by London Fletcher as Banquo, the ghost of last year's better defense.

Morris Richardson of Melbourne, Fla., proposed that Rob Johnson would be Hamlet -- endlessly unable to make up his mind who to throw to, then ending up sacked.

Rob Wold of Antioch, Ill., proposed that Ticonderoga-class DTs Ted Washington and Keith Traylor of the Bears be Rosencranz and Gildenstern since "They always show up together on the field, they always leave the field together and you're never quite sure which is which."

Jim Brown of Ithaca, N.Y., proposed that Duante Culpepper begins to resemble Timon of Athens: "Angered and demoralized by the selfishness and egotism of his teammates, it's only a matter of time before he shuns Minnesota and runs off to live in a cave."

Jeremy Sullivan of College Park, Md., proposed in haiku:

"A Winter's Tale" stage
direction: Exit, pursued
by an Urlacher.

-- Jeremy Sullivan

Cort Laflin of Wichita, Kan., proposed that the French army at Agincourt in Henry V could convincingly be played by the St. Louis Rams.

Steve Spurrier
Is Steve Spurrier worthy of Hogwarts or is he just a Muggle.
The winner of this week's Challenge is Sam Donnelley of Wasilla, Alaska, who compared Steve Spurrier to Othello: "The conquering general Othello (Spurrier) is duped by devious aristocrat Iago (Daniel Snyder) into betraying his true love Desdemona (Florida Gators), causing his own eventual (career) suicide."

This Week's Challenge Now that TMQ has decreed that Dan Snyder be known as the Lord Voldemort of the NFL, what to call this selfsame Spurrier?

TMQ wants to know which Potter character reminds you of Spurrier. Is it Draco Malfoy? Bartimeus Crouch? Dr. Cornelius Fudge? Professor Severus Snape? (Two Ss there, just like Steve Spurrier.) Or someone else? Submit your view and clever reasoning here. Be sure to include your e-mail address in the unlikely event your submission is chosen, and as always, the final decision will be completely arbitrary.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 4:52 PM

0
Comments

 
 

October 1, 2002

Always read the fine print

POST #    529

Always read the fine print
By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

So Donovan McNabb signed a "12-year, $115 million contract." TMQ has two observations. First, wasn't "McNabb" a minor character in Hamlet?

Page: Rosencranz, Gildenstern and McNabb are here to see you, sire.

Claudius: Privily bring them unto me, that I may examine their contracts.

Later, upon the parapet:

Hamlet How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, seem to me all the uses of this world. Fie on it, ah, fie! 'Tis an unweeded garden that grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature possess it merely.

McNabb Bunch right! Twenty-six strong! Blue! Hut one! Hut two!

Second, there is no chance on Earth that McNabb's agreement actually will run 12 years or pay $115 million. In 12 turns of revolutions around the sun -- the year 2014! -- McNabb will be 38 and applying 3-in-1 Oil to his knees. Even if all goes well, his deal will be redone multiple times between now and 2014 for cap reasons. So why do the sports media report fictional contract numbers as if they were real?

Unlike NBA and MLB contracts, which contain extensive guarantees, NFL numbers are mostly illusion. Only the first two years can be taken seriously -- see the Marshall Faulk item below. Under current NFL chicanery, contracts are given an artificially high paper value both to stoke the athlete's and his agent's egos -- agents love to boast about the huge, huge deals they just landed for clients -- and as part of accounting fictions that allow teams to postpone salary-cap penalties to future years.

In 1999, Chidi Ahanotu of the Buccaneers signed a "six-year, $30 million" contract; he actually received about a third of that, then was waived two seasons later. In 2000, Antonio Freeman signed a "seven-year, $45 million" contract with the Packers; he actually received about a quarter of that, and was waived two seasons later. Jerry Wunsch signed a "five-year, $13 million" contract with the Bucs in 2001 and was waived in 2002. This spring, Bill Romanowski signed a "seven-year" contract with the Raiders. Don't look for Romanowski on the field in 2008 at Oakland's Not Bankrupt Yet Coliseum -- he will be 44 years old and yakking it up somewhere as a color man.

Donovan McNabb
Don't expect to see Donovan McNabb celebrating for the Eagles in 2014.
James Dearth, the long snapper for Jersey/B, recently signed an "eight-year" contract impossible on its face: the out-year portion calls for a salary of $670,000 in 2009, which in the remote event Dearth is still playing for the Jets then, will be less than the veteran minimum for his age at that point. This summer Rich Gannon signed a "seven-year, $56 million" contract at age 36. Nancy Gay of the San Francisco Chronicle says Gannon actually will receive $16 million over the next three years, then retire, rendering 70 percent of the contract fictional.

If stoking the ego of the athlete and agent is the purpose, teams might as well grant "25-year, $1 billion" contracts, so long as the big bucks are in the out years. The back ends are always renegotiated, assuming the player isn't cut outright. Yet somehow, when players renegotiate away the big money -- see the Stephen Davis item below -- agents never call press conferences to boast about the huge, huge concessions their clients just made.

Why do the sports media pretend the dollar values of NFL long-term contracts can be taken at face value? To make stories sound more compelling. "Donovan McNabb signs generous but ambiguous contract sure to be rewritten several times" simply doesn't grab the eye like "12-year, $115 million contract." For the same reason, news organizations report damage requests in lawsuit filings as if they were substantive, when such numbers are usually imaginary. A litigant registering a tort claim can request any amount; for most suits the figure is immaterial, as judge or jury will later determine the award. Thus, when you hear news stories that go, "Outraged Party A today filed a $100 million lawsuit against irate Party B," bear in mind that the "$100 million" part is meaningless. Party A might as well ask for $100 billion, or $100 trillion, or the entire world GDP; any award will be determined by the law and facts in the case, regardless of what's in the initial brief. But news organizations treat the fictional dollar numbers in lawsuits as real in order to pump up the volume. Same, too, with sports media treatment of NFL contracts.

In other NFL news, Jerry Rice became the all-time leader in yards from scrimmage, passing Walter Payton. Rice is so good there exists little need to praise this gentleman, but what has always struck TMQ about him is the margin of his achievements.

In most sports records, the mark-holder has done only slightly better than whoever is No. 2. Rice, on the other hand, has 25 percent more receptions than the No. 2 all-time, Cris Carter. He has 47 percent more receiving yards than the No. 2 all-time, James Lofton. He has 43 percent more receiving touchdowns than the No. 2 all-time, Carter. Rice has 61 percent more postseason receptions than the No. 2 all-time, Andre Reed. He has 55 percent more postseason receiving yards than the No. 2 all-time, Michael Irvin. He has 67 percent more postseason receiving touchdowns than the No. 2 all-time, John Stallworth.

Jerry Rice
The numbers don't lie: Jerry Rice is clearly the best football player ever.
Ye gods. Best football player ever? I won't argue.

With this latest Rice record, surely they must be celebrating in San Francisco. How's that? Say what? You cannot seriously be telling me that the 49ers cut Jerry Rice, the best football player ever!

Best Game Plan: The Patriots showed you can beat the Steelers by drip-drip-drip passing on every down. Last weekend, rushing 34 times for 221 yards, the Chiefs showed you might be able to beat the Patriots by drip-drip-drip running on every down. San Diego took this message and ran with it, as it were, rushing 34 times for 234 yards, as it became the first team to defeat the Pats since Nov. 18, 2001. At one point, the Bolts ran on 15 consecutive snaps, harmonically from the 2:28 mark of the second quarter to the 2:28 mark of the third.

Best Gamble: Leading by a touchdown in the third, San Diego went for it on fourth-and-1 from its own 37. Though the possession ended without points, this play set the tone for the second half. Sports lore says you can't dance with the champ, you must take it to him. By gambling in their own territory, the Bolts showed they were not afraid.

Best Block: Not only did QB Trent Green make the key downfield block on Priest Holmes' 25-yard touchdown run against the Marine Mammals, he pasted Miami safety Arturo Freeman. Oh, you do not want to be Arturo Freeman when it's time to look at game film.

Best Play by a Team with One Postseason Victory in the Last 45 Years: Leading by five, the winless Lions needed to grind the clock with two minutes remaining. They faked an end-around and New Orleans bit, chasing the fake man as RB James Stewart went off tackle for the 37-yard gain that iced the game.

Best Flag Football Play: TMQ coaches eighth graders in a county flag football league, and one of his favorite calls is a roll right, the left TE pretending to fall down on his block and then leaping up for a throwback in the left flat. TMQ's eighth-grader playbook calls this action "special right," because the ball goes left. Dallas executed "special right" to perfection against St. Louis, 17 yards to Darnay Scott for the touchdown. Scott, a wide receiver, lined up as a tight end, but the Mouflons defenders were oblivious to this classic trick-play giveaway.

Best Second Chance: While driving with Grant, Official First Child of TMQ, to flag football practice, TMQ was listening to the Steelers-Browns overtime on the radio. The Official First Child asked why Pittsburgh was lining up for a figgie on second down. A knowledgeable observer told Grant that coaches do this on early downs in game-winning situations so that if something goes wrong and the kick does not get off, they can try again on the next down. TMQ then sagely added, "But that never actually happens." Wham! Kick blocked, Pittsburgh recovers behind the line, retains possession and boots the winner on third down.

Fred Taylor
Imagine what Fred Taylor could do if he never got injured.
Best Anodyne Play: Ball at the Bears' 26 in overtime, Bills QB Drew Bledsoe was under pressure. Rather than do anything crazy, he flicked a safety-valve pass in the flat to RB Travis Henry, who scooted for the winning six. Last week, the Atlanta home crowd booed Michael Vick for throwing a safety-valve pass in scoring range. Never, never underestimate the importance of the boring safety-valve pass. Most of the things that can happen when a quarterback is under pressure are bad; having the sense to throw a short checkdown for a couple of yards, and then line up again, is the mark of smarts. In this case, the smart move was especially rewarded.

Best Player We Don't See Enough: Man, oh man, did Fred Taylor look good on that 72-yard catch -- not many RBs can run an "up" -- and that gravity-defying 25-yard rush. If only this endlessly injured gentleman could lace his cleats more often.

Slick Play of the Day: Leading the Texans by 13 in the third, Philadelphia lined up to punt. The ball was direct-snapped to the slot man, ageless Brian Mitchell. He flipped a shovel pass to safety Brian Dawkins, who sprinted 57 yards for the score and the rout was on. The Eagles have now run a fake kick in each game this year, and TMQ heartily endorses fake kicks. But why expend such a slick play on anodyne Houston?

Worst Defense: Leading by 14, the Seahawks lined up at the Minnesota 29 with WR Darrell Jackson as the tailback. No one on the Vikes side seemed to notice this classic trick-play giveaway. He ran a post, was ignored, and caught a 26-yard pass. Shaun Alexander scored on the next snap and the rout was on.

Worst Special-Teams Play: Game close in the second quarter, surrendering the NFL's longest-ever touchdown still in their future, the Denver special teams lined up to punt. Wham! Baltimore safety Edward Reed came through untouched by human hands for the block. The Ravens scored on the possession, and the rout was on. Tip to Broncos special teams: You see those people running toward the kicker? Get in front of them. It's a technique thing.

Ominous Omen: In consecutive weeks, the mighty Packers have just barely beaten Detroit and Carolina, last season's two worst teams.

Cover-Your-Eyes Sequence: Minnesota turned it over three times in four plays.

Worst Line Play: Trailing by three with 27 seconds left, ball at the Packers 5, Carolina called the quarterback draw for Rodney Peete. When the play started, guard Jamar Nesbit simply stood up and looked back at Peete, making no attempt whatsoever to block. As Peete frantically tried to sidestep Nesbit's man, incredibly highly overpaid tackle Todd Steussie stopped blocking and simply turned around to watch. Peete get nailed -- amazingly, he proved unable to block for himself! -- and on the next play the Panthers doinked a 24-yard field-goal attempt, game over.

NORAD Has Been Alerted: At 9:47 p.m. Eastern on Sept. 30, the Baltimore Ravens scored for the second time in the 2002 NFL season.

Shaun Alexander
Shaun Alexander unleashed a touchdown avalanche for the Seahawks on Sunday night.
Stats of the Week: The first four touchdowns of the Seattle Seahawks' season required 207 minutes. The second four touchdowns required 1 minute, and 28 seconds.

Stats of the Week No. 2: The Rams and Steelers, favorites of most touts, are 1-6 and a combined 1-8 stretching back to the end of last season. Kurt Warner and Kordell Stewart have combined to throw four touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.

Stats of the Week No. 3: San Diego is allowing a little less than 10 points per game, while the Eagles are scoring 35 points per game.

Stats of the Week No. 4: In its last three games, Jersey/B has been outscored 102-13.

Stats of the Week No. 5: Marty Schottenheimer, the only coach to have beaten the Patriots since November 2001, is on a 12-3 run -- during which he has been fired.

Stats of the Week No. 6: Drew Bledsoe is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,380 yards. And if he doesn't, Tom Brady is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,304 yards. (The season record, held by Dan Marino, is 5,084 yards.)

Stats of the Week No. 7: Bills RB Travis Henry, who fumbled five times in 2001, has already lost four fumbles this year, two of them returned for touchdowns.

Stats of the Week No. 8: Bubba Franks of Green Bay became the second tight end in less than a year to complete a pass; Frank Wycheck of the Flaming Thumbtacks completed a pass last season. (Wycheck has also thrown a touchdown pass, the Music City Miracle.)

Stats of the Week No. 9: Undrafted obscure-college (Cheyney State) gentleman James Williams of Chicago has blocked nine field-goal attempts in his career.

Stats of the Week No. 10: Miami and Tennessee, two teams that preach defense, gave up a combined 100 points.

Clock Management Highlight: It was Dallas 7, St. Louis 0, with Mouflons backup quarterback Jamie Martin driving his charges late in the first half. Martin ran to the line and spiked the ball to stop the clock -- just as the clock ticked to the two-minute warning. Time would have stopped regardless, and St. Louis lost a down.

David Carr
David Carr has had a painful initiation to the NFL.
Welcome to the NFL: David Carr was sacked 26 times in September.

Mike Brown Play of the Week: Bears safety Mike Brown scored his third touchdown in less than a year.

Good Seats Available! A crowd of 30,014 attended the Giants-Cardinals game in Tempe.

He Hath Lost Favor with the Football Gods: Just before Tommy Maddox entered the game and led the Steelers to their improbable no-huddle comeback against the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.0), Kordell Stewart had his charges at second-and-4 on the Browns 22, trailing by a touchdown, nine minutes left. Under no pressure, with a man open on the shallow crossing pattern that is one of the easiest routes for a quarterback to see, Stewart threw the ball deep into double coverage, directly to safety Robert Griffith for the INT.

The Football Gods Chortled: Denver has previously shown hubris regarding long Jason Elam kicks on the final play of the first half, notably in the 1998 game when the Broncos deliberately committed a penalty in order to march Elam backward so that he could tie the longest-ever record at 63 yards. Last night, the football gods decreed that Denver pay the price. Elam lined up for a 57-yard attempt on the final play of the half, a hubris-colored risk considering that the Broncos were trailing 24-3 at the time and the odds of something going wrong on such a long try exceed the odds of a 57-yard success in the non-mile-high air of Charm City. The Elam boot fell short and Baltimore's Chris McAlister returned it 108 yards for the touchdown, longest scoring play in NFL history. Jason Elam last-second kicks have now resulted in football's longest-ever touchdown and longest-ever field goal.

Seeing a field goal returned for six, many ask, "Why don't they do that all the time?" But the circumstances hardly ever present themselves. Most missed field goals sail out of the end zone. When a long try falls short, doing nothing will give the receiving team the ball in good field position around its 40; because of this, teams rarely even put a returner back on field-goal attempts, all personnel being employed to attempt to block the kick. Usually only the end of the half, when field position has no value, justifies trying to run back a figgie. Special-teams coaches are supposed to know this and instruct their charges to defend against a runback in such situations. Monday night, as the Elam boot sailed, Denver players casually turned to walk off the field -- and the football gods chortled.

Cheerleader of the Week: In sympathy for the fact that fans at Paul Brown Field are desperate for someplace to rest their eyes -- no rational person would want to look at the Cincinnati Bengals -- the TMQ ESPN Cheerleader of the Week for this week is Angela of the Ben-Gals cheer squad.

Angela
TMQ will forgive Angela and the Ben-Gals for not watching the Bengals.
According to her team bio, Angela, the Ben-Gals choreographer, is an RN who works in a cardiovascular intensive-care unit. A nurse and a cheerleader -- TMQ's erotic fantasy gauge is registering overload! Angela lifts weights, is studying for her master's in nursing and says the person she would most like to meet is Meg Ryan, "because she seems so grounded." Meg Ryan seems to you "grounded?" Meg Ryan would have to a wear a lightning rod to be grounded! (Electromagnetism joke for nerd readers.) Didn't you see "Sleepless in Seattle"? She throws over her own fiancé for a voice on the radio. Didn't you see "Kate & Leopold"? She quits her job at the very moment she receives the promotion she has dedicated her life to winning, in order to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge to fall through a travel-time portal. Grounded?

While Bengals fans are far better off watching the cheerleaders than the team, this raises the question, what do the Ben-Gals look at? Apparently they don't watch the team either. Along with such items as "favorite movie," bios on the Bengals cheerleader site include the entry, "Most memorable Bengals game that you've cheered in." Numerous Ben Gals answered, "N/A." Honesty is the best policy! Several Cincinnati cheer-babes said their "most memorable" Bengals game was the opening of the new stadium, or the closing of the old one. One said her most memorable Bengals game was "the first preseason game last year."

A single Bengals cheerleader, Hazel, cited a day when what happened on the field itself was the event, saying her most memorable game was the Bengals' September 2001 upset of the Ravens, then the defending Super Bowl champs. You'd need to have been cheerleading for the Bengals for more than a decade to have been present at a game that meant anything.

It Was That or Punt: Trailing 45-10 with seven seconds left in the first half, the Vikings had the ball at the Seahawks 26. Mike "Timid" Tice -- who last season, in his coaching debut, punted when down by nine with two minutes to play -- sent in the field-goal unit. Outraged, the football gods pushed the try wide.

More Proof of the Decline of Western Civilization: At 9:56 p.m. ET during the Sunday night game, 48,539 people voted in an ESPN online poll about whether to reverse a call. Late on a Sunday night, and almost 50,000 people were watching television and using their computers simultaneously!

Injury Update: "Kurt Warner" will spend eight to 10 weeks at a secret underground installation near Area 51, regenerating his "human" tissue. And luckily for Cincinnati tackle Richmond Webb, he has been placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. This means Webb will receive his full pay but not have to participate in any more Bengals games.

Why Don't Announcers Watch the Game? The Cleveland Browns (Release 2.0) were leading Pittsburgh by six when Jerome Bettis was stopped at the 1 and then lunged the rock forward, zebras signaling touchdown. No way that's a touchdown! TMQ his ownself shouted at the screen, since Bettis' knee clearly went down on the 1. Yet the announcers continued to laud the "touchdown" even after watching a replay which plainly showed no score. When Butch Davis challenged the ruling, the announcers seemed shocked. The "touchdown" was reversed.

Why Don't Announcers Know the History of the Game? "What a mistake!" the announcers cried as, score tied and 10 seconds remaining, Dallas holding no timeouts and on the St. Louis 35, Quincy Carter threw a short pass over the middle to the 30.

The announcers wanted Carter to throw to the sidelines -- exactly what the defense expected. But as Kenny Stabler taught purists a generation ago, when it's late and you're out of timeouts and it's crazy to throw down the middle, that is the time to throw down the middle. The 'Boys barely got to the line to spike with a single second left; clock stopped, Billy Cundiff drilled the 48-yard figgie for the win. Sure, Dallas' deliberate throw to the middle -- which had to be short so there would be time to run up for a spike -- might not have worked, but then the game simply would have gone to OT. What the Cowboys called was an intelligent move, executed perfectly by Carter, to give the kicker a better chance. The announcers might have been surprised, but purists weren't.

OK, You Had Your Little Joke, Now Bring Out the Real Uniforms: Is it just me, or do the new Buffalo and Seattle home uniforms look like malfunctioning screen savers?

TMQ Inks $14 Billion, 200-Year Contract with ESPN:The recent phony-contract record belongs to RB Stephen Davis of the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons. The "nine-year, $91 million" deal Davis's agent announced to great fanfare in 1999 lasted three seasons before being rewritten this summer. Out years of the "nine-year" contract, where the big money resided, mysteriously vanished, replaced by a new "five-year, $31 million" deal whose paper value Davis will never see either.

All the runner can be sure of is about $7 million, which he got at the front end. The new "five-year" deal might not even last Davis until Valentine's Day, since it calls for a $7.5 million salary in 2003, a figure the Persons cannot possibly afford under their salary cap. Davis will either be cut next winter or his contract rewritten yet again, for the second time pressing the delete key on the imaginary mega-money.

Quote of the Week: "He definitely probably underestimated the loss of me." Bills linebacker London Fletcher to the Chicago Tribune on Mike Martz's decision to let him leave the Rams. In a similar vein, last spring, Persons boss Steve Spurrier said of Marco Coleman, "If it weren't for the cap, we would probably be sure to want him." Note that Martz showed the door to three starters from last year's third-rated St. Louis defense -- Fletcher, Mark Fields and Chidi Ahanotu -- not for cap reasons, but because they had crossed swords with him personally. All are now playing well for other teams, as the Rams defense sputters.

Oxana Fedorova
Oxana Fedorova was "fired" as Miss Universe, much to TMQ's dismay.
Swimsuit-Based Dilemma of the Week: Last spring, the Miss Universe pageant bought full-page ads in the business sections of major newspapers to boast that its broadcast drew better ratings than Game 5 of the NBA's Eastern Conference finals between the Celtics and Nets. Well, of course it did. The Miss Universe contestants are beautiful. The Celtics-Nets series was ugly, ugly, ugly.

Adorning the Miss Universe full-page ads was a spectacular swimsuit shot of Oxana Fedorova of Russia, who won the crown. Fedorova got a 9.88 from the swimsuit judges, which is certainly good enough for TMQ. But in a shocking setback to the world of gawking, Fedorova's title was revoked last week. Did a French judge have anything to do with this? Fedorova was "terminated," in the heartwarming words of the press release, for "failure to fulfill her duties." This did not mean failure to disrobe in public on a regular basis, which TMQ assumed to be the principal duty of Miss Universe, but to appear at AIDS research fundraising events, this being the Miss Universe organization's charitable cause. Replacing her is runner-up and seriously gorgeous Justine Pasek of Panama.

TMQ is sad to see Fedorova go, and not just owing to her swimsuit 9.88. Fedorova was a cadet at the St. Petersburg Police Academy -- TMQ can hear hundreds of guys saying, "Cuff me! Cuff me!" Upon her victory Vladimir Salnikov, an Interior Ministry official, proudly read on Russia's NTV television excerpts from Federova's training records: "Physically in top condition ... knows the rules for maintaining and firing weapons ... knows how to keep state secrets." What kind of state secrets do cadets have access to? Salnikov also boasted that Fedorova won marks for speed in stripping and reassembling a Kalashnikov, and in a post-victory interview, Fedorova called firing weapons her favorite pastime. OK, perhaps the world's guys should abandon any plans to hit on the Kalashnikov-firing mega-babe.

Miss Universe Fun Factoid No. 1: You can view incredible detail of many beauty pageants at Turn for the Judges.com. The site's extensive breakdown of this year's Miss Universe competition includes such critical statistical data as, "Only contestants from Albania, Hungary, Ireland and Israel wore one-piece swimsuits. Egypt, Guatemala and Yugoslavia opted for tankinis while the remaining 69 delegates wore two-piece swimsuits." TMQ congratulates the 69 who had the good sense to go two-piece. ("Tankini" is a mega-babe technical term for a cross between a bikini and a one-piece.)

Miss Universe Fun Factoid No. 2: Phil Simms hosted this year's pageant and fortunately resisted urge to exclaim, "She's wide open!" (Simms' grating verbal tic of calling every receiver "wide open!" will be the subject of an upcoming TMQ discourse.) But if it was a really a Miss Universe pageant, why weren't there constants from other star systems? You'd think at least Kurt Warner's homeworld would have been represented. Babes from his homeworld have long, glamorous tentacles that go all the way down to the floor. And the vestigial proboscis -- va-va-voom.

Justine Pasek
Although TMQ won't argue with the choice of Justine Pasek as Fedorova's replacement.
Miss Universe Fun Factoid No. 3: The full-page Oxana ads declared "Special congratulations to pageant owner Donald Trump for having the foresight, imagination and well-known understanding of quality and beauty" necessary to make the event a success. But wait, Donald Trump not only owns the rights to the Miss Universe telecast, he owns the Miss Universe promotional company that bought the ads. That is, Trump took out full-page ads to offer congratulations to himself! Note to The Donald: ad space on Page 2 is available.

Miss Universe Fun Factoid No. 4: One of the disappointments of the Miss America pageant is that its website is so disorganized, you're wasting your time trying to find the cheesecake parts. No such problems with the Miss Universe site -- surely reflecting the Trump influence. Download the 2002 Miss Universe screensaver here, promoted with the declaration, "Now you can have 75 of the most beautiful women in the world right in front of you." (That is slightly more than appear in TMQ's fantasies.)

Better still, the Miss Universe sites allows quick access to swimsuit photos for each "delegate," official name of the contestants. Go here, click on "select a delegate," choose a nation, click "photos" and then "swimsuit." You can easily waste most of a morning gawking at these unattainable mega-babes -- not that I did! For quality gawking, TMQ particularly recommends Miss Belgium, Miss Norway and Miss Venezuela.

Bengals Postgame Press Conference: Crackers, Juice and a Nice Nap In his preseason preview, Chris Berman called Cincinnati his "sleeper" team. Perhaps he meant to say "hibernating" team. The winless Bengals have been outscored 119-23. Berman wasn't alone. Pete Prisco of CBS Sportsline in his preseason preview called the Bengals "deep and talented," projecting them to make the playoffs.

Elliot Spitzer Should Indict 29 General Managers: TMQ just loves Marshall Faulk, and continues to marvel that the Rams not only got him from the Horsies for the low-low act-before-midnight-tonight price of second- and fifth-round draft picks -- TMQ also marvels that this low-low price was possible owing to lack of competition, because no other team was bidding on Faulk. Collectively, the 29 GMs of the 29 other clubs of the time were guilty of dereliction of duty.

Marshall Faulk
Marshall Faulk's mammoth new contract actually reduces his salary over the next two years.
But much as TMQ loves Marshall Faulk, it must be noted that the "seven-year, $44 million" contract he signed this summer, extensively hyped by sportswriters as an astonishing bonanza, actually cuts his pay. Faulk's new agreement guarantees him a take of $12 million over the next two seasons, the next two seasons being the only part of an NFL contract with meaning. But Faulk was scheduled to receive $13 million through the same period under his old deal. On paper, the "seven-year, $44 million agreement" does grant Faulk hefty raises in later years, but there is about as much chance he will ever see that out-year money as there is a chance Reese Witherspoon will meet me at the couples massage suite of the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe this weekend.

No doubt Faulk is happy with his new pact, because it means he will actually receive the next two seasons' worth of income rather than be a cap casualty in 2003, the track he was barreling down. The same applies to the "eight-year, $48 million" extension the estimable Curtis Martin just signed. This deal will pay Martin around $19 million over the next two seasons, which is impressive. But in the event Martin has legs beyond that -- 2004 would be his 11th season, and running backs who are effective in the double-digit years are rare as University of Cincinnati basketball players who get diplomas -- the remaining six years, along with most of the on-paper value, will be ripped up for something more modest.

Martin no doubt is happy, too, because his next two years of income are now assured, and that's all you can ask in the contemporary NFL. But for the sports media to buy the line that deals like this are blockbusters for Faulk, Martin and others ignores the reality that modern NFL contracts never run to their conclusion.

Demonstrators Swarmed the Streets, Chanting Slogans in a Silent Protest: Cops outnumbered protestors 10-to-1 at the fizzled-out anti-World Bank demonstrations last week in Washington. Two things TMQ doesn't get:

1. Since the purpose of the World Bank is to channel money to impoverished nations, if the World Bank didn't exist, wouldn't angry demonstrators be marching to demand that it be created?

2. Since the protests accomplished nothing other than petty vandalism, instead of traveling to Washington to smash windows, why didn't the anti-globalizers pool the money they would otherwise have spent on travel and use it to buy off members of Congress? They'd have a lot better chance of realizing their agenda in this time-honored way.

Actually the demonstrations did accomplish something: They created anti-American visuals that, TMQ feels sure, television networks in the European Union and elsewhere artfully edited to give the impression that Washington had been brought to its knees by vast mobs denouncing George W. Bush. Considering the demonstrators' claim to despise globalization, how interesting they wanted to play to a global audience!

GAP protest
What's the best way to gain attention for your cause? Strip down to your underwear.
One faction went so far as to adopt the globalized tactic of taking off clothes to ensure media coverage. In enlightened Europe, where nudity is acceptable on television, demonstrators often strip to attract cameras, or even hire babe models to strip and draw the cameras. A few years ago, when Bill Clinton's Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman went to a Rome conference on genetically modified foods, opponents retained three mega-babe models to march naked in front of him holding protest signs; this ensured media coverage through the European Union. (It also insured that Glickman said, "How soon can I go back to Rome?")

Last week in Washington some anti-globalizers stripped to their underwear -- the most the prissy U.S. media will show -- outside a Gap outlet. TMQ mentions this to create a legitimate public-policy reason for the Page 2 art department to insert a wire photo of this vital news event. Anti-globalization babes, who would have thunk it? They can demonstrate at TMQ's office anytime.

His HMO Should Deny the Claim: Desmond Howard of the Lions, who injured himself celebrating a 70-yard kick return, became the second special-teams player in less than a year (Bill Gramatica of Arizona) to injure himself celebrating a play.

They Had to Pull a Team Off the Lindbergh Kidnapping: Bad enough that prosecutors gave Zacarias Moussaoui government files containing classified information. ("And would you like a free tour of CIA headquarters, sir?") The files were retrieved from Moussaoui's cell, the New York Times reports, during searches that took "several days." It took the FBI several days to search a jail cell?

Still More Accounting Fiction: Ray Lewis of the Ravens will receive $19.5 million this season, but his new deal is structured so that his salary cap charge for 2002 is about $7 million; Peter Boulware's new extension will pay him about $14 million this year but also with an artificially small cap charge. This means the Ravens used Enron-style accounting to throw most of the true cost of the Lewis and Boulware contracts into future years. That, in turn, means Baltimore has totally screwed its future in order to pacify Lewis and Boulware, who were already under contract anyway. The Lewis deal specifies ever-escalating cap charges, up to $9.4 million per season all the way out in 2007 and again in 2008. There is little chance Lewis will still be playing for the Ravens in those years. Huge penalties will crash-land onto the Ravens cap whenever Lewis retires, is waived or is led away in handcuffs.

Randy Moss
The "Randy Ratio" has turned the Vikings' salary-cap situation into a major mess.
It's the same thing the Vikings did last summer with the Randy Moss mega-bonus. Last season, Moss received $18.5 million for moping, quitting on pass routes, denouncing his teammates and refusing to block. The accounting was delayed to future years. Right now many think Minnesota should unload Moss; this would have the salutary effect of turning the Vikings back into, what's the word I'm looking for ... oh yeah, a "team." But if Moss is waived or traded all the delayed accounting would come due in 2003, a penalty of about $13.5 million, fully 20 percent of Minnesota's 2003 cap. Yet another Minnesota roster purge would follow, with multiple Vikings waived to create cap space to allow the Moss termination.

Enron, Global Crossing, Adelphia, WorldCom and others used accounting chicanery to make expenses disappear temporarily -- but when the numbers came home to roost, they did so with a vengeance. Now the Ravens and Vikings have done the same. Enjoy it while you can, Baltimore and Minnesota fans.

Standings note: Baltimore and Minnesota management mortgaged the future in order to field teams that are a combined 1-6. Yumpin' yiminy.

TMQ Insider Exclusive! Tuesday Morning Quarterback has learned on an exclusive basis that Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher has tested positive for strawberry Yoo Hoo. (Check the incredible history of Yoo Hoo here.) Remember, this is a Tuesday Morning Quarterback exclusive.

Obscure College Score of the Week: Muhlenberg 68, Franklin & Marshall 22. Well, of course, an entire team beat just two guys! Located in Lancaster, Pa. ("Cradle of Obscure Colleges"), Franklin & Marshall takes itself super-ultra-seriously with a 14,280-word declaration of Student Rights and Obligations. The entire United States Constitution is 4,615 words. The Preamble of the United States Constitution is 52 words and includes such ringing phrases as, "We the people of the United States ..." The Preamble of the Franklin & Marshall statement of Student Rights and Obligations is 147 words and includes such ringing phrases as "Academic freedom depends for its vitality upon appropriate conditions ..."

The incredible Franklin & Marshall 14,280-word declaration of Student Rights and Obligations contains such clauses as "At any event where alcohol is to be consumed by more than 50 participants, a professionally licensed bartender must be hired at the expense of the sponsoring group" and "posting and chalking on our campus are not rights; they are privileges open only to members of the community." When the Framers were writing the Constitution, they forget to include rules about chalking sidewalks and circumstances requiring a professionally licensed bartender. No such oversight at Franklin & Marshall.

Bonus Obscure Score: Doane 17, Dana 7. Well, of course an entire team beat one guy or, possibly, one woman. Located in Crete, Neb., Doane "is the only college or university in Nebraska, and one of a select few in the nation, to offer a four-year guarantee. The college guarantees that its students will graduate within four years, or Doane will pay for additional course expenses." Doane offers a master's in management degree "designed for the nontraditional student" in which writing the master's thesis is optional. How nontraditional.

TMQ Obscure College Game of the Year Ramp-Up: It was California of Pennsylvania 51, Cheyney State 7, and Indiana of Pennsylvania 43, Millersville 16, as the two mini-giants stayed on the winning track in their ramp-up to the incredible Tuesday Morning Quarterback Obscure College Game of the Year -- California of Pennsylvania at Indiana of Pennsylvania on Oct. 19. Get your hotel reservations now!

Obscure College Tyco-Class Business Deal: Tiny Division 1-AA Wofford College, enrollment 1,100, received $225,000 for agreeing to be clobbered by the University of Maryland on Saturday. As previous TMQs have pointed out, Florida A&M got $418,000 for agreeing to be clobbered by the University of Miami, and Northwestern State was paid $400,000 for allowing itself to be pounded by the University of Georgia. Down in sleepy Spartanburg, South Carolina, where Wofford plays its home games at a high-school stadium, they must not know prices have risen.

Wofford serious factoid: Wofford graduates 85 percent of its football athletes, whereas the University of Maryland graduates 45 percent. Except for the one-in-a-thousand student who advances to the pros, college athletes who get a scholarship and then don't graduate are blowing the opportunity of a lifetime. Not that University of Maryland minds using 'em up and spitting 'em out. Its NCAA championship basketball program posts a shameful 19 percent graduation rate -- which the NCAA, one of Western civilization's most hypocritical organizations, cares not the slightest about.

Wofford fun factoid: the school has about 600 male students, of whom 86 are on the football team. Fifteen percent of a college's men on the football team! If this were true at the University of Michigan, the football squad would have 1,841 members.

New York Times Final-Score Score: 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 0-580 since TMQ began tracking.

Joke Left at the Altar: Here is the script used by the Columbia marching band during the Columbia-Fordham game; Catholic Church officials and many attending the game have called the script insulting. If you want to know what was said, scan for "altar boy" -- TMQ won't reproduce the joke, because it was in bad taste. Priests forcing themselves on underage boys caused genuine trauma to the victims; it's a dicey thing to jest about, and the Columbia band joke just did not work. (Priests having consensual sex with adults, on the other hand, might be hypocritical, but is nobody's business but that of the parties and God; splashy headlines about priest sex with consenting adults is media sensationalism.)

TMQ does sympathize with the script's undergrad author, who refused to apologize on the grounds that the Catholic Church was to blame for this problem, not him. The Church should be relentlessly criticized for its systematic cover-up of abusive priests. Catholic officials who responded to the Columbia marching band episode with statements that boil down to "How dare they criticize us" still don't get it, do they?

The band itself, which rivals Stanford and a few others for jokey behavior, posts its wares here. TMQ likes the Columbia Marching Band motto: "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the Band."

Headline TMQ actually saw, over a story about a poll showing American Catholics were not satisfied by their bishops' new sex-abuse policy: CATHOLICS SAY SEX POLICY DOES NOT GO FAR ENOUGH.

Reader Animadversion: I received so many responses to the Gore-Bush recount item that I cannot do them justice in summary. Suffice to say that overall, Gore supporters accused me of being pro-Bush and Bush supporters accused me of being pro-Gore.

Many, many readers objected to TMQ's statement that the Broncos have the best record "above 6,000 feet." They pointed out that Please Don't Buy From Invesco Field -- TMQ cannot abide the commercial ruination of that magnificent name Mile High Stadium -- rests slightly below the 6,000-foot plateau. Two Denver fans phrased their points in haiku, the second having been received prior to the Monday night Baltimore-Broncos tilt:

Mile High Stadium
only fifty-two eighty.
So's Invesco Field.
-- Kevin Downing

Rocky Mountain men
playing so far over heads,
seems like six thousand.
-- Jeff Kiesling

Just as TMQ feared, female readers sent earnest, carefully reasoned appeals for the column to feature some beefcake along with the cheesecake, such as beefcake shots of the Ravens' male cheerleaders. Mary of San Jose phrased her appeal in haiku -- and I'm trying to work up to it, Mary.

Buff male cheerleaders,
it is only September.
Take off your shirts please.
-- Mary of San Jose

Apropos TMQ's item on Rose Hulman Institute of Technology, Tom Moran of Richmond, Va., who grew up in Rose Hulman's home of Terre Haute, issued a warning in haiku, adding, "trust me:"

Used to work at Rose
cafeteria; don't eat
the salad bar cheese!
-- Tom Moran

Lisa Smith of Monclair, Va., offered this incredible haiku triptych on the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons:

Persons' defense says
Lewis' schemes "too complex."
Tackles aren't basic?

Three men watch McNabb
trot by for six -- the Persons'
all-pro linebackers.

Dan Snyder may be
an annoying jackass, but
so was Jack Kent Cooke.
-- Lisa Smith

You are cold, Lisa, cold. Hope you don't own a Kalashnikov.

Got a comment, a haiku or a deeply felt grievance? Offer it here.

TMQ Challenge: Last week's Challenge -- delayed by techno-glitches -- was to take a football phrase or cliché, run it through the Babelfish automated translator into another language, translate it back into English to see if fun results.

P.J. Knight of Lewisville, Texas, translated "We have to give 110 percent all the time" into Korean and back and got, "We all hours only one hundred things and gave 10 percent to do, Oh! it does." Oddly, TMQ can hear Jim Mora hollering that.

Brian Bleck of Albuquerque translated "the tight end blocked the charging free safety but the quarterback was flushed from the pocket where he threw the ball away" into Portuguese and back and got, "The pressed extremity obstructed the free security guard loading but quarterback was leveled of the pocket where the moved away sphere played." Another reason not to trust computers!

Matt McFerrin of Mill Valley, Calif., translated "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" into Chinese and back and got "Tuesday Morning four minute health." Read TMQ, the Confucian way to health.

Tom Schneider of Dayton, Ohio, translated "use the run to set up the pass" into German and back and got "use the run in order to set up the run." How did Babelfish know the San Diego game plan?

The winner of the TMQ Challenge is Patrick Stonelake of Chicago. He took the famed movie version of the "win one for the Gipper" speech, translated it into Japanese and back.

The original:

"Rock, sometime, when the team is up against it -- and the breaks are beating the boys -- tell them to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock, but I'll know about it -- and I'll be happy."

The Babelfish version:

"With victory for the Gipper in order, all things which one are obtained exactly to go out there the team it confronts that, it is broken, the eye when having struck in those which say the boy, the stone, once upon a time. I the stone do not know somewhere then it is but, you know concerning that, it is happy."

If that wouldn't motivate the team, what would?

This week's Challenge is to propose an NFL player who reminds you of a Shakespeare character, and give some clever reason why. Submit entries here and be sure to include your e-mail address in the unlikely event your submission is chosen. The best might receive some dubious ESPN trinket, but as always, the final decision will be completely arbitrary.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 5:04 PM

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September 24, 2002

Losing is alien to Rams, Steelers

POST #    520

Losing is alien to Rams, Steelers
By Gregg Easterbrook
Special to Page 2

The Carolina Panthers, who last season set an all-time record for consecutive losses with 15, today are an awesome, unstoppable, undefeated juggernaut. Meanwhile, the Rams and Steelers, Super Bowl picks of most touts, have lost all their games and stand a combined 0-7 stretching back to the end of last season's playoffs.

The Steelers have forgotten how to tackle. The Rams have forgotten how to block. (Note to the Rams O-line after watching the Monday night game -- the trick is to stand in front of the guy you are blocking. Do not step out of his way and watch him go by! Try to get in front of him. It's a technique thing.) Alien-in-human-form "Kurt Warner" is reverting to human. Kordell Stewart is reverting to Kordell Stewart.

Maybe this is just the football gods having some fun with us mortals. Or maybe ... it's a conspiracy. TMQ called in two experts on the latter. Here is a wire-tapped transcript of their commentary:

Agent Mulder: Strange lights were observed above the Metrodome while the Panthers were beating the Vikings. And that Metrodome -- tell me it doesn't look like an alien mother ship.

Agent Scully: Don't jump to conclusions.

Agent Mulder: Four interceptions by Kurt Warner, or maybe I should say, "Kurt Warner." We already know he arrived aboard a starcruiser. From unknown to NFL MVP in a single year -- I've never bought that Arena League cover story. But now it seems he has been replaced by a different alien, one who can't play football, maybe from another planet trying to oust the first aliens.

Kurt Warner
Alien phenom Kurt Warner has reverted to human form.
Agent Scully: The DNA tests on Kurt Warner are incomplete. It may just be an evolutionary jump that his cells have 205 chromosomes.

Agent Mulder: Do you believe the Steelers are missing all those tackles by accident? Certain Mayan ruins contain prophecy glyphs depicting missed tackles just before a cataclysm envelopes the Earth. The figures in the glyphs are labeled with words that translate as "men of steel." I'd take you there and show you, but access to the ruins has been mysteriously sealed off by elite commando units.

Agent Scully: You're being too hasty. Maybe the Rams' plodding, robotic behavior has nothing to do with the slimy symbiot organisms found in their locker room. If only the slimy symbiots hadn't mysteriously disappeared just as I arrived with the containment team! This might explain Mike Martz, though.

Agent Mulder: Carolina beats Detroit by 24 points. The next week Detroit takes the mighty Green Bay Packers down to the final seconds. Coincidence? An unusual metallic alloy dye was found in the arm tattoos of Panthers players. The origin of this dye might not be of this world.

Agent Scully: I've been kidnapped by aliens, killed and brought back to life, impregnated with extraterrestrial tissue in a secret government project aboard a cloaked battleship that later exploded, suspended in protoplasm found at a starship crash site, attacked by invincible genetically engineered super-soldiers and infected with a million-year-old disease designed to turn humans into zombies. But I don't believe any of your wild speculation!

Agent Mulder: Crop circles, Scully. Mel Gibson found crop circles. And there are cornfields near the Panthers' training camp.

Agent Scully: Mel Gibson found those crop circles in a movie!

Mel Gibson
Mel Gibson's crop circles might explain the Panthers' amazing turnaround.
Agent Mulder: I know. That's what scares me.

In other NFL news, it's bad enough that the "Sunday Ticket" package -- which allows viewers to decide for themselves what they want to see rather than exist under the boots of the bad choices of local network affiliates -- is restricted by the NFL to the small percentage of American homes with the satellite service DirecTV. This conspiracy (alternatively, this restraint of trade) to deny viewers choice regarding games played in publicly financed stadiums and broadcast over public spectrums will be the subject of a coming, extended TMQ assault.

For the moment, what drives TMQ nuts is when a local affiliate chooses a game that turns into a sleep-inducing blowout and then doesn't switch to a better game. This Sunday in the 1 p.m. slot, the CBS affiliates in Baltimore and Washington chose the Miami-Jets game, while the Fox affiliates in these cities chose the Dallas-Philadelphia tilt. Neither involved home teams, for which local affiliates always show the compete game. CBS stayed with every tedious fourth-quarter snap of the 30-3 Marine Mammals-Jersey/B blowout, rather than switch to the exciting New England-Kansas City game, to which CBS had the rights, and which was going down to the wire with a huge underdog poised to upset the Super Bowl champs. Fox stayed with every tedious fourth-quarter snap of the 44-13 Eagles-'Boys blowout, rather than switch to the exciting New Orleans-Chicago game, to which Fox had the rights, and which was going down to the wire in the only contest of the day matching two undefeated teams.

Ye gods.

On the relationship front, memo to Keyshawn Johnson -- if we ever have a fight, when we make up, you don't have to kiss me, OK?

Best Yard Trailing by seven, the Chiefs had the ball on the Pats' 1-yard line with three seconds remaining. It's do or die. Did Kansas City go pass-wacky? Priest Holmes straight up the middle for the touchdown that forced overtime. Somebody can still run the ball for a yard.

Best Non-Blitz Trailing by six, the Bears had first down at the New Orleans' 18 with 10 seconds to play and no timeouts. NFL defensive coordinators big-blitz in long-yardage situations so predictably that Chicago quarterback Jim Miller seemed shocked when the Saints rushed only three, dropping eight against four receivers. Miller forced the ball into coverage for the game ending INT.

Best Ruse Trailing by a touchdown with a little more than two minutes to play and lining up for a kickoff, the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.0) decided to onside. They scrunched eight gentlemen to the right of the kicker and two left; the Flaming Thumbtacks responded with nine gentlemen in front of the scrunch bunch and a return man deep in case the Browns kicked away. That left just one Titan to stand across from the two Browns on the left; that's where the onside went, and with two against one, Cleveland recovered as 10 other Tennessee players stood far away, watching.

Oronde Gadsden
Oronde Gadsden not only made a great one-handed catch, he prevented an interception.
Wow! of the Week Oronde Gadsden of the Dolphins not only extended his entire body for a seemingly impossible flying one-handed catch, he prevented an interception, as the pass was traveling directly toward a waiting Jets defender. Note that the low-paid Gadsden went all-out to prevent an interception, while the extremely highly overpaid Randy Moss makes no attempt whatsoever to do this. (See below.)

Best Play by an Ivy League Graduate Against the Arizona (caution: may contain football-like substance) Cardinals, San Diego zone-blitzed on second-and-8; Jake Plummer threw the ball directly into the hands of Bolts DE Marcellus Wiley. The former Columbia halfback returned the pick 40 yards, setting up his team's first touchdown.

A defensive lineman dropping into coverage is the little-known part three of the zone blitz. Part one is LBs or DBs coming; part two is the remaining DBs in a soft zone, to avoid giving up a long gain; part three is a DE retreating to the left or right short-curl area. Most teams respond to blitzing by throwing a quick slant or short curl; when the DBs are in a soft zone, these patterns are effective. But if a defensive lineman drops into one of the short curl areas, this creates uncertainty in the QB's mind about whether he can safely zing a quick slant.

And if the QB zings one without looking -- as Plummer did -- the lineman might snag an interception. The same thing happened in the Rams-Bucs Monday night game. Zone blitz by Tampa, which usually doesn't zone blitz. Bucs DE Simeon Rice drops into coverage; "Kurt Warner" thinks he can safely zing a quick slant into the short curl area; Rice is there; "Warner" never sees him; the ball goes directly to Rice for the interception.

Fun question: How many former college running backs have played defensive line in the NFL?

Best Blocks When receiver Terrell Owens' trick-play pass attempt was disrupted against the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons, Owens took off running, and his Niners teammates provided some of the best broken field blocks TMQ has ever seen. Sportscasters praised Owens for "athleticism" (is that a disease?) on his twisting run. They should have praised the quick thinking and hustle of his teammates.

Best Use of TMQ Tuesday Morning Quarterback has been emphasizing 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 or third down after a run has been stuffed and the defense is thinking pass. Leading by seven, Green Bay had first-and-goal against Detroit. Play-fake, touchdown pass. Leading by five with two minutes left, Denver faced first-and-goal against Buffalo. Play-fake, touchdown pass. Trailing by one, City of Tampa had first-and-goal at the St. Louis' 9. Play-fake, touchdown pass. Leading by 10, Miami had first-and-goal against the Jets. Play-fake, touchdown pass.

Contrapositive proves the rule: On the ensuing position against Miami, Jersey/B play-faked on second and goal after a run had been stuffed. Incomplete, the drive ending with a figgie.

Best Big BlitzTrailing by eight, Arizona faced fourth-and-goal on the San Diego 9 with 1:44 left. The Bolts sent six, and Plummer's hurried pass clanged to the ground incomplete. TMQ mentions this to acknowledge that big blitzing does sometimes work. But, see anti-blitzing item below.

Worst by a Jersey Gentleman No. 1 In his preseason preview, TMQ warned that "this year the blocking will be ugly" for the Jets because Jersey/B let go of starting OLs in its quest to free up cap space for the defensive players coach Herman Edwards wanted to stockpile. Now the Jets are last in the league in rushing at a pitiful 54.3 yards per game: If only their blocking would rise to the level of ugly! In a scoreless first quarter, Jersey/B faced third-and-3 against Miami. A Marine Mammals defender blew past Jets RT Kareem McKenzie -- McKenzie barely even brushed him -- for the sack. Jersey/B let last year's starting RT, the fine Ryan Young, go in the Houston expansion draft, on the grounds that McKenzie could handle the job and was cheaper.

Worst by a Jersey Gentleman No. 2 On the next Jets possession, Jersey/B faced third-and-3 again. A Marine Mammals defender blew past Jets guard J.P. Machado -- Machado barely even brushed him -- to drop Curtis Martin for a loss. Jersey/B let last year's starter in this position, the fine Kerry Jenkins, go to the Tampa as a free agent, on the grounds that Machado could handle the job and was cheaper.

Worst by a Jersey Gentleman No. 3 A Marine Mammals defender blew past Jets LT Jason Fabini -- Fabini barely even brushed him -- to clobber Vinnie Testaverde for a fumble that led to a Miami touchdown. During the offseason, Jersey/B released other starters partly to free sal cap space for a $7 million bonus for Fabini.

Vinny Testaverde
Vinny Testaverde's offensive line seems to have forgotten the simple "technique" of blocking.
Worst by a Jersey Gentleman "Protected" by Jersey Gentlemen Dolphins 10, Jets 0 in the second quarter; Miami blitzed, the Jets OL watched. (Hint to Jets OLs: Try to stand in front of the man you're supposed to block. It's a technique thing.) A man in his face, Testaverde forced a short pass into traffic for the INT. His intended receiver, Wayne Chrebet, was covered by three Marine Mammals.

Worst Prehensile AppendagesTrailing by six with 30 seconds left, Detroit reached the Green Bay 35 in the debut game at Ford Field. Joey Harrington hit TE Mikhael Ricks in stride with a beauty pass at the goal line for the win. Storybook ending -- magnificent new field, heralded new quarterback, huge comeback victory! Ricks dropped the ball as if it were a CIA anthrax sample. On the next snap the Lions called exactly the same play, which is sometimes a smart move. But Ricks wasn't open and Harrington forced it into coverage for the game-ending INT.

Fun factoid: when Bobby Beathard was at San Diego and annually trading away his first-round draft pick, he traded a No. 1 for the chance to draft Ricks in the second round. Ricks lasted just two seasons before being waived.

Randy Moss
Randy Moss hasn't put out the effort to match his mammoth contract.
Worst By a Legend in His Own Mind Randy Moss opened the season declaring that Minnesota "would have a ring now" if only the offense were based solely and exclusively on him. Timid rookie Vikes coach Mike Tice caved and drew up an offense based solely on Moss. Sunday, Moss rose to the challenge with four catches for 16 yards. On one play, he pulled up his pattern for no apparent reason and watched passively as the ball sailed to the Carolina safety for an interception. On another, he ran the wrong route, then, when the ball zinged by him, instead of knocking it down to prevent the INT -- as a receiver, if you can't get the catch your job is to make sure no one else does -- he weirdly tapped it up into the air as if to be sure to keep it alive for the Panthers interception that followed. Daunte Culpepper came off and screamed at Moss on the sideline. TMQ's question was: Why wasn't the timid Tice ("Timid Tice," that might catch on) screaming at Moss? Or sending him to the showers?

Stats of the Week The Bengals, Jets and Texans were outscored by a combined 83-9. In their last two outings, the Jets have been outscored 74-10.

Stats No. 2 Tampa linebacker Derrick Brooks has more touchdowns than the entire Baltimore Ravens team.

Stats No. 3 Marty Schottenheimer is on an 11-3 run, during which he has been fired.

Stats No. 4 Both New Jersey teams failed to record a touchdown.

Stats No. 5 Drew Bledsoe is on pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,424 yards. And if he doesn't, Tom Brady is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,189 yards. (The season record, held by Dan Marino, is 5,084 yards.)

Stats No. 6 Denver is now 175-56-1 at home in the last quarter-century, best home record in the league. Also, the best record above 6,000 feet.

Stats No. 7 The Giants needed a last-minute field goal to beat the Seahawks despite a 206-yard edge in offense, no turnovers and holding Seattle to seven first downs.

Stats No. 8 On a night when he threw four interceptions and his rating was a cover-your-eyes 48.5, "Kurt Warner" passed the 1,500-career attempts mark, the qualifying level, and became the No. 1 rated NFL passer of all time at 100.2. Steve Young had been first all-time at 96.8.

Ravens cheerleader
Don't be surprised if you see Tracey cruising Baltimore in a red BMW.
Cheerleader of the Week: Ravens fans had no game to watch, and the way Baltimore is playing, are better off looking at the cheerleaders anyway. Thus this week's TMQ Page 2 Cheerleader of the Week is Tracey S. of the Ravens' cheer squad. According to her team bio, Tracey has appeared in several television commercials and currently works as a financial advisor for Legg Mason, a brokerage firm that, in a refreshing change of pace, has not been accused of deliberately defrauding investors.

Tracey drives a red BMW convertible. Hot babe in a red convertible! TMQ did not know such things were possible in Baltimore. Her favorite song is Louis Armstrong's version of "Wonderful World" by George Weiss and Bob Thiele, which creates an excuse to quote its wonderful lyrics, including,

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
You know they're gonna learn
a lot more than I'll never know.
And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

Baltimore is one of the few professional sports franchises with both female and male cheerleaders; chiseled ultra-hunks join buff mega-babes on the Ravens' sideline. This causes TMQ to fear that female readers will submit earnest, carefully reasoned arguments that the column feature some chiseled ultra-hunk as Cheerleader of the Week. Ha! I suppose next you'll tell me that a male cheerleader could become president of the United States.

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! Trailing 17-9, New England had first-and-goal at the Kansas City. The Chiefs big-blitzed six gentlemen, including a safety. Touchdown pass to Troy Brown, who zipped straight to the spot the safety vacated.

Score now tied at 17-17, New England faced third-and-10. The Chiefs big-blitzed six gentlemen, including a cornerback. Thirty-eight-yard completion to Troy Brown, who zipped straight to the spot the CB vacated. New England touchdown and the lead on the next snap.

New England now ahead 31-17, the Chiefs faced third-and-10 on the Patriots 15. New England big-blitzed six; touchdown to Kansas City WR Eddie Kennison.

Now it's overtime, New England faces second-and-10 on the Kansas City 44. The Chiefs big-blitzed six; 22-yard completion to David Patten, and the defending champs are in position for the winning field goal.

Want examples from a different game? St. Louis 7, City of Tampa 3, Bucs facing third-and-9. The Mouflons blitz six; completion to Keyshawn for the first down. Later on the same possession, the Bucs faced third-and-3. Straight defense, no blitz, incompletion. Yes, blitzes sometimes work, but as often they create first downs and touchdowns by thinning the defense. Predictably, NFL defensive coordinators big-blitz on long yardage downs. Not only do offenses expect this and plan for it, but since the average NFL passing attempt yields 5.9 yards, the percentages say that if you hang back and play coverage, you are likely to get a stop. Big-blitzing on long yardage downs is what the offense wants the defense to do.

By the Hammer of Grabthar, He Was Avenged! Obsessed with running up the score -- memo to Steve: There is no USA Today/ESPN poll in the NFL -- coach Steve Spurrier of the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons threw a deep pass on fourth-and-1 when leading by 24 points in the final quarter of the Persons-Niners preseason game. After the contest, Spurrier boasted of the Persons' high score; Niners coach Steve Mariucci fumed over Spurrier's poor sportsmanship. Sunday, the Persons and Niners met in a real game. San Francisco won, holding Spurrier's charges to 10 points.

Fun 'n Gun factoid: The Spurrier offense has recorded a total of one touchdown in its last two outings. Through those games, the entire Spurrier offense has been outscored by Tampa linebacker Derrick Brooks.

It Was That or Punt Trailing San Diego 28-0 on opening day, Cincinnati coach Dick LeBeau sent in the field-goal unit, more concerned with not being shut out than taking a chance to win. Memo to Dick: There is no USA Today/ESPN poll in the NFL. Sunday night, trailing Atlanta 20-0 and ball on the Falcons' 7 on the last play of the first half, LeBeau sent in the field-goal unit, more concerned with not being shut out than taking a chance to win.

Bengals Pregame Pep Talk: A Bedtime Story In his preseason predictions, Chris Berman called Cincinnati his "sleeper" team. Perhaps he meant to say, "coma" team. The winless Bengals have been outscored 84-16. Inexplicably, as they were going glub-glub-glub by a count of 30-3 on Sunday night, Joe Theismann declared that the Bengals "are close" to being a playoff contender.

He Who Does Not Learn From Game Film Is Doomed to Repeat It Trailing Seattle by six in the closing seconds of the first half, facing fourth-and-goal at the Hawks 1, Jersey/A ran and lost four yards. It was the third consecutive week the Giants had lost yardage on a critical fourth-and-1 or third-and-1 run. Each time the defense was in such an extreme overstack, an audible to a play fake would have been attractive.

Lamar Smith
Lamar Smith is leading the way for the unbeaten Panthers juggernaut.
Spurrier-Like Moment Leading by seven, the awesome, unstoppable Carolina Panthers juggernaut had fourth-and-5 on the Minnesota 19 with eight seconds remaining in the game. The Vikes were out of timeouts; if Carolina ran to try for the first down or simply knelt down, Minnesota would get the ball back with at most a couple seconds remaining. A punt would have accomplished nothing, going into the end zone and costing Carolina a yard. So awesome, unstoppable Panthers coach John Fox called timeout -- with eight seconds left and a clock-killer situation! -- to send his field-goal unit in. The football gods, offended, pushed the try wide left.

The Fallacy of Early Stats Tuesday Morning Quarterback pays scant heed to NFL statistics until one month of the season has passed, and suggests you do likewise.

Two or three games is simply not enough for statistics to show general tendencies. When you're averaging across just two or three events, small variations can have big effects, while there aren't enough data for quirks to "wash out." Going into last weekend, for instance, sportscasters and touts were making much of the unusually high number of pass attempts through the first two weeks, while raving over unexpected quirks such as Buffalo leading the league in passing and Denver leading the league in run defense. But it had only been two games. Pass attempts are likely to return to their recent average (TMQ will check at season's end) while if Buffalo leads the league in passing and Denver leads in run defense by Week 17, TMQ will eat an ESPN bobblehead.

Sominex Presents the NFL Game of the Week Giants 9, Seahawks 6.

Swimsuit-Based Dilemma of the Week. Boston College was driving late in the first half of what then looked like a shocker against No. 1 rated Miami -- just as the swimsuit competition started over at the Miss America pageant. Which to watch?

Jennifer Adcock
TMQ was distracted from the BC-Miami game by Jennifer Adcock, winner of the Miss America swimsuit competition.
TMQ has always loved the phrase "swimsuit competition." The suits themselves never do anything; how, exactly, are the suits competing? TMQ wishes the pageant would be more straightforward and call it the "T&A competition." Actually the official name is now the "lifestyle and fitness in swimsuit competition." To generate a fiction that the point is not gawking at scantily clad babes, each appearance now includes a segment showing the contestant jogging or pumping iron and talking about her workout.

TMQ was highly impressed by Miss America victor Erika Harold of Illinois -- gorgeous, admitted to Harvard Law School, melting-pot descent, and she did one fine job belting out Bizet. (Two consecutive winners singing opera for the talent portion, aspirants please take note.) But as you might guess, TMQ's heart belonged to the swimsuit winner, Jennifer Adcock of Mississippi.

Note that the host in Atlantic City was constantly described by the unseen voiceover not as Wayne Brady but as "the fabulous Wayne Brady." TMQ got the distinct impression his contract specified the adjectival phrase "the fabulous" had to precede his name. Or maybe he now styles himself as The Fabulous Wayne Brady, like that guy Cedric The Entertainer.

Note also that the Miss America organization calls itself "the world's leading provider of scholarships for young women," a claim TMQ finds difficult to believe -- wouldn't every individual college and university, even Indiana of Pennsylvania, provide more scholarships each year to its female students than the Miss America outfit gives winners?

Miss America boasts of being a "$40 million scholarship organization," but by its own accounting granted only 84 scholarships in 2001, which surely is fewer than given to female students by hundreds of colleges and universities. Doesn't this make the Miss America organization's central claim about itself a, um, what's the word I'm looking for, oh yeah -- a lie?

Michael Vick
Michael Vick is helping Atlanta fans rediscover pro football.
Worst Play by Fans Atlanta was leading 3-0 before a rare sellout crowd in its first nationally televised home game in a blue moon. On third-and-10 in Bengals territory, Michael Vick had nothing and so threw a short checkdown to FB Bob Christian, who positioned the ball for a field-goal attempt. As Vick trotted off, the home crowd lustily booed him. One non-spectacular play and they boo! There are many, many worse things a quarterback can do than throw a safety valve pass when in field-goal range. Atlanta residents come to NFL game so rarely, they might not know this.

Babe Reporter Cop-Out of the Week USA Today babe reporter Olivia Barker tried out for the Miss America pageant as a publicity stunt. That's her official job title, "babe reporter" -- see this feature from last winter where Barker wandered around Peoria, Ill., dressed in revealing "Sex and the City"-style clothes to determine if men would stare at her breasts and came to the remarkable conclusion that they would! In Barker's account of her Miss America experiences, she casually noted, "Because it's such a small part of the total score, I opt out of swimsuit." Copped out you mean!

Even Arli$$ Understands This! Vikings first-round pick Bryant McKinnie continues to hold out, which has already contributed to two Minnesota Ls. The third-string gentleman who filled in for McKinnie against Buffalo used the lookout blocking technique -- turn to your quarterback and yell "look out!" -- allowing among other things a blindside sack on Mr. Culpepper that resulted in a fumble and a Bills recovery for a touchdown. Sunday, the Vikes OL surrendered five sacks to the underwhelming Panthers front seven.

But if McKinnie thinks he's shafting the Vikings, the primary shaftee is him. Rookies who engage in lengthy holdouts always have bad first years. More importantly, they reduce their long-term earnings potential. A wiped-out first season results in bad vibes carried over into the sophomore campaign, and pretty soon instead of hearing talk about the monster contract you will sign once becoming a free agent after the fourth year, you're hearing the word "bust." Think of Akili Smith, who held out until a few days before the season opener in his rookie year and has never recovered from it. Smith ended up with slightly more cash when he finally signed his first contract, but now he'll never get the big payday of the free-agent deal, and in a couple years will be lucky to be covering punts for the Edmonton Eskimos. There are other examples of NFL rookies who shafted themselves out of big paydays down the road by holding out for ego reasons or for relatively small increments in their first year.

That rookie NFL players reduce their long-term earnings potential by holding out ought to be an economic reality against which agents warn them -- considering that in law, anyone who has an "agency relationship" to you is obligated to place your interests first. Responsible agents advise clients not to hold out; prospects are much better off accepting 90 percent of what they asked and getting to work on the big payday that follows becoming a top player. Irresponsible agents, on the other hand, want to max out the first deal to take their slice of the maximum pie today, and couldn't care less what becomes of the player down the road. McKinnie's agents are Jim Steiner and Ben Dogra. You make the call on which category they fall into.

McKinnie fun factoid: Vikings OL Matt Birk was criticized over the summer for calling McKinnie and urging him to get his butt into camp, no doubt making the long-view career points TMQ makes here. Birk did violate the unwritten rule that players should not get embroiled in each other's contract disputes. But Birk, at least, was acting in McKinnie's interest. If only his agents would!

Steve Spurrier
After getting a vote of confidence from Daniel Snyder, Steve Spurrier has every reason to be worried.
Kiss of Death "I have complete confidence in our coaching staff." -- Owner/Menace to Western Civilization Dan Snyder following the Persons' defeat in San Francisco. Four years Snyder has been in control: four head coaches, four defensive coordinators. Sleep well, Steve Spurrier and Marvin Lewis.

Magazine We Hope Never to See: "Rosie O'Donnell's Tongue" Rosie O'Donnell walked on her deal with Rosie magazine, which TMQ believes should have been called Rosie O'Donnell's Rosie Magazine Featuring Rosie O'Donnell. O'Donnell declared that she was "tired of acting nice all the time" -- what a burden! -- and had editorial disagreements with the owners. She did not specify the latter, but TMQ suspects the dispute had to do with her conviction that the phrase "Rosie O'Donnell" was not appearing in the magazine frequently enough, such as at least twice per sentence.

Last year TMQ his ownself heard O'Donnell give a speech to the American Society of Magazine Editors, and can report that her text consisted of the words "Rosie," "O'Donnell" and "Rosie O'Donnell," interspersed by the pronouns "me" and "I." But now that Tina Brown's Talk has folded and Rosie has left Rosie O'Donnell's Rosie Magazine Featuring Rosie O'Donnell, imagine what will happen if the eponym leaves the new magazine Gene Simmons' Tongue. Here's the cover of the premiere issue, featuring a tongue much more alluring than that belonging to Gene Simmons. TMQ has not been able to find Gene Simmons' Tongue on the newsstand, though is reassured by Simmons' statement, "We may not in fact have very much profound content. We will certainly not pretend we do, in any case."

The statement further explains that the "content, such as it is" of the premiere issue is highlighted by "five indistinguishable Playboy centerfolds sticking their tongues out" and that the Kiss founder's aim is to "turn his comic-book machismo into a lifestyle brand." See Hugh Hefner coaching indistinguishable Playboy centerfolds on how to stick their tongues out here.

This Week's Star Trek Complaint The "Enterprise" season opener sure was a dud. Last season ended on a cliffhanger note of Archer stranded 900 years in the future with the Earth in ruins and the time travel equipment destroyed. How was he supposed to get out of that one? "Hey, I've just realized I can modify my communicator to send messages backward in time!" Brief tinkering with Archer's radio enables it to communicate across time -- though in the episode of "Star Trek Voyager," a series set 200 years after Archer, in which Harry and Chakotay must alter time to save "Voyager," we're told that communication across time is phenomenally difficult, and Harry and Chakotay have access to much more advanced equipment. Obviously, what Harry and Chakotay needed was a 200-year-old communicator!

Not only does a moment of tinkering with a pocket radio enable Archer to send a message back 900 years through time, he can also hear what people are saying in reply, though the people in the past have no time-communication devices. In order for my radio to call your radio ... you've got to have a radio! Ye gods. A principle of science fiction is "within the premise," meaning you agree to suspend disbelief so long as the show or book is true to its own premise. The "Star Trek" reality had not previously enfolded magic into its premise. This episode was solved by Harry Potter waving his wand.

And Vulcans are supposed to have no emotions. So how come whenever we see the Vulcan ambassador to Earth, he's furious at humans and shouting?

Reader Haiku of the Week A reader screen-named "Fefj Enrrom" haikuizes, apropos of TMQ his ownself,

Your words soar into
the thousands, yet I read on.
Soon, soon, cheesecake links
-- Fefj Enrrom

Want to submit a haiku? Use the button at "Reader Animadversion."

Hidden Indicator Philadelphia has kicked a field goal on the final play of the first half in three successive games. 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 Slippery Rock 45, Fairmont State 0. Yes, Slippery Rock is a real place, located in the real town of Slippery Rock, Pa. ("Cradle of Obscure Colleges"), a classic college town north of Pittsburgh, of which the classic-looking Slippery Rock campus is the centerpiece.

If you wanted to attend college at a place with a campus that looks like a movie set in a town that looks like a college-town movie set, you'd be happy in Slippery Rock. Buy your official Slippery Rock mesh shorts here. And check the commercially run adjacent-to-campus housing, which sounds nicer than most apartments that grownups live in. Though the company does warn that student tenants will be charged for deliberate damage "such as an electrical outlet pulled from the wall." Kids at Slippery Rock pull electrical outlets out of the wall? Do their parents know?

Bonus Obscure Score Wheaton of Illinois 49, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 0. Located in Terre Haute, Ind., Rose-Hulman is one of the nation's top engineering schools, and boasts that its grads earn starting salaries that average $54,000 -- though not, apparently, as professional athletes. Campus groups include the realism-obsessed Rose-Hulman Model Railroad Club. Lunch on the day this column comes out is beef ravioli, corn dog or vegetable burrito; dinner is "blazing redfish." But check out the incredible menu of burgers, pizza, deli sandwiches, salads, fajitas and omelets available as alternatives, plus the baked goods and sides. When TMQ was in college, if you didn't want the mystery meat, your alternative was mystery meat. Rose-Hulman appears to offer students the experience of spending four years at a free restaurant.

TMQ Obscure College Game of the Year Ramp-Up It was Indiana of Pennsylvania 42, New Haven 6, and California of Pennsylvania 24, West Virginia Wesleyan 17 as the two mini-giants stayed on the winning track in their ramp-up to the incredible Tuesday Morning Quarterback Obscure College Game of the Year -- Indiana of Pennsylvania at California of Pennsylvania on October 19. Get your tickets now!

Bonus College Financial Factoid Hapless Northwestern State was paid $400,000 for allowing itself to be pounded 45-7 by powerhouse Georgia. As a previous TMQ pointed out, Florida A&M received $418,000 for agreeing to be clobbered by the University of Miami (Fla.). Must be the going rate for a big school beating up on a small school this year.

New York Times Final-Score Score. The Paper of Guesses went 0-14 in its quixotic attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 0-566 since TMQ began tracking.

They were in a cold sweat down on West 43rd Street on Sunday at 4:10 p.m. PT, as the Times had predicted a final of Niners 23, Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons 10, and there it was -- Niners 20, Persons 10, with San Francisco having the ball on the Persons' 16 and two minutes left. All the Niners had to do was hoist a figgie -- if positions were reversed, Steve Spurrier surely would have run up the score -- and the New York Times would finally have succeeded in its quixotic years-long quest to predict an exact final score. Plus, TMQ would have had to shut up about this!

But Steve Mariucci, a good sport, ordered his charges to kneel and the game ended 20-10. Terrell Owens, not a good sport, after the game denounced his own coach for not running up the score.

Reader Animadversion: Many, many readers objected to TMQ saying that the old Captain Kirk episodes described Mr. Spock as the "first Vulcan to explore space." As Rick Pettit of Rutland, Vt., among many, noted, the Captain Kirk episodes called Spock the first Vulcan to become a Starfleet officer. "Spock's father Sarek was ambassador to the Federation, and his great aunt T'Pau served on the Federation Commission of Worlds," Pettit notes. TMQ should know better than to match wits with Trekkers!" But I stand by my statement that in the Captain Kirk episodes, "Vulcans are depicted as an insular, technologically modest people," while in the new serial "Enterprise," a prequel that happens decades before Kirk, the Vulcans are a major spacefaring power whose enormous starcruisers course the galaxy.

A week ago many readers objected to TMQ's statement that the Bush vs. Gore legal contest was "over in the first quarter because the Florida Supreme Court fumbled the United States Constitution." Craig Heckman of Simsbury, Conn., countered that the United States Supreme Court "should have been called for illegal procedure and unsportsmanlike conduct" since the Court's conservative majority says it advocates states' right, yet the Bush v. Gore lawsuit ended when the Supremes refused to let Florida complete its third recount.

TMQ carries no brief for the Supremes' final decision on the 2000 election. The United States Supreme Court should have let Florida proceed to the bitter end on grounds of the very federalism that, Heckman rightly points out, the Supremes advocate on other matters. Technically, the Court's game-ending whistle was an injunction, and injunctions are justified to prevent "irreparable" harm. Nothing would have been "irreparable" about letting the final zany, wacky, "midnight recount" imposed by the Florida Supreme Court proceed.

We now know from the media-run Recount of the Recount of the Recount that George W. Bush almost certainly would have won the final recount anyway, and then the United States Supreme Court would have needed take no action. If Gore had won the third recount, the Supremes could have debated whether to reverse the outcome. In either case, letting the zany, wacky third recount proceed would have been wiser, and there's no doubt the United States Supreme Court's action to stop the third recount was politically motivated.

But also there's no doubt the Florida Supreme Court was politically motivated. Bush wins the original tally, then wins the mechanized recount. The Florida Supreme Court, as brazenly pro-Gore as the Washington court was brazenly pro-Bush, steps in and imposes a hand recount whose terms openly defy the Electoral Count Act of 1877, which Congress passed after the Hayes-Tilden election specifically with this situation -- disputed slate in one state that can determine the national outcome -- in mind. Bush then wins the hand recount, making him 3-for-3. Meanwhile, United States Supreme Court issues its first ruling, saying the Florida judges don't seem to understand the Electoral Count Act and ordering the Sunshine State court to explain its reasoning. The Florida judges refuse! Given a direct order by the United States Supreme Court, the Florida Supreme Court repudiates the United States Supreme Court, since the Florida judges know they can't give any coherent explanation of their first set of orders.

TMQ has always thought the Florida court's snub of the Supreme Court (Florida judges issued an explanation only many weeks later, when the dispute was over and no one cared) was the overlooked momentum-changer in the whole recount mess. How could anyone with a One L understanding of the Constitution think a state court could simply refuse to answer a direct instruction from the United States Supreme Court? Rebuffing a direct instruction from the United States Supreme Court made several Supremes think the Florida Supreme Court was a bunch of buffoons. Sandra O'Connor, prominently, swung to the end-the-recounts position when she concluded that the Florida Supreme Court was under the control of buffoons.

Al Gore
Al Gore was destined to be picked off in the 2000 presidential election -- no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court did.
Then the Florida Supreme Court imposed its wacky, zany "midnight recount" plan, whose distinguishing feature was that it compelled different vote-validating standards for different counties, based on guesses about what would favor Gore. In so doing, the Florida court violated the due-process clause of the 14th Amendment. One tenet of due process is that any particular level of government must treat everyone the same. Thus, different counties in Florida could enact different vote-counting standards, so long as within any given county -- within the level of government -- all standards were the same for everyone. Thus, Illinois might have one standard for chads and Texas a different standard, as was the case in 2000, so long as everyone within each state was treated the same. But the state of Florida could not mandate that some counties use one counting standard and other counties use another -- that would constitute one level of government (in this case the state of Florida through its Supreme Court) not treating all citizens the same. When the Florida Supreme Court imposed different recount standards for different counties, it generated a due-process violation. A relatively small one, to be sure, but this Constitutional violation practically begged the United States Supreme Court to step in.

And though the Supremes should have let the zany, wacky final recount proceed, was any real harm done by their stepping in? We know from the Recount of the Recount of the Recount that Bush was the true winner in about three-quarters of the vote-validating scenarios. Bush would have been the winner in all political scenarios. Had Gore prevailed in the final midnight recount, there would have been two slates of electors from Florida (one for Gore chosen by the Florida court, one for Bush chosen by the Florida legislature) and either the United States Supreme Court would have had to sort it out anyway or the issue would have gone to Congress where the House (pro Bush) and Senate (pro Gore) would have split. That under the Electoral Count Act would have left the final decision to the governor of the state where the dispute arose -- namely, Jeb Bush.

Once he failed to win any of the first three tallies, Al Gore was fated to spend 2001 in Europe growing a beard; there just wasn't a scenario where he prevailed. Is it so bad that nine unaccountable old people in robes took the heat for ending this mess sooner rather than later? One shudders to think how bad vote-buying by both sides would have been, had the election been thrown into Congress.

By the way, the worst thing about the Florida recount follies was that they diverted attention from the fact that Gore won the popular vote. Bush was the true winner in electoral terms, but Gore was the choice of the people, which is what ought to matter. Had the election ended without the ridiculousness of the recounts, the focus would have been on revising the Electoral College to prevent the second-place finisher from ever coming out on top again.

Got a comment about TMQ, or a deeply felt grievance? Submit it here.

TMQ Challenge Owing to a computer glitch, last week's entrants were electronically misplaced. They've been found but not in time to read them. So watch this space next Tuesday for last week's result.

Posted by tien mao in TMQ at 4:45 PM

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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 ESPN.com 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, www.jaguars.com, 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 Zap2It.com. 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 {www.agb.org}, 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

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September 10, 2002

Dumb, dumber ... and Dwayne Rudd

POST #    497

Dumb, dumber ... and Dwayne Rudd
By Gregg Easterbrook
Special to Page 2


What an opening weekend. The Saints-Bucs finish! The Falcons-Packers finish! The Jets-Bills finish! The Chiefs-Browns finish! The Vikings-Bears finish! Tuesday Morning Quarterback hasn't seen so many back-and-forth, down-to-the-wire, anybody's-game finishes since Bush vs. Gore. I mean the election, of course. The lawsuit was over in the