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Matt Leinart remains the sole important unsigned draft choice, and Matt, no matter how long you hold out, it's not going to change -- you were drafted only 10th. But yours truly continues to scratch his head about the slide of Matt Leinart to the 10th selection in the draft. Methinks a number of teams will someday rue, really rue, their failure to write this gentleman's name on an index card.
Houston, at the first pick, made a commitment to David Carr, and Carr has played reasonably well, without complaint, for awful teams. New Orleans, with the second choice, had lots of good reasons to select Reggie Bush. Choosing third, Tennessee believed Vince Young will be better than Leinart. Choosing fourth, Jersey/B had a draft plan that included landing a good quarterback prospect (Kellen Clemens) in the second round. So yours truly sees logic in the decisions of the first four teams to pass on Leinart.
But the next five teams -- Ye gods. Green Bay, San Francisco, Oakland, Buffalo and Detroit, all with serious quarterback issues, neglected Leinart. Sure, the Packers used a No. 1 choice on Aaron Rodgers the year prior. But that was then, this is now! For throwing ability, command of the field and swagger, Leinart is the most Brett-Favre-like prospect to enter the league in a decade. Sure the Squared Sevens used the prior year's first overall choice on Alex Smith. But that was then, this is now, why does last year's error mandate another error this year? Oakland ignored Leinart despite its underwhelming troika of Aaron Brooks, Marques Tuiasosopo and Andrew Walter at quarterback. Brooks had six years to prove himself as starter for the Saints, and in that time New Orleans rivaled the Lions as the least-feared team in the NFL. Buffalo ignored Leinart despite its underwhelming troika of Kelly Holcomb, J.P. Losman and Craig Nall at quarterback. Yes, the Bills two years ago sunk first- and second-round choices into Losman, but that was then, this is now! Buffalo has been searching for a field leader since Jim Kelly retired, and the swaggering Leinart appears the most Kelly-like prospect in a decade. Finally Detroit ignored Leinart. The Lions were reeling from not long ago using the third overall choice on a quarterback they ran out of town on a rail, Joey Harrington. But why does a previous mistake mandate another mistake?
Sure, nobody knows who will be good in the pros, and sure, Leinart's amazing 37-2 collegiate record came with a stacked team. But Green Bay, San Francisco, Oakland, Buffalo and Detroit have bad-to-awful situations at quarterback, the sport's most important position. All just passed on drafting one of the best quarterback prospects in a decade. Buffalo and Oakland passed on Leinart to draft safeties. Memo to the Bills and Raiders: Quarterback is more important than safety. I've got five bucks that says Leinart will be performing in Honolulu in February in the not too distant future, while at least one of the guys inexplicably taken instead of him (A.J. Hawk, Vernon Davis, Michael Huff, Donte Whitner and Ernie Sims) will be a huge disappointment. Great Caesar's Ghost!
|Have a question, comment or rant for Gregg Easterbrook? E-mail him at TMQ_ESPN@yahoo.com.|
In other football news, increasingly Roger Goodell appears likely to be the next commissioner of the National Football League. He is a fine candidate -- though I have some sympathy for a second contender, the tastefully named Gregg Levy. See below for discussion of a previous Goodell who was also a fine candidate: Roger's father Charles, one of the most admirable people ever to stand in the well of the United States Senate, and one of the heroes of my youth.
In other news, you gotta be a football hero to get along with the beautiful girls. Everyone wants to be the quarterback; every quarterback wants to throw a touchdown pass. Who recently became the man who has thrown more touchdown passes than anyone in pro football history? See below.
And in other news, I'm back and I'm bad! Well, at least I'm back. Tuesday Morning Quarterback has resumed for the 2006 season. Here, my annual kickoff column of offseason highlights and lowlights.
Analysts Blamed High Costs: The magazine Budget Living went out of business.
When Did You Say the Iowa Caucuses Are? Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, campaigning for presidential nominations, both used the phase "cellulosic ethanol" in speeches in the same week.
Look Honey, H&R Block Says We Get a $32 Million Refund: Tax preparation firm H&R Block admitted making $32 million worth of errors in its favor on its own corporate tax returns.
England Imitates a Cartoon: An actual were-rabbit terrorized gardeners in the English village of Felton until a car struck and killed the ravenous two-foot-long creature.
Offseason Football-Like Substance No. 1: In Arena League play, the New York Dragons defeated the Utah Blaze 84-81 in the second-highest-scoring game in professional football history. The teams combined for 24 touchdowns, 778 passing yards and nine rushing yards. (The highest-scoring pro football game, played in 2001, saw the Dragons defeat the Carolina Cougars 99-68.) In playoff action, the Georgia Force defeated the Dragons 72-69; the Dragons had 387 yards passing and one yard rushing. In the Arena League championship, the Chicago Rush defeated the Orlando Predators 69-61 in a game that featured a 52-point second quarter. Here are the Adrenaline Rush Dancers of the Arena League champions.
On the season, quarterback Clint Dolezel of the Dallas Desperadoes led the Arena League with 105 touchdown passes, one less than the 106 touchdown passes Peyton Manning has thrown in the last three NFL seasons combined. Andy Kelly of the Utah Blaze completed his 768th career touchdown pass, surpassing Aaron Garcia to become pro football's all-time leader in touchdown throws. (The NFL record for career touchdown passes is 420, held by Dan Marino; Warren Moon threw 435 touchdown passes in the NFL and CFL combined.) Dane Krager of the Austin Wranglers led the Arena League in rushing with 197 yards.
Offseason Football-Like Substance No. 2: Over in arenafootball2 -- the Arena League's little brother cannot afford capital letters -- the Manchester Wolves beat the Florida Firecats 79-62 in a game that featured 21 touchdowns and nine missed PAT attempts. The Tulsa Talons beat the Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings 72-3, as the Battle Wings kicked a short field goal in the closing minutes to deny Tulsa the shutout. Here are the Talons' cheerleaders, who can't seriously be from Oklahoma -- they must fly them in.
Offseason Football-Like Substance No. 3: Hundreds of vibrating football enthusiasts crowded the Embassy Suites Hotel in Hunt Valley, Md., for the 12th Super Bowl of Electric Football, or SB/EF XII. The enthusiasts were not, themselves, vibrating -- in most cases. After numerous qualifying heats, Keith Chambers of Washington, D.C., bested defending champion Norbert Revels of Hamtramck, Mich., to take home the prestigious Miggle Trophy. Tuesday Morning Quarterback continues to delight in the revival of vibrating football from the 1960s. Miggle Toys of Chicago not only will sell you a 1960s-style vibrating playing field, it offers players in the home and away jerseys of every NFL team plus most major college teams, plus sideline accessories (miniature 10-yard chains, for instance), night-game equipment, miniature scowling coaches, miniature angry owners and miniature cheerleaders that are quite scantily attired by the standards of toys. You've got to love a small, independently owned American company that does nothing but make toys. Vibrating soccer is coming from Miggle this fall -- maybe it will sweep France and Italy.
Debbie Weinberg of Baltimore refereed SB/EF XII. Female officials are a cutting-edge trend in prep football, and Weinberg was one of the pioneers, certified as a Maryland high-school football official in 1984. Debbie, we'd love to have you call a game at my kids' high school in Maryland! Whether a woman ever will play in the NFL seems problematic -- football is a strength sport, and men start with a huge inherent advantage. But strength is not a factor in officiating. Good judgment, calm nerves, knowledge, reflexes and of course eyesight are the essential qualities, and there is no inherent difference between men and women in any of these categories. The two reasons female officials have not been common yet are prejudice and lack of experience on the part of female candidates. But prejudice against women in zebra stripes is slowly ending, while the girls-sports craze is now drawing many women into officiating, granting them the necessary experience. Tuesday Morning Quarterback thinks it is strictly a matter of time until female officials become common in NCAA football and then, inevitably, in the NFL.
Stop Me Before I Score Again! And maybe female officials will throw flags for unsportsmanlike conduct when coaches run up the score. Annually, Tuesday Morning Quarterback rails against running up the score. Recently the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference took action on this problem: Any high-school football coach whose team wins by more than 50 points will be disqualified from coaching the next game. (Coaches can appeal if the score that surpasses the 50-point margin comes on a turnover, not a called play.) "Legislated sportsmanship," protested reader Mike Cornaro of Milford, N.H., in a representative comment from TMQ readers. But a team ahead by 50 points ought to be kneeling on the ball, regardless of the time remaining; anything else is simply bad sportsmanship. Continuing to run up the score, regardless of whether your third string is on the field, shows lack of character on the part of the coach.
The Connecticut rule came in response to a coach named Jack Cochran, of New London High School, who relentlessly runs up the score. In 2005, New London High won games by margins of 90-0, 77-6, 60-0 and 69-14; in the 60-0 victory, Cochran called a timeout just before halftime, hoping to add points. New London didn't even finish undefeated -- it distinguished itself mainly by beating up overmatched opponents. Cochran told the Hartford Courant the state's new mercy rule is "protectionism of those that can't compete." So Jack, the strong should beat up the weak? That's some value system you have. At the high-school level, mercy rules are important because school-size and program-quality mismatches can lead to games that are never contested in any meaningful sense. That 90-0 win -- there was nothing glorious about it. The victor, not the vanquished, should have been embarrassed.
At the NFL level, opponents are professionals and can look after themselves: If the Seahawks run up the score on the Rams, there's little reason to care. But in all forms of scholastic competition, where learning is the ostensible purpose of the games, coaches should be teaching sportsmanship -- a valuable life lesson. Running up the score, in contrast, is bully behavior, while the desire to destroy lesser opponents is a sign of poor character. Coaches who practice bad sportsmanship and teach bully behavior aren't doing their schools or their athletes any favors. Poor character might be OK at New London High of Connecticut, but it's good to know that it is not OK with the rest of the state's high-school sports advocates.
Another Reason Computers Can Be Trusted: Yours truly subscribes to Norton Internet Security. When I tried to download a software update from Norton, a Norton Internet Security warning box popped up and asked, "Always block connections from this vendor?" Norton then said it "recommended" I block Norton.
The Thieves Also Offered to Sell the Secret Formula for Vault Soft Drink for 50 Cents: Two years ago one of TMQ's favorite offseason stories was that a federal court found the Lionel company guilty of industrial espionage -- for stealing the plans for toy trains. I envisioned a dead drop at which a code-named operative handed over a microdot containing the schematics of a new toy locomotive with realistic steam. This offseason, FBI agents in Atlanta arrested three men who claimed to be industrial spies offering to sell the secret formula for Coke. The men were asking for $1.5 million for the formula. My favorite detail is that as part of the sting, FBI agents, pretending to be Pepsi executives, gave the men $30,000 "packed in a Girl Scout cookie box," according to the Associated Press.
Offseason Mega-Babe News: The 2006 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue was believed to have been the highest-selling magazine edition in world history. A year ago yours truly noted of the SI swimsuit franchise, "Apparently the modern thong bikini covers way too much," since an ever-higher percentage of beach babes are shown with their tops off and hands strategically placed, or with straps untied or thumbs hooked into suit bottoms, suggesting imminent complete undress. In 2005, two of the swimsuit issue's three cover models had their bikini tops untied, while of 44 inside photos, 26 women had their tops off with hands strategically placed, or were shown with straps undone, or wore only body paint or see-through tops. This year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit number upped the ante substantially. There were eight mega-babes on the cover and none had tops on, all with hands strategically placed. Of 123 inside photos, 63 women had tops off, straps undone, wore only body paint or see-through tops, and one wore only pieces of jewelry.
Last year yours truly further noted that backpacker's bible Outside magazine, which once featured cover photos of Coleman stoves, had gone cheesecake with one cover of a bikini babe snorkeling in Hawaii and another of a sultry woman rock climbing naked. This year was the female readers' revenge, as Outside went beefcake with a cover image of the elaborately shaved chest of surfer champ Bruce Irons. Meanwhile Vanity Fair ran a cover story on Teri Hatcher, for which the mag produced two different covers -- one that showed Hatcher nearly naked and another in which she was distressingly overdressed. TMQ wonders: What metric was used to decide which cover to ship to which stores?
The National Academy of Sťances Debunked the Report: In the draft of a New York Times op-ed article, yours truly referred to a report by the National Climactic Data Center. Umm, it's the National Climatic Data Center. A National Climactic Data Center would study -- well, you figure it out, and I'd certainly like to meet the interns.
Doug, We Definitely Knew Ye: Doug Flutie retired without having quarterbacked an NFL playoff win. Yet he played 12 years in the NFL and threw 86 touchdown passes, and there are many first-round, 6-foot-plus quarterbacks who wish they could say the same. Was there a conspiracy against Flutie because of his height? Yours truly thinks Flutie got plenty of chances with the Bears, Patriots, Bills and Chargers. The only time he was a consistent winner, at Buffalo, fans and management loved him -- so much for the conspiracy theory. By the time Flutie was benched at the end of the Bills' 1999 season, he had no arm strength left to throw down the middle; safeties were up on passing downs because they knew Flutie could not throw the post. Maybe if he'd landed in a different place to start his career, Flutie would have been a Super Bowl quarterback. But think of the list of first-round, 6-foot-plus quarterbacks whose careers might have gone a little better if they'd started in a different place. Most guys in that category, we can't even remember their names. Flutie's panache and his 1998 Flutie Magic year always will be remembered.
Note: The week that Flutie said he would announce, and then postponed, his decision whether to retire was also the deadline week for senior citizens to sign up for the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. Surely these two facts are not unrelated!
In Praise of Charles Goodell: Many knaves and rapscallions have gone to the United States Senate to bask in its glory. Occasionally it is the man who gives glory to the Senate, and Charles Goodell, father of Roger Goodell, was such an exceptional figure.
Charles Goodell was born in 1926 in Jamestown, New York, a small town in the pastoral Southern Tier of New York: people forget that New York State is mainly rural. Beautiful and isolated from the din of the world, Jamestown represented the sort of Brigadoon where a person could still live the small-town American ideal. The most important location near Jamestown is the Chautauqua Institution, a lyceum begun in 1873 as a place intellectuals and artists would retreat for the summer to give lectures and perform, sometimes for huge audiences. Chautauqua stood for the Greek dream of knowledge rather than materialism as the goal of life. That the Chautauqua Institution still exists and still draws thousands each summer to a remote rural lake simply to learn is a wonderful thing -- one of the wonderful things about our country that you never hear about owing to the media taboo against positive news. As a boy growing up in Buffalo in the 1950s and '60s, I was thrilled when I first visited Chautauqua; doubly thrilled last summer when Chautauqua asked me to lecture. (Please, Chautauqua, ask me back; I want to experience the porch of Wensley House, the lakefront lodge where speakers and performers stay and mingle, once again.) These points about Jamestown and its proximity to Chautauqua help position Charles Goodell in cosmic terms. He grew up in a place that represented America at its best, and the lesson was not lost on him.
Charles Goodell served in the Navy during World War II, then finished college, then graduated from Yale Law School in 1951. Rather than start a law career, he enlisted to serve in the Air Force during the Korean War. Afterward Goodell returned to Jamestown and practiced as a small-town storefront lawyer. In 1959 he ran as a Republican for Congress, and won the local seat in the House of Representatives. There he stayed until 1968, becoming known as a conscientious legislator. Among other things, Goodell joined Gerald Ford and a young congressman named Donald Rumsfeld in a bid to make the very conservative Ford the leader of congressional Republicans. In 1968, Robert F. Kennedy was murdered by a man who feared the goodness RFK embodied. New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, a Republican, appointed Goodell to complete Kennedy's Senate term.
Charles Goodell spent only 18 months in the Senate, but used his time nobly. Shortly after arriving in the Senate he declared his opposition to the Vietnam War, becoming one of the first national figures to do so openly. Understanding that money is often at the heart of folly, Goodell introduced legislation to cut off funding for military operations in Vietnam.
Endlessly Goodell pointed out that Congress had never declared war on North Vietnam. This was one of the disgraces of American politics during the Vietnam era: not only does the Constitution vest the authority to make war solely with Congress, the rich and comfortable members of the House and Senate were willing to send young men off to die, but too politically timorous to go on record formally declaring hostilities. Whether one could be a conscientious objector to an unjust war, but support a just conflict such as World War II, was a much-discussed question of the Vietnam years; Goodell declared his support for selective objection. Goodell worked to help GIs who were jailed for speaking out against the war, and shamed the Justice Department into moving Rev. Philip Berrigan, a war protester, from the maximum security penitentiary in which he had absurdly been confined. Much of what Goodell did enraged his party. But since he had served his country in two wars, Goodell's opinions could not be dismissed. As a New York state boy keenly following the news of the day, Charles Goodell seemed to me a beacon of honor shining into the darkness -- a manifestation of decency and personal integrity, coupled to willingness to work within the system.
In 1970, Goodell stood for reelection. Many Senate elections fail to offer a single worthwhile candidate. This race offered three who were deserving: Goodell the Republican, a well-qualified Democrat named Richard Ottinger, and James Buckley, brother of the writer William Buckley. James Buckley ran on the Conservative ticket (New York state has both Liberal and Conservative ballot lines) and was backed by factions who were furious regarding Goodell's antiwar stance. This race was the first political cause in which I got involved, a 17-year-old boy spending my spare time in the summer and fall of 1970 distributing leaflets, cold-calling voters and putting up posters. The posters were a little deceptive. Many read, CHARLES GOODELL, 44 PIECES OF MAJOR LEGISLATION IN 18 MONTHS. The number of bills a legislator drops into the hopper is largely irrelevant; in theory a senator could propose a thousand pieces of legislation a day. But the posters captured Goodell's spirit. At a time when most members of the Senate were hiding behind their office doors and refusing to face the big questions of Vietnam, Goodell spoke his conscience, and did so knowing he'd be ostracized.
Goodell and the Democratic candidate split the progressive vote, handing the 1970 election to Buckley, who himself served well, though of course to very different ends. After losing the election, Goodell wrote a history titled "Political Prisoners in America," which examined the status of the political prisoner from the 18th century forward, and argued that democracies often use national security threats in order to stifle dissent. The book warns that not even America is safe from the suppression of legitimate dissent. After the book's publication Gerald Ford, by then President Ford, named Goodell chairman of a national commission to hear appeals for clemency from Vietnam draft resistors. Later Goodell returned to the practice of law and lived quietly in Washington until he died, young, in 1987. I can remember with perfect clarity knocking on doors in 1970, a 17-year-old boy trying to explain to adults why they should vote for this man. How I wish there was a Charles Goodell in American politics today.
Rosenhaus to TMQ: I Could Have Gotten You Free Tokens at ESPN Zone in Your Deal: "The quarterback, his family and a small contingent of trusted advisors this week narrowed the list of potential agents for the star quarterback to a select group of six. The unusually early process, begun in mid-May when the Quinn family interviewed 15 representatives, means that the Irish star can play his senior season with the knowledge he's already been through the toughest part of the often grueling and nettlesome recruiting routine." Thus Len Pasquarelli reported of Notre Dame's Brady Quinn. Wait a minute, it's "grueling" to choose an agent? You need a "contingent of trusted advisors" to help pick someone to work for you? This isn't the next Supreme Court nominee we're talking about. As the sports-yak universe goes 24-7-365, more attention is being paid to agents, because it provides something to talk about in the offseason. But the idea that sports agents are hugely important people is largely make-believe.
Assuming he picks any one of the couple dozen reputable NFL agents, it makes little difference whom Brady Quinn selects. Most terms of Quinn's rookie contract will be dictated by the league's "slotting" system for draft choices -- first slot gets $X, second slot gets $X-minus-1 and so on. There are a few hucksters who call themselves NFL agents mainly for self-promotion reasons, and have led gullible prospects astray. There are a few agents who have made spectacularly bad business judgments, such as Drew Rosenhaus advising Terrell Owens to hold his breath until he turned blue at Philadelphia. And there are a few agents, such as Leigh Steinberg, who have sterling reputations for long-term concern for their clients. But of the reputable agents, all will in any given situation negotiate approximately the same deal. The market, not the agent, determines how much a player is paid. Who's pushing the idea that sports agents are hugely important? Sports agents.
"Conway Is Here? Tell Him to Make Mine Two Scoops With Caramel," God Said: James Conway Sr., who in Philadelphia in 1956 co-founded Mister Softee, died at the age of 78 at his home in Ocean City, N.J.. The siren song of the approaching Mister Softee represents the melody of youth to millions of Americans. Unlike ice-cream trucks that merely sell prepackaged confections, Mister Softees make their own soft-serve on board and offer the full range of cones, sundaes and shakes. James Conway and his brother were believers in the conjunction of science and ice cream. Here, from the company Web site: "Mister Softee utilizes the latest automotive and equipment technologies to produce a complete ice cream stand on wheels. The customized truck body is made from rust-free aluminum and is powered by the new General Motors Vortec engine. The ice cream is delivered via a high efficiency Electro Freeze soft-serve machine and many of the other components are custom made specifically for Mister Softee." Vortec engine! High-efficiency Electro-Freeze! Imagine you could spend your life giving ice cream to children, and then die in Ocean City, an entire town devoted to the idea of strolling the boardwalk while eating salt-water taffy, cotton candy or soft-serve dipped in cherry.
"Thanks Beyonce, That Was Great, and Oh Look, We're Out of Time for Questions About Worker Health-Care Benefits": Beyonce performed at the Wal-Mart shareholders' meeting.
Free to Shoes: In the offseason, yours truly ordered a pair of shoes that included these specifications: "Injection-molded EVA foam midsole & Abzorb in both heel and forefoot for exceptional shock absorption & Fiberglass stability shank embedded into midsole & Graphite rollbar in heel, a biomechanically positioned piece of graphite in the midsole which maximizes rearfoot stability & Removable Abzorb insert, maximizes shock absorption and provides extra comfort & Tru-Trak rubber outsole." A shoe with a graphite rollbar? And if this shoe has a "stability shank," does that mean there is some danger the shoe will become unstable?
Invisible Man Poses for Photographers: In the offseason, some perfectly serious scientists predicted there could be invisibility fields based on materials that bend light. Light would be piped from the back of an object to the front, allowing the viewer to see what's behind the invisible person. James Bond had an invisible car in "Die Another Day": supposedly it worked by bending light. Bond drove the invisible car right up to the door of the super-villain's control center. OK, none of the guards and henchmen milling about could see the car. But why didn't they bump into it? Anyway, the invisibility device described in principle in the perfectly serious science article has a limit -- no one could see you, but you couldn't see out either.
Ken Lay Dies In Disgrace: Jeffrey Skilling and the late Kenneth Lay were found guilty, meaning nearly all the glorified shoplifters at the tops of Adelphia, Cendant, Enron, Qwest, Tyco and WorldCom are now either in jail for a long time or will be once their appeals are exhausted. Previously, CEOs caught stealing from stockholders lost their jobs but otherwise paid no price, plus got to keep what they stole. That's changed, and it's about time.
If men such as Lay and WorldCom's Bernard Ebbers hadn't been driven by greed, they could have lived their lives as respected figures, while still enjoying substantial riches. Greed made them want not just wealth but incredible wealth, and made them willing to break the law to get it. Psychoanalysis via television has limits, yet somehow you feel the convicted CEOs not only were persons of low character, but motivated by a desire to laugh at those from whom they were stealing. Lay, Ebbers and the rest wanted to believe they were such Big Men that no one could touch them; they could do as they pleased while mocking the little people who obey the law. Historically, most who think they can outsmart the world end up as the ones outsmarted, behind bars or otherwise laid low. Lay's death while awaiting sentencing does not exempt his memory from criticism: He will be remembered as a liar and a thief.
All commentators have denounced the Enron executives, but many have added another claim that isn't right: that the actions of Lay, Skilling and Andrew Fastow were doubly bad because they wiped out the stock gains of Enron workers. But if Enron was a snake-oil enterprise whose valuation was inflated by securities fraud, then Enron workers' stock gains were ill-gotten, too. When the company filed for bankruptcy in December 2001, "CBS Evening News" sympathetically interviewed an Enron secretary who declared that her $400,000 in retirement savings, all Enron stock, had been wiped out. When Lay and Skilling were convicted in May 2006, CNN sympathetically interviewed an Enron worker who declared that his $1 million in savings, all Enron stock, had been wiped out. But Enron was using fraud to boost its trading price, meaning workers' stock gains were obtained via deception, exactly as were executives' gains. The workers' stock gains did not come from out of the air, they came from the pockets of equity buyers -- including other average people and average people's pension funds. Of course, the Enron workers played no role in the company's lying, and so were not culpable. And Enron mistreated its workers by requiring them to invest all company-paid 401(k) contributions in the firm's stock, then limiting their ability to sell that stock. But the $1.3 billion in Enron shares that Enron workers lost during the bankruptcy was money the workers did not deserve. The media have never gotten this point straight.
Great Physician Dies: In May, Lee Jong-wook died at the age of 61. He passed away a few hours after suffering a stroke, then undergoing emergency surgery that failed to remove a blood clot from his brain. Who was Lee Jong-wook? One of the world's leading physicians -- an expert on tuberculosis pathology and, on the day of his death, director general of the World Health Organization. Where did he die? At Geneva University Hospital in Switzerland, one of top health care institutions of any nation. So the head of the World Health Organization died young after receiving the best possible care. Memento mori: in Latin, "Remember that you too will die." The knock on your life's door could come at any hour. If it comes today, will your heart be ready?
Everyone Likes a Nice Anti-France Item: California wines won the rematch of the Judgment of Paris. In 1976, Parisian wine snobs held a blind tasting of California and French wines. To the shock of French vintners the California wines won, and the event became known as the Judgment of Paris. (The title was a play on the mythological Judgment of Paris, at which the mortal man Paris was asked to judge which of three goddesses, Aphrodite, Athena or Hera, was most beautiful; needless to say Paris was screwed no matter how he answered.) After the 1976 event, the Old World wine establishment snickered that the reason for the outcome was the tasting featured young wines; American wines won't age, they said. Thirty years later in May 2006, a second Judgment of Paris was held, this time with the entrants confined to wines that already had been bottled by 1976. California trounced France again, aged Golden State wines impressing tasters more in blind tasting than aged French wines.
A 1971 Ridge Monte Bello cabernet sauvignon from the Santa Cruz mountains came in first. Within hours of the announcement, so far as I could determine from the Froogle shopping service, every available bottle of 1971 Ridge Monte Bello in the world had been sold, though a few bottles of the 1975 are still being offered at $160 each. On NPR, a South African vintner declared that the reason California keeps trouncing France is that Californian winemakers care about their customers while French winemakers hold their customers in contempt. That sounds right. Now how about a Judgment of Johannesburg, where South African and Australian wines get to take on the French? I think we know who'd win.
Robots, Cyborgs, Members of Congress -- What's the Difference? To hype its special "Countdown to Doomsday," Sci-Fi Channel sponsored a Washington symposium on Capitol Hill. As Libby Copeland reported in the Washington Post, at the symposium Sci-Fi Channel types warned that robots could take over the Earth, and showed video of giant marching machines enslaving humans on "Battlestar Galactica." Aside from confusing fiction with reality, which is a big enough problem in Washington as is, the creatures on "Battlestar Galactica" are not robots! They are cyborgs, living things containing metal. Robots are mere machines. If you're going to warn members of Congress about hypothetical future threats, at least get your hypothetical future threats right. (The running gag in the "Terminator" movies is that whenever someone refers to Arnold Schwarzenegger as a robot, he dryly corrects, "Cybernetic organism.") Here is yours truly's 2003 Wired magazine piece on possible Doomsday threats, in which I conclude that "a careless Brookhaven postdoc chopsticking Chinese takeout" is a lot more likely to destroy the Earth than robots.
A $54,000 Per Night Hotel Room Costs the Same as the U.S. Median Family Income for a Year: Ian O'Connor of USA Today recently praised golfer Phil Mickelson as generous to the poor, writing, "[Mickelson] pulls over to the curb, with no cameras or notebooks in sight, and hands hundred-dollar bills to homeless men." Hmmm -- if no one with a camera or notebook was present, how does USA Today know this happened? For its part the Wall Street Journal recently reported Mickelson paid $3.4 million for a nine-week penthouse timeshare at Saint Andrews Grand in Scotland, an ultra-lux condo overlooking the Old Course at Saint Andrews, frequent site of the British Open. The price works out to $54,000 per night, making this perhaps the most expensive hotel room in human history. Phil Mickelson -- do you really believe that in a world where the impoverished of Africa die for want of a dollar a day, you are justified in spending $54,000 per night to make yourself feel important?
Lesson: Don't Be Strongest: The strongest player at this year's NFL combine, Mike Kudla of Ohio State, who did 45 reps of 225 pounds, wasn't drafted. In 1999, Justin Ernest, a player from Eastern Kentucky, had the best combine strength performance ever, 51 reps of 225, and was not drafted. At the 2000 combine, Leif Larsen of UTEP did 45 reps of 225; he and Kudla are tied for second-strongest-ever. Larsen was drafted but never started a game and is now OOF, Out of Football.
Burger Watch: This winter the tastefully named Steve Easterbrook, head of McDonald's United Kingdom, unveiled the Bigger Big Mac, a supersized Big Mac now being sold in the British Isles and Germany. Easterbrook also said McDonald's U.K.'s four-year drive to promote salads, fruit and yogurt has failed, garnering less than 10 percent of sales, and that the company would go back to basics by promoting cheeseburgers and Quarter Pounders. Easterbrook told the Times of London, "It's time to be proud, to go out and say, 'We're a good burger company.'" But shouldn't the Quarter Pounder be marketed in Europe as the 0.113398093 Kilogramer? The D/QPC would be a 0.226796185 Kilogramer avec Fromage. Sandwich note: The chicken tikka toasted deli sandwich sold by McDonald's outlets in England is better than anything sold in any American McDonald's.
Burger Watch No. 2: Burger King began offering Stackers, cheeseburgers with no lettuce, tomato or even pickles -- just beef, cheese, bacon and mayo-based sauce. "A mountain of beef and cheese" is the company's Stackers tag line. Burger King claims that a Stackers Triple with three beef patties, six slices of bacon and three slices of cheese has 800 calories, or a third of an adult's daily recommended caloric intake in a single sandwich, the cola and fries being extra. TMQ finds this calculation hard to believe, since Burger King asserts that six slices of bacon contains just 80 calories. Consumer groups, please test the Stackers for actual calorie content.
Burger Watch No. 3: "The potential for drive-through fast food in China is huge," the Wall Street Journal quoted a McDonald's executive as saying. "We see the future of China based on cars, commuting and houses spreading out." The conspiracy theory is that Beijing is buying U.S. Treasury bills to undermine our society. Ha! We'll undermine theirs a lot faster with fast food and traffic gridlock.
Car Watch: Anna Kournikova, Eve Longoria, Lindsey Lohan, Stacy Keibler, Jenna Elfman and Electra were among celebrity women who posed with new cars in revealing evening gowns at General Motors' annual auto fashion event in Los Angeles. (The women were in the revealing gowns, not the cars.) Jamie Foxx and Derek Luke were the only men to model, and they were fully clothed. Studies suggest that almost half of all new-car purchase decisions are now made by women. Is this yet another area where Detroit is out of touch?
Low Point of My Offseason: At a trendy sandwich place in California, I actually said, "I'll have that on the eight-grain ciabatta asiago ficelle."
High Point of My Offseason: A ride in the cab of one of these, General Electric's Evolution, the world's most advanced diesel-electric locomotive. The locomotives represent a breakthrough in fuel efficiency and pollution reduction, the later important because trains traditionally have been exempt from environmental controls. The 4,400-horsepower Evolution uses five percent less fuel than other locomotives of the same power -- which means a lot since a typical locomotive burns 1,000 gallons of diesel per day -- and emits 40 percent less pollution. General Electric is at work on a hybrid locomotive that would achieve further reduction in emissions and fuel use. My notes:
• The Evolution cab has cupholders.
• This enormous 208-ton product of heavy manufacturing is not built in Mexico or Malaysia but Erie, Pa.
• The Evolution is selling like crazy in part because the George W. Bush administration imposed the first national emissions standards on locomotives; also on construction equipment, off-road vehicles, marine engines and other previously unregulated sources of diesel exhaust. Bush further required that diesel fuel itself be "reformulated" to reduce inherent pollution content. Did you know that President Bush ordered a major strengthening of clean-air law? Of course you didn't, since the mainstream media refuse to report this.
• Public-health studies have linked diesel exhaust to asthma. Given that a major federal initiative is now underway to reduce diesel emissions, future asthma rates should decline.
• China's national railroad has ordered 300 Evolutions, though they cost more than regular locomotives. This is an indicator China's government wants progress against air pollution.
• The Erie plant also built the special locomotives for the new Qinghai-Tibet Railroad, which has tracks at nearly 16,000 feet, making it the highest rail line in the world. The locomotives require extra equipment to operate in extreme cold and thin air, while the trains' passenger compartments have oxygen lines travelers wear at high altitude.
• On a recent visit to General Electric headquarters in Fairfield, Conn., yours truly found in the men's room a five-step set of instructions for washing one's hands. It was not a joke.
• General Electric has begun marketing to NFL clubs a package that includes stadium lighting and appliances, stadium security, stadium environmental services (wastewater treatment), team travel, team apparel and sports medicine. Please General Electric -- add play-calling services to this package!
High Point of My Offseason No. 2: Yours truly visited ESPN headquarters in Bristol, Conn., and stayed at the Bristol Clarion Hotel, which Clarion says is "ideally located off Interstate 84." Yes, it's nothing but glamour in the ESPN world. According to its Web site, the Clarion's features include "valet cleaning service." In case your valet is dirty? Visible from the Clarion is a strange structure that looks like a set for filming a Philip Josť Farmer "Riverworld" story -- a giant, narrow tower, perhaps 30 stories high, with no windows and no clear function. It turns out to be a test facility for the Otis Elevator company.
Offseason Mega-Babe News No. 2: Erica Chevillar, a history teacher at West Boca Raton High School in Florida, is a member of something called the U.S.A. National Bikini Team. She models under the name Erica Lee, and for thong-based reasons, we can link to her pictures but not show them. According to the Palm Beach Post, parents complained when they heard about Chevillar's swimsuit modeling. You'd think they would have cheered, as her presence surely insured boys' attendance and attentiveness in class.
Roxanne Roberts of the Washington Post reports that at Donald Trump's Miss USA pageant in Baltimore, the crowd booed when Miss Ohio finished fourth. Miss Ohio was a favorite owing to her Jennifer-Lopez-esque no-front evening gown. Roberts further reports that the pro-Ravens crowd booed judge Hines Ward. There's a lot of booing at beauty pageants? Here's the swimsuit photo of the winner, Miss Kentucky, Tara Conner, whose hobbies include rappelling. Check out Miss Arizona, Brenna Sakas, whose degree is in "human communication." What other kind of communication is there? Finally, Roberts reports that she asked Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, a candidate for governor of Maryland and known to have national aspirations, which contestant he liked. O'Malley said he liked Miss Ohio. Roberts quipped, "Playing to the national audience already!"
Pageants note:: There is now a Miss Galaxy. But, are other planets represented?
Beefcake note:: Asked to name the hottest man in America, seven percent of Page 2 readers voted for Sam Cassell.
Wacky Food of the Year: Esquire magazine's 2005 Restaurant of the Year, The Modern in New York City, offers roasted wild-boar chop with rutabaga choucroute, red currants and a potato terrine. The Modern also offers potato escargot g‚teau -- sweetened cake of potato and snail.
Added Fees Are to Revenue As ... : The College Board, which markets the SAT, announced that thousands of high school students received the wrong scores owing to what it called "technical problems in the scoring process" Technical problems in the scoring process -- sounds like the Cleveland Browns. Check this announcement from the College Board about its problems, cryptically headlined, "ADDITIONAL DETAIL ABOUT OCTOBER 2005 SAT SCORES." That bland, passive wording certainly would not score well on the new writing SAT. Wrong scores, the College Board explains, were "caused by humidity in combination with the light or incomplete marking of answer sheets." Huh -- "humidity in combination with the light?" That isn't even grammatical. It is not reassuring to know that the agency that sets itself up in judgment of the intellects of others issues incomprehensible statements that have not been copy-edited.
After botching the scores on more than 4,000 SATs, the College Board discretely informed parents that for an extra $100, they could purchase "score verification" . This product, sold by the College Board, is an insurance policy against blunders by the College Board. Expect upper-class and upper-middle parents to pay the extra $100, generating yet another way in which the SAT favors the well-off. TMQ does not object to testing, but does object that parents' income confers a substantial advantage in the college-entrance arms race, especially via the private coaching that the rich can afford and the poor cannot. Anyway, now as well-off parents pay an extra $100, the College Board will profit from its own screw-up. Which makes you wonder, can we even be sure it was a screw-up?
New question for the fall 2006 SAT:
Q. The College Board is to competent as:
A. Anthracite is to popcorn
B. Snowplow is to linoleum
C. Trigonometry is to reliquary
D. Placard is to iridescent
Kennewick Man Insisted on Talking Off the Record: Time Magazine ran a cover story headlined: EXCLUSIVE! THE UNTOLD STORY OF THE FIRST NORTH AMERICANS. The cover showed an artist's conception, based on a controversial set of human fossils found near the Columbia River, identified as "9,400-year-old Kennewick Man." Wait a minute, the magazine got an exclusive with someone who died 9,400 years ago?
TMQ Boss Key in the Works: CBS Sportsline included a boss key, which turned the screen into a spreadsheet, in its live Web broadcasts of the NCAA men's tournament.
Obviously this was done on the expectation that millions of people would watch March Madness on their screens at the office. But CBS is, itself, part of the huge multinational, Viacom. Was Viacom actually attempting to sabotage its competitors by decreasing their worker productivity during the tournament?
Arial Got the News Via Courier: As the typeface for its new Web site design, the New York Times chose Georgia -- abandoning the world's best-known typeface, Times New Roman. OK, Times New Roman originally was named for the Times of London. But still!
So This Priest, This Rabbi and Three Sitcom Writers Go Into a Bar ... : New York's Village Voice retracted an article when its author admitted he had fabricated an account of three sitcom writers meeting in a bar to try to pick up women. He had to fabricate this? It's impossible to stop sitcom writers from meeting in bars to try to pick up women.
Further Proof of the Decline of Western Civilization: More than 200 scouts, NFL reps, agents and journalists attended the USC pro day at which Reggie Bush jogged around in shorts. According to the Associated Press, more than 1,000 spectators attended Bush's pro day.
Further Proof of the Decline of Western Civilization No. 2: Dozens of journalists lined the steps of the Supreme Court building as former Playmate of the Year Anna Nicole Smith arrived to hear arguments on her probate claim. In a totally straightforward front-page article with vital public-policy implications, the Washington Post somberly reported Smith "was fully clothed" when she sat in the Court chambers.
I'd Like to Someday Be the Owner of the First House on the Moon, There Would Be No Neighbors and No Population Boom ... : The Wall Street Journal reported that St. Thomas, St. Croix and Barbados are "built out" -- every meter of beachfront property in use for hotels, resorts and luxo vacation homes. Builders are now assailing less-known Caribbean islands. About $7 million buys you a four-bedroom villa at the Viceroy, under development on unknown Anguilla. It looks serene. How long until there are noisy frat-boy parties next door?
But What Have You Done for Us Lately?: Guard Larry Allen, who has been to 10 Pro Bowls as a Cowboy and who started every game in 2005 for Dallas, was waived so that Dallas could avoid paying him a due bonus. In his typically charming way, 'Boys coach Bill Parcells did not make the traditional announcement praising a departed veteran. Allen was the last player on the Cowboys roster to have appeared in any of its 1990s Super Bowl wins. Started in the franchise's last Super Bowl victory? Played in 10 Pro Bowls? Hit the road!
Honey, the Garage Decorator Is Here: Last January yours truly did an item about garage refrigerators -- expensive new appliances that have heaters to warm the compressors that refrigerators use to make cold air, so the outdoor fridge will continue to consume energy to make cold air when normal refrigerators would shut down because, um, it's cold out. I further noted that manufacturers are now offering other fancy appurtenances for garages and asked, "How long until home buyers want a garage with faux-granite countertops?" The answer -- not long! Six weeks after my item, the New York Times ran a Page 1 story about how affluent suburbanites are spending $10,000 or more to tart up their garages, with "garage organizing one of the fastest growing segments of the home improvement market." Buyers want spotless floors, stainless steel appliances, fancy countertops and special cabinets.
While the flashy garage enters the cycle of consumption, kitchens continue to rival boats as America's leading money pits. Consider a delightful article in the winter New Atlantis, an important journal about the interaction of society and technology. In "Are We Worthy of Our Kitchens," Christine Rosen noted studies showing that the more Americans invest to acquire impressive renovated kitchens, the less time they actually spend in the kitchen cooking food. Fancy kitchens have become a status symbol that you boast about while eating out. The trendy Aga oven ($12,000 plus installation and floor strengthening) is maddeningly difficult to use for actual cooking, Rosen writes. Status-conferring Viking ovens cost thousands and yet don't seem to produce food as well as a regular Sears oven. And don't get me started on the high-status, low-practicality Sub-Zero refrigerator, which costs $6,000 and which Consumer Reports recently rated as significantly less reliable than an $800 Whirlpool.
American households with incomes of $70,000 and above now spend half their food budgets on meals purchased away from the home, according to Department of Labor statistics. Yet it's the very same group that is renovating kitchens with granite countertops, espresso makers and shiny doodads intended to create an illusion of high-end domesticity. As David Brooks noted in his seminal 2000 book on Baby Boomer pretensions, "Bobos in Paradise," today's tens of millions of well-off Americans might feel guilty about obvious displays of wealth, but think it egalitarian "to spend on parts of the house that would previously have been used by the servants."
Top Gun Fighter Wags Wings for Last Time: Each year TMQ tips his hat to whatever famous aircraft hears its final hurrah. The Navy's F-14 Tomcat variable-geometry fighter, futuristic when it debuted in 1973, was retired from active service in March. Here, the final two F-14 squadrons, the VF-31 Tomcatters and the VF-213 Blacklions, soar in formation above the Theodore Roosevelt before heading toward Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia as the Roosevelt ends a tour. (Often an aircraft carrier's complement flies back to land as soon as the ship draws within range of home port.) The F-14 was the star of the 1986 flick "Top Gun" -- none of the actors in that movie were as expressive as the airplane -- and first taxied onto the flight-line 33 years ago. To put that period of service into perspective, 33 years is the time that passed between the Sopwith Camel, the puttering one-man biplane of World War I, and the B-47 Stratojet, first jet bomber of the Cold War. But then the B-52s that continue to fly for the Air Force came off the assembly line in 1962, 44 years ago, and the plan is to operate them indefinitely. For years, Air Force leadership has been complaining that B-52s are older than the pilots who fly them; soon, they will be twice as old as the pilots who fly them. You would not drive a car that was twice as old as you, yet your nation routinely asks its air personnel to fly in aircraft built decades before they were born.
Speaking of Cold War bombers, one fascinating plane of that era has been forgotten: the 10-engine B-36. This gigantic plane was designed to ferry a single nuclear warhead from the United States to the former Soviet Union -- the early nuclear bombs were large and heavy. The first B-36 was completed in 1951. Some 385 B-36s were built, versus a total of 188 bombers in the entire Air Force today. By 1959, all B-36s except museum models had been decommissioned and scrapped. Nearly 400 huge aircraft built, flown and scrapped in less than a decade, at a time the defense budget was a fraction of today's! Nothing the United States has ever built and forgotten tops the B-36D version of the bomber. This lumbering aircraft carried an entire F-84 jet fighter in its bomb bay. The plan was that above the Soviet Union, the B-36D would release the fighter, which would protect the bomber from Soviet interceptors; then the fighter would fly back to mid-air retrieval in a net deployed by the bomber; the fighter pilot would climb back into the B-36D. Chalk up the B-36D as yet another piece of Cold War hardware we can all be glad was never used.
What's an item about the B-36D doing in this column? Remember, this is Tuesday Morning Quarterback. I don't have to have a reason.
You Cannot Answer "None of the Above": In the offseason, yours truly was called both a "big-deal writer" and a "uomo universale" by the Washington Post. Now, which of these statements is true?
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Write me at TMQ_ESPN@yahoo.com. Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I might quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise. Question for readers: Andy Kelly rules professional football. But if high school, college and the pros are taken into account, who has thrown the most touchdown passes?
Next Week: Clear the decks, prepare to dive -- Tuesday Morning Quarterback defends Dan Snyder! (Note: In World War II submarine movies, it always seems to me the diving horn is sounding, "Arugula! Arugula!")
In addition to writing Tuesday Morning Quarterback, Gregg Easterbrook is the author of "The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse," and other books. He is also a contributing editor for The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Monthly, and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. Sound off to Page 2 here or Gregg here.