By Gregg Easterbrook
Special to Page 2

What are the class years of the "Friday Night Lights" characters? Dan Lynch of Simsbury, Conn. reports, "Smash Williams is a junior -- this was noted in the episode about the college scout. Matt Saracen is a sophomore, noted in the pilot. Jason Street is presumably a senior as Tami Taylor, the guidance counselor, just described him as needing one credit to graduate." Avi Pimplaskar of Arlington, Va. adds that plot clues have made Tim Riggins and Tyra Collette appear to be seniors while Lyla Garrity appears to be a junior. He continues, "If 'Friday Night Lights' is renewed for another season and producers don't want to lose the characters, they could do what '90210' did. In the first season of '90210,' the entire gang was juniors except one character. After they finished that season, they had about 10 summer episodes before starting the next school year. In the next school year -- they were juniors again! Then the following season, the entire gang became seniors. So it took three years for the juniors of '90210' to graduate. Wouldn't be a stretch for 'Friday Night Lights' to do the same." Also I said the Dillon Panthers play five more games on NBC this spring because the most recent episode described them as having one more regular season game, and you know they will play four to reach the Texas state championship. Phil Audet of Austin, Texas reports that the Texas 5A bracket invites 64 teams, meaning the champion and runner-up appear in six postseason games. The Texas 5A regular season is 10 contests, so the state champion and runner-up play 16 games -- the same number of games as the NFL regular season. It's possible to win 15 games in Texas high school football and not be a champion.

Fire truck
AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma
A hook-and-ladder is different from a hook-and-lateral.

Daniel Judge of Niceville, Fla. asks, "Can we please stop the use of the phrase 'hook and ladder' to describe the play Boise State ran against Oklahoma? It's the hook-and-lateral. The wide receiver runs a hook, then laterals to another WR or running back. Please help remind the media." A hook-and-ladder is a fire truck, not a football play! Charlaine Rexel of Miami asks, "Do we need to say 'trick play' at all? Nearly all football tactics involve some deception, and trick plays are perfectly within the rule structure." I think it's a useful figure of speech -- we need a label, and "unusual plays" or "anomalous plays" doesn't sound right. My question is always, why don't coaches call more trick plays? Many pro and college teams only use one or two per season; you should call one or two trick plays every game. Some trick plays result in no gain or a turnover -- but this is true of all types of plays. Backs to the wall, Boise State called three trick plays in rapid succession, and pulled out an improbable win. Most coaches seem to think that more than one trick play in a blue moon isn't manly. Trick plays are effective, and it's manly to be effective!

Bernardo Lopez of Mexico City writes, "Once you toyed with a preseason prediction of forecasting every team ending its season 8-8. This year eight teams did end 8-8, so I suggest that predicting every single team will end up 8-8 next year. I bet no sport forecaster predicted eight records of NFL teams this year exactly correctly."

Sean Sutton of Ypsilanti, Mich. writes, "Regarding coaches' pay, I find it interesting that when hired to be the football coach of the United States Military Academy at West Point, Bobby Ross became the highest-paid federal governmental employee."

Bobby Ross
AP Photo/Jim McKnight
It's not the president, not the director of the National Science Foundation -- here is the highest-paid United States government employee.

Katie Tedder of Tahlequah, Okla. wonders why Herm Edwards did not lift Trent Green for Damon Huard as Kansas City sputtered against Indianapolis. Edwards' philosophy seems to be never to react during a game, no matter how well or poorly things are going; when I say coaches are overhyped, I sure don't mean there is not good coaching and bad coaching.

Jamie Marx of St. Louis writes, "On New Year's Eve in the MPC Computers Bowl, Nevada scored a touchdown with 3:46 remaining in the first half to take an 8-7 lead over Miami. When the Wolf Pack lined up to go for the 2-point conversion, I said: 'If they miss this and wind up losing by 1, it should be in TMQ.' Needless to say, Nevada failed to convert and went on to lose 21-20. Alas, never mentioned in TMQ." Now it is!

Evan Wilson points out, "The botched hold that killed the Cowboys' playoff game made me wonder if the following scenario would work: After the botched hold, every Dallas player should immediately have done whatever was necessary to get Tony Romo into the end zone regardless of whether it was legal -- that is, all Dallas' players should have grabbed and held the nearest Seahawk. If Romo gets into the end zone or gets the first down, then the Seahawks must take the penalty. That makes it fourth down again for Dallas. Since NFL policy is to only mark off one penalty, it doesn't matter if every Cowboy tackled his Seattle opponent. Only one penalty is marked off, meaning it's still a relatively short kick. If Romo doesn't get the touchdown or first down, then the Cowboys have failed anyway, so there's no downside to the Cowboys trying it." Hmnm -- Evan, actually I think what you describe would work. But what team would be prepared for this situation? Wilson continues, "Teams ought to have an emergency word for the situation, a word the kicker screams when a botched snap or hold occurs. This will tell everyone to mug the nearest opponent with the hope that the holder will be able to get a first down or get into the end zone, forcing the defense to take the penalty and allow a re-kick."

Tony Romo
AP Photo/John Froschauer
Why didn't he yell, "Botch! Everybody deliberately commit holding!"

I wrote that the tragic murder of Broncos player Darrent Williams was a sad reminder that statistics warn that you are far more likely to be a victim of crime between midnight and dawn than at other times. Many readers wrote to note that Williams died at the age of 25 -- and single people in their 20s stay out to all hours, that's the way of young adulthood. Jide Mbanefo of Washington, D.C. adds these points: "What you've done, for intents and purposes, is blame the victim. Furthermore, your logic is flawed. Statistics do tell us a lot of things, but also can be manipulated to tell us several conflicting things, not all of which make sense. Saying that more violent crime occurs late at night is all well and good. Concluding that violent crime rates between midnight and dawn mean that everyone should be camped out in our homes during those hours makes no sense. Do such statistics take into account who falls victim to violent crime in the first place? How many crimes are committed against people in their homes during the late-night period? Don't many late-night crimes involve drug or gang activity -- something your average person is never involved in? How many late-night crimes depend on location? The fatality rate for automobile accidents on freeways is higher than for local-road accidents; this does not mean we should all refuse to drive on highways. Most automobile accidents happen within a few miles of home. Should we thus not drive near our homes? Should we push our cars four miles from home before we get behind the wheel? I'm in my late-20s, and 95 percent of my friends go out past midnight at least once a week. From the way you make it sound, we are all lucky to have made it to the age of 30."

Darin Hauser notes a trend: "The best finish of Bill Parcells' teams are as follows: Giants -- Two Super Bowl wins; Patriots -- Lost Super Bowl; Jets -- Lost Conference Championship; Cowboys -- No playoff wins." Pretty clearly declining performance. And Parcells' salary has risen as his performance has declined -- just like a CEO!

Chris Leak
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin
Florida is the champion the of BCS. If only that meant the champion of college football.

Finally many readers seconded Urban Meyer in bemoaning the lack of a playoff system for Division I-A football. It doesn't have to include 64 teams like in Texas high school! Melanie Hernandez of Santa Fe, N.M. notes, "If the plus-one format existed, think of the fun we'd have had on Tuesday as everyone argued whether Florida should play for the national championship against USC, LSU or Boise State." Actually, that argument means no matter which of the three was chosen, there would still be no consensus. And the argument would not have happened the morning after Florida's win -- if a plus-one format existed, the team destined to play the winner of Ohio State-Florida would need to have been chosen well in advance of that game, so the team in question did not disband. Then there would have been complaints that the plus-one team, chosen in advance, had an edge because it had extra time to rest and prepare. OK, then suppose there was a four-team post-bowls playoff. Florida and Boise State would be consensus choices, but four teams (USC, LSU, Wisconsin and Ohio State) could lay roughly equal claims to the other two slots. Make it an eight-team playoff field, and you have college football continuing till February. Sadly I think there can either be playoffs or the bowl system, not both. A playoff bracket would produce an undisputed champion, but the bowl format is fun and creates endless fodder for offseason yakking about who was slighted. Do we really need to be certain who the big-college champion is? It's only a game. (Sorry, Commissioner Goodell, I will report to the re-education camp immediately.)

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