By Gregg Easterbrook
Special to Page 2

Tuesday Morning Quarterback complained that the 191 nations recognized by the United Nations seemed like too many. Alicia Cameron of Grantham, Pa., responds, "Actually there are 193 countries. Two are not members of the United Nations -- Vatican City, which is a country, and the Republic of China, usually called Taiwan." Almost 200 nations! Of course, a lot of these are expansion countries that aren't making the playoffs anytime soon.

Noting the attractiveness of the Tulsa Talons' cheerleaders, yours truly quipped, "These women cannot seriously be from Oklahoma, they must fly them in." Many rose to defend the beauty, if not necessarily the honor, of Oklahoma women. Robert Stewart of Muskogee wrote, "Oklahoma has more than its fair share of beautiful women. Here, behold the current Miss America from Jenks, Oklahoma, Jennifer Berry." In her Platform Statement, Berry declares, "I have worked with thousands of Oklahoma students of every age." Thousands, and she's only 22! Chris Cotner reports there have been five Miss America winners from Oklahoma. Joy Kellun of Oklahoma City writes that the Tulsa-born director of the Talons' cheerleader squad has a postmodern name, Chance. TMQ adds that Chance, in her bio, lists her occupation as "cheerleader director, secretary and full-time student."

Jennifer Berry
Frank Mullen/WireImage
Yes, we are big fans of Ms. Berry.

Noting the new collective bargaining agreement creates a minimum each NFL team must spend on players, TMQ called this the "salary cap floor." Lyle Beidler of Denver responds, "There's a salary cap (the top limit), and a salary floor (the bottom limit), but I don't think you can have a cap floor (the top bottom limit)." I said the Yankees' current $194 million payroll was "the highest ever in team sports." Chris Ferris of Bellaire, Texas, was among many to counter that Chelsea, champion of the English Premier League last year, has a payroll of about $200 million.

This column made fun of the official NFL rulebook for containing a disclaimer saying that "illegal" in the context of sports rule did not mean a violation of law. Aaron Miller of Brigham Young University law school notes, "In a popular tort case, Hackbart v. Cincinnati Bengals, an NFL player successfully maintained a claim of battery committed during a 1973 game. The idea was that actions outside the scope of sport, in this case a blow to the back of the head, fall within tort law. If players sue other players, but for the rulebook disclaimer they might point to the rule term 'illegal' as evidence of a tort action. The case is a great read, full of gems like, 'Mr. Hackbart experienced pain and soreness to the extent that he was unable to play golf as he had planned on the day after the game.'"

NFL commissioner runner-up Mayo Shattuck is married, notes Michael Churchill of Southampton, England, to Ravens cheerleader Molly Shattuck, henceforth to this column the Amazing Molly Shattuck. Not only is she a graduate of TMQ's favorite obscure school, Indiana of Pennsylvania -- the Amazing Molly Shattuck is a 39-year-old mother of five. Gimme an M, gimme an O, gimme an M!

TMQ noted that one of this column's favorite players, receiver Ernest Wilford of the Jaguars, has a regrettable habit of treating the ball as if it were a live ferret. Karthik Subramanian of Greenville, S.C., wrote, "I am a Virginia Tech alum, and any Hokie can tell you Ernest Wilford is one to drop the ball. In 2001, [a] two-point conversion hits him in the hands, and to the horror of Lane Stadium he drops it. Miami won 26-24. Without that Hurricanes' victory there is no Miami-Ohio State national championship pairing, and the lore of Maurice Clarett is never born." Subramanian haikuizes:

    TMQ now sees
    What ev'ry Hokie doth know:
    Wilford drops the ball.

    -- Karthik Subramanian

Yesterday I said a Cover Zero defensive look was rare because it meant both safeties blitzing. Justin Menendez of Tallahassee, Fla., countered, "Cover Zero simply means zero safeties are playing the deep zone. Cover Zero is often straight man-to-man, i.e. FS on the TE and the SS on a back." Also. when two linebackers blitz, it may be Cover Zero because each of the safeties must be short to pick up whatever receiver a linebacker would have covered.

Yesterday I wrote, "A player would have to carry the ball out of the arena, hail a cab, show his passport and board an airplane bound for Sweden to get called for 'traveling' in today's NBA." Joakim Andersson of Linköping, Sweden, offers this analysis: "Assuming that the player in question would choose a direct flight to Stockholm, there are few departures to choose to start with -- 4-6 daily, from 4 cities. Those 4 cities have five NBA teams within reasonable cab distance: Boston, Chicago, New Jersey, New York and Philadelphia. But since most NBA games start late and most flights leave in the afternoon, this leaves us with a very low probability.

Swedish flag
Do you have a headache thinking about Sweden now too?

"Cross-referencing the 5 teams and their home-game start times with the flight schedules, there are only 7 possible games this coming season from which a player could take the ball and fly directly to Sweden: Sunday 5 November Miami @ Philadelphia 2:00pm, player can make US Airways US1726 leaving at 5:55pm; Monday 15 January San Antonio @ Chicago 1:00pm, player can make Scandinavian SK946 leaving at 4:25pm; Monday 15 January Sacramento @ New York 1:00pm, player can make Scandinavian SK904 leaving at 5:55pm; Same day Toronto @ Philadelphia 2:00pm, player can make US Airways US1726 leaving at 5:55pm; Same day Indiana @ New Jersey 3:30pm, player can make Scandinavian SK904 leaving at 5:55pm (perhaps bumping into player from the Kings-Knicks game); Sunday 4 February Atlanta @ New Jersey 12:00pm, player can make Scandinavian SK904 leaving at 5:55pm; Saturday 3 March Boston @ New Jersey 1:00pm, player can make Scandinavian SK904 leaving at 5:55pm. So there you have it: even with traveling in the NBA becoming an epidemic, in-game departure to Sweden does not threaten basketball."

Rob Drysdale of Winnipeg, Manitoba, offers a leftover point about the Super Bowl -- namely, Seattle's punting disappointments. Not only was a long Seahawks punt return called back on a questionable holding penalty, that would have put the Blue Men Group in Pittsburgh territory with Seattle leading 3-0 -- the Seahawks punted inside the Steelers' 20 five times without pinning Pittsburgh once. Four times the ball rolled into the end zone for touchbacks, one Pittsburgh returned to its 36. "Failure to pin your opponent on five tries is a small part of the game that may not be important when playing Arizona or San Francisco, [but] can be huge in the Super Bowl," Drysdale notes.

On the other hand, counters Kim Lance of Seattle, "In the 40-year history of the Super Bowl, no team ever won the yardage total, time of possession, and the turnover battle and yet lost. No winning quarterback ever had a rating as low as Ben Roethlisberger's rating. Call me paranoid if you will, but there were too many 'coincidences' for me to accept that all the pro-Pittsburgh officiating calls were just random bad luck." Bill Clinton-like, I feel your pain, Kim. Also, Lance gets special cred from the column since she was once a Seattle Sea-Gal, and in that capacity was the first NFL cheer-babe ever to publish a haiku in TMQ. Former NFL director of officiating Jerry Seeman used to tell his crews, "All your calls should be Super Bowl-quality calls." In 2006, let's hope none of the calls are Super Bowl-quality calls.

Regarding my calculation that the starcruisers on "Stargate Atlantis" are moving at 60 million times the speed of light, James Allen of Neptune Beach, Fla., a teacher at Duncan Fletcher High School, notes that according to the formulas of Lorentz contractions, as an object approaches the speed of light its length decreases. At the speed of light, its length becomes zero and travel is instantaneous from the standpoint of a stationary observer. What would be the length of something moving at 60 million times the speed of light? "Traveling above the speed of light results in imaginary numbers -- square roots of negative numbers -- and then you're really screwed," Allen writes. Mr. Allen! Surely at Duncan Fletcher High School, one says, "and then you're really in notable difficulty."

Delmarva Shorebirds
Delmarva Shorebirds
Not a bad logo, eh?

Greg Presto of Chicago writes, "As you point out, the 'Washington' in Washington Redskins really means 'Virginia and Maryland.' With this in mind, I propose TMQ take the example of the Delmarva Shorebirds, a minor league team in the Delaware, Maryland and Virginia tri-state area, and rename the 'Skins the Delmarva Redskins. Or perhaps just Marva Redskins, considering the relative remoteness of Delaware." Once this column called the team in question the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons, and maintained that the Redskins name must go because it is derogatory. (The Braves and Chiefs seem fine to me, as these are terms of respect; Indians seems a gray area because there is wide disagreement on whether this term is objectionable or proper.) Then I saw a survey showing that about 80 percent of American Indians do not object to the Redskins' name, so I started calling Chainsaw Dan Snyder's team the Potomac Nanticokes, the Nanticokes being the indigenous people of the region when Europeans arrived there. Minor league note: In minor league baseball marketing, every night is a promotion night. Attend the Shorebirds' game Thursday and you can get draft beer for $1.50 plus see an appearance by Myron Noodleman.

TMQ chided golfer Phil Mickelson for spending $3.4 million on nine-week access to a luxo condo, saying this worked out to an obscene $54,000 a night. Robert McConnaughey of Cohasset, Mass., counters, "If the purchase is a timeshare, and a Wall Street Journal article suggests it is, then this is something he and his heirs can use for nine weeks annually for a long time to come. That makes the cost per night far lower. Many athletes are self-indulgent and should do more to re-invest in the society that has enriched them. But your numbers about the nightly cost of Mickleson's condo were just wrong." They were.

Finally a column expressed the air pressure in Denver in mm/hg, which means millimeters per hectogram. David DeGroot of Penn State University notes that air pressure is measured in mm/Hg, which means millimeters of mercury.

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.




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