By Gregg Easterbrook
Special to Page 2

Richard Swank of Orlando, Fla. writes, "For the most part, I wholeheartedly agree with your stance for sportsmanship and against running up the score. Unfortunately, this cannot apply to the upper echelons of college football. Like ballroom dancing, ice skating, synchronized swimming and gymnastics, college football's champion is crowned by judges, rather than a tournament designed to determine the best team. And unlike those other pastimes, the judges in college football often don't even watch the games they are judging. Tune in any college football recap show this season. The 'in' thing is to talk about 'style points.' In order to maintain its rank, a top-flight college program must run up dramatic scores against weak opponents. Otherwise, the casual observer will believe the team did not play to its potential. The system stinks, but until a playoff is in place, running up the score is unavoidable."

Ice skating judges
AP Photo/Martin Meissner
At least ice skating judges see the entire competition.

A high school official from Calif. writes, "As a high school football referee I have encountered many coaches running up the score. My crew has a signal for such things, we punch our two fists together -- this signals to the other officials that should the winning team try to run up the score via long passes, reverses, etc., we will 'find' a penalty on the play. Usually a holding call, as those are the easiest to sell. We haven't had to use it that often, but it came into play a few weeks ago with a team that was ahead by five touchdowns with less than five minutes to play in the fourth quarter. They ran a fake punt that succeeded -- except for the 'holding' call on the play."

TMQ noted that the long-standing problem of the Jets and Giants having no cheerleaders has softened somewhat, as Jersey/B recently debuted hot-babe flag carriers. Elizabeth Jennings of Bergen, N.J., protests that I failed to show the studly male flag carriers the Jets have also fielded. As this column has pointed out before, when teams have both male and female cheerleaders, the cheer-babes are always scantily attired while the cheer-hunks are fully clothed. That seems to be the situation with Jersey/B, too. Come on Jets, it's the third millennium -- shirtless or at least sleeveless for the men, please.

TMQ mentioned that pilots employ words for letters, such as November for N, to avoid radio misunderstandings. Nick Hantel of Chicago writes, "The standard International Civil Aviation Organization phonetic alphabet used by aircraft and air traffic controllers around the world specifies which word replaces which letter so there isn't any confusion. The word for the letter W is Whiskey. Since alcoholic beverages are not permitted in Saudi Arabia or by their interpretations of the Koran, the phonetic word for W used in Saudi airspace is Water."

On the reduction of my fave midweek MAC games on ESPN, Mike Judge supposes this is caused by fewer midweek games: "This year colleges can play 12 games instead of 11. One more game means fewer open dates, and you can't play on Saturday and then the following Tuesday or Wednesday. So the big colleges get another win against a MAC team, instead of MAC teams getting TV opportunities during the week."

Brooke Hogan/Dennis Rodman
Bennett Raglin/WireImage.com
We'd go for Brooke semi-naked, but Dennis Rodman fully clothed, please.

Many readers, including Jen Hewson of Dallas, noted that famous-for-being-famous Brooke Hogan lost a magazine cover modeling contract after the mag learned she had posed "semi-naked" for someone else. Hewson asks, "Aren't you either naked or not naked?" Not in an era of truthiness!

Chris Hanson of Oak Park, Ill., writes, "A couple of months ago I had a little argument with my wife over when we should start our recognition of Christmas -- meaning Christmas music playing in the house, Christmas movies, decorations. When I grew up, Christmas recognition didn't start until after Thanksgiving. It's not that I don't like Christmas, it's just that I am not capable of being 'Christmassy' for a very long period of time. My first offer to my wife was December 1st, that was quickly and vehemently rejected. My second offer was November 24th, again rejected. What she wanted was to establish for our family what her family did while she was growing up. My wife's family started to recognize Christmas the day after my wife's birthday -- which is September 15th! She settled for mid-November."

John Senger, an American in Russia, reports, "The note in your column about wacky martinis prompted me to write regarding my wife's experience ordering a martini here in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia. She and some other expat wives were at lunch, and saw Russian women drinking something out of martini glasses. They asked the waitress what the women were drinking, and when told 'martinis,' my wife and a few others ordered one too, thinking that with Russian vodka, they must be good. Her drink arrived, she had one sip and nearly spit it back into the glass. Turns out that the vermouth bottle says Martini & Rossi, so that's what they give you in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk if you order a martini." John, a martini is vodka or gin plus at least one more flavor. If you're a true Russian, why add anything to your vodka?

NBC has spent tens of millions of dollars on the high-quality series "Friday Night Lights," and surely at this moment is hiring marketing firms to analyze the show's ratings doldrums. A TMQ reader provides the perfect analysis gratis. Jennifer Dean of Gainesville, Fla. writes, "The real problem with 'Friday Night Lights' is not its time slot or who it's marketed to -- it's on in the wrong season of the year. While there is no such thing as too much football, in the fall I have plenty. Why would I want to watch a show about football when I can watch an actual game? In autumn, the market is glutted. Had NBC premiered 'Friday Night Lights' in the spring when we are starved for anything remotely related to football, it might have been a smash success." NBC, next time save a few million and just call Jennifer Dean, OK?

Numerous readers, including Carly Presden of Somerset, Mass., e-mailed me this article by Stu Woo of the Chronicle of Higher Education, reporting that the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics has protested Nike's Briscoe High commercial. Why? For the same reason TMQ stated a month ago, that the commercial disses education, subliminally suggesting it's OK to be uneducated so long as you are a football star. Michael Grainger of Durham, N.C., adds, "Please note that the current NCAA men's champion University of Florida basketball team posted a 100 percent graduation rate."

I made fun of the Department of State for decreeing that the spelling of the city of Kiev should be changed to Kyiv. Dmitriy Zakharov of Prague reports, "I just got back from Kiev/Kyiv, and there was quite a bit of discussion going on regarding this very issue. Kiev is the English transliteration of the Russian name for the city; Kyiv is the accepted transliteration of the Ukrainian spelling. There remains quite a bit of ongoing tension among ethnic Russians, Ukrainians who speak Russian as their primary language, and those who speak Ukrainian. The Ukrainian government passed a law that all public signs and advertisements must be in Ukrainian, even though everyone reads Russian. So for Ukrainian nationalists and partisans, including Western darling President Yushchenko, having the spelling changed from Kiev to Kyiv is something of a coup." Theodore Leverett of Norfolk, Va., adds that the Board on Geographic Names, which ruled on this spelling issue for the United States government, may not be the Ministry of Silly Walks but does have a Web site.

Eagles cheerleader
Brian Killian/WireImage.com
A bonus Eagles cheer-babe shot, in normal cheerleading attire.

Ken Gorenberg of Vernon Hills, Ill., writes, "I was a proud early adopter of the print-for-reading-later method of enjoying Tuesday Morning Quarterback, usually printing TMQ to read on the evening train. Imagine my frustration yesterday when I stopped on my way out of the office and saw that the network printer was only on the seventh of more than 70 court opinions. Rather than risk missing the train, I continued out the door, TMQ-less. After taking a seat on the train, I grabbed my cell phone, and just a few clicks later I was happily reading TMQ. However, while I thoroughly enjoyed your prose as always, I was disappointed that the mobile version omitted the pictures and captions. Even on a 2.5-inch screen, cheerbabes and other photos are intrinsic to the TMQ experience. Please urge ESPN to include them in the mobile version."

Dave Moravcik of Garfield Heights, Ohio notes, "Home Team 20, Visiting Team 13 is taking the lead as a predictable score. Including the two occurrences on Sunday, that makes three times for the regular season. Vegas, here I come." Meanwhile TMQ's off-price ultra-generic prediction, Home Team Wins, is 64-50 so far. That trails most full-time sports pundits -- most have called about 70 games correctly so far -- but runs ahead of Chris Mortensen, who is 61-53. Hey Chris, just pick the home team!

Finally David Friedman of Monticello, N.Y., points out this story football coach Mack Malone of Willis High School near Houston. Malone kicked six players off his team when they were a little late for practice because they were -- giving blood. Maybe it's time for a Tuesday Morning Quarterback Biggest Jerk in Sports award. For October, the Biggest Jerk in Sports award goes to Mack Malone of Willis High School.

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.




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TUESDAY MORNING QUARTERBACK