By Gregg Easterbrook
Special to Page 2

In my obsession with NFL title inflation, I noted that the Redskins now have the league's first "associate head coach." John Baker of Tallahassee writes of Bobby Bowden's staff, "According to the FSU Media Guide, defensive coordinator Mickey Andrews is also Associate Head Coach. Linebackers coach Kevin Steele is Executive Head Coach. Running backs coach Billy Sexton is Assistant Head Coach."

I noted research suggesting distant galaxies are 15 percent farther away than previously believed, and suggested this means the universe is 15 percent bigger than thought. Bard Brauer writes that assuming the cosmos is roughly shaped as a sphere, moving the surface 15 percent farther away would increase the sphere's volume by 54 percent. Barry Rochford of Anderson, Ind., adds that since the galaxies are accelerating away from each other, they could move farther apart without necessarily increasing the content of the cosmos.

Dozens of readers wrote in to say that they too had been duped into buying home warranties only to have their claims denied based on a tiny-type clause saying coverage is voided by "inadequate maintenance," and that the insurer had sole discretion to determine what constitutes adequate maintenance. Neil of Orlando, Fla., reports he was denied payment for a failed central air conditioner on maintenance grounds, though the owner's manual stated his AC was a maintenance-free unit. Andy Winchell of New York wrote, "If you were really a smart consumer, you would have turned down every warranty that you were offered and self-insured. Manufacturers of products are in a good position to know defect rates. Therefore, manufacturers price the extended warranties in a way that takes into account the risk of defect and make sure the manufacturers turn a profit on extended warranties. Had you been declining all those extended warranties and simply investing the savings responsibly, you almost certainly would have come out ahead."

Daniel Kuhn of Brockport, N.Y., a law student who has worked for New York State's consumer protection agency, warns that home warranties covering appliances may void building-structure warranties seemingly required by some states' laws: "We see them all too often as a tool to evade the statutory new home warranties many states have written into law. You buy a warranty for your new home. In the fine print, the warranty has some boilerplate clause that it 'overrides all other such warranties' or something to that effect -- thus canceling any protection the statutory warranty in your state provided. Now you have a warranty that protects your $800 refrigerator, but when your house collapses on top of you, you don't have a warranty claim. (You may have a tort claim, but these are much harder to win.) This kind of shell-game tactic is one reason why Consumers Union and other consumer organizations recommend against buying home warranties."

Contract law says that discretionary clauses such as ones requiring "adequate" maintenance must be interpreted reasonably, and a home warranty company is not acting reasonably if it simply hides behind the clause to avoid paying a claim. But the home warranty company knows that you'd have to take it to court to get a judge to rule on what's reasonable, and it is unlikely a claim of a few thousand dollars would justify you hiring a lawyer. So the home warranty company denies and basically defies you to hire a lawyer. If you've got a home warranty, check for a broadly worded maintenance clause. If there's one there, you bought a con job -- cancel the coverage because you're paying for nothing.

Carla Kostas of Bern, Switzerland, a Sooners fan, wrote to ask if I thought Oklahoma got the short end of the final calls in the Oregon game. That seems indisputable, since the Pac-10 just suspended the officiating crew involved. Since correcting the onside kick call would have ended the game -- Oklahoma would have knelt on the ball -- why not change the result? But let's keep it in perspective. Yesterday Oklahoma president David Boren declared the Oklahoma-Oregon officiating "an outrageous injustice." Boren is a former United States senator, and thus a former member of a body that, to borrow a phrase from Shaw, cannot distinguish between a rainy day and the end of civilization. United States senators say things like, "I am deeply, deeply shocked that there is no mustard on this turkey sandwich." But even given that the officials did rob Oklahoma -- former Senator Boren, it was a football game. It wasn't life and death in the Middle East. It wasn't an atrocity in Darfur. It wasn't 45 million Americans without health care insurance. It was a football game. Let's save phrases like "outrageous injustice" for things that are outrages or concern justice, OK? Check David Boren's semi-functioning vanity Web site here.

A recent column mentioned that B-52 bombers still in use are more than 40 years old. Jason McAninch of Columbus, Ohio, points out these planes have been so extensively rebuilt they are estimated to be only about halfway through their service life. At any rate, ground forces have done 99 percent of the work in the Iraq and Afghan wars -- McAninch notes it's the Army and Marines who need new equipment. The bomber item also contained a nonsequitur about the B-36D, a forgotten, strange-looking 10-engine bomber of the Cold War that actually carried a fighter plane in its bomb bay. Well, not forgotten by everyone. Jonathan Gaudreau reports that an experimental version of that airplane carried a fully functional nuclear reactor aloft on 47 test missions during the 1950s. "All crew members were located in the forward section of the aircraft while the atomic reactor was located aft," an Air Force history dryly notes. Truly, future historians will marvel that humanity made it through the Cold War in one piece. Meanwhile, many readers, including Kathie Brigham of Miami, suggested this explanation for the original item: "You just cannot resist the numbers-and-letter combination, 36D."

This week's column said, "The suit alleges the board of directors breeched their fiduciary duty to shareholders by paying Viacom's top three executives $160 million in 2004." Stephen Carter of Yale Law School writes, "Can you recommend a men's clothier where I can purchase a breech of fiduciary duty? Because they seem to be popping up everywhere these days!"

Charissa Giles of West St. Paul, Minn., wrote, "Watching the Minnesota versus Carolina game today, I couldn't help but wonder if Brad Childress reads TMQ. Twice Minnesota had fourth down and short in the Maroon Zone and both times went for it, both times made it. Granted, only one of those drives resulted in a score, but as a Vikings fan, I can't help but be pleased by Coach Childress' willingness to go for it in the Maroon Zone. Even if Brad doesn't read TMQ, clearly my boyfriend and I read far too much of it, as the first thought in both of our heads as those downs came up was, 'Maroon Zone! Go for it!'"

Brett Hammans of Amman, Jordan, writes, "On both of the last two Sundays, Baltimore's football team has allowed fewer points than Baltimore's baseball team allowed runs. During these two Sundays the Orioles have allowed 17 runs, while the Ravens have only allowed 6 points. Perhaps the Orioles should consider putting Ray Lewis in their starting rotation."

Each fall, Tuesday Morning Quarterback laments that Christmas decorations and merchandising start earlier. Last fall a column asked, "Is Halloween the new Thanksgiving?" James Koh of Chicago reports that on Aug. 1, an ice-cream truck drove down his street playing, "Deck the Halls."

Simon Carroll of Mountain View, Calif., suggests that rather than calling its big sandwich the Quarter Pounder in the United States and the 0.113398093 Kilogramer in Europe as TMQ proposed, McDonald's should call it the Newtoner in all markets: "A Newton, the metric unit for force, will always equal approximately a quarter of a pound, no matter where in the universe you are."

A week ago, Mary Sue Borst of Alexandria, Va., said she was offended when Notre Dame ran a fake punt despite leading Penn State 27-3. Charlie Peng of the same city writes, "As you have always said, 'Trifle not with the football gods.' Payback for running up the score against Penn State came swiftly and severely as Notre Dame was drubbed by Michigan."

Rich Peralta of Tualatin, Ore., notes the Broncos join the Ravens and Falcons in not having given up a touchdown. In nine quarters of Denver Broncos action so far this season, 12 field goals have split the uprights, but only one touchdown has been scored by either team.

Many people, including Chris Taylor of Center Point, Iowa, noted this week's TMQ said nothing about the Arizona-Seattle collision, violating TMQ's unwritten promise to have an item about every single NFL game played. Now I take my unwritten rules seriously, especially the exact wording of my unwritten rules. Chris Manes of Phoenix demanded, "I want my money back." Chris, I have spoken to ESPN senior management on your behalf, and they have authorized a 100 percent refund. Tuesday Morning Quarterback is free, so -- oh, never mind. Anyway, had I written anything about that game, I would have noted that trailing 21-10 with 5:30 remaining, Arizona took possession on its own 30 and proceeded to run a draw, then a screen, then a quarterback sneak. Hey Dennis Green, the team that's ahead is supposed to be the one killing the clock! Then with 2:53 remaining, Green ordered a punt on fourth-and-22. Sure, that's a long shot. But a punt at that point ends the game. (The Cardinals never got the ball back.) What have you got to lose??? Note: Containing at least one item about every game, something no other sports column attempts, is the official reason TMQ is so long. It's certainly not the asides.

TMQ noted that Peter Pan's "no sugar added" peanut butter contains more calories and fat per serving than regular peanut butter. Sven Pride of Hamilton, Bermuda, wrote to note that this is not as nutty, as it were, as it may sound. Not only might the product be right for diabetics, but carb-counting diets accept fats to avoid sugars.

Finally Mark Whitaker of London has solved the Andy Kelly riddle. Kelly threw 45 touchdown passes at Rhea County High School, 36 at the University of Tennessee, 17 with the Rhein Fire and 768 in the Arena League. This gives him a career total of 866 touchdown passes, surely the most ever by a member of the genus homo.

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.




Gregg_Easterbrook
Gregg
Easterbrook
TUESDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK