By Gregg Easterbrook
Special to Page 2

Salman Mitha of Munich, Germany reports that the NFC Championship Game aired live in Germany with German color commentary. Whenever fourth down was reached, the color man declared, "Sie mussen gepunten" -- they must punt. No! Don't let the pernicious notion that teams "must" punt corrupt Old Europe like it has corrupted the New World!

Steve Martinez of San Bernardino, Calif. notes, "You wrote, 'Pleasure is one of the greatest and highest experiences of life; in our short stay on this Earth.' Although I agree with your statement, I must object to the capitalization of earth. The planet's name is not Earth, as so many children are taught. The proper name is Terra. We don't capitalize 'the Sun,' because our star's proper name is Sol. 'The earth' really refers to what is on the surface of Terra, which revolves around Sol."

On whether BCE, for Before Common Era, should replace BC, meaning Before Christ, Jessica Castora of Plymouth, Minn. writes, "You were wrong to contend that BCE is just a PC euphemism for BC. The birth of Jesus most likely did not occur in the year 1 AD/CE. Rather, Jesus was probably born around what we now call 6 BC or BCE. That means Jesus was actually born in the time Before Christ! Speaking of a Common Era removes this problem." Cleland Welton of Lexington, Va. adds, "While BC is merely descriptive, AD is a religious proclamation, standing for Anno Domini -- Year of Our Lord. Changing the whole system to Common Era makes sense to remove the Christian-centrism."

Attack sub
U.S. Navy
Depending on how the federal deficit goes, it may not be long until this ship is the USS Jimmy Carter Brought to You by Quiznos.

William Wright writes, "I was surprised you did not mention that when Marlin Jackson intercepted Tom Brady with 20 seconds remaining in the AFC Championship Game, he took two steps and dropped down, not wanting to risk contact that could cause a fumble." When Jackson caught that ball my sons, both rooting for the Colts, immediately hollered, "Get on the ground!" San Diego fans could only gnash their teeth.

TMQ complained that the Pentagon has named supercarriers for recent Republican presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and now Gerald Ford, while naming no capital ships for recent Democratic presidents Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. Although it would sound pretty funny if the White House announced, "Today the president ordered the Bill Clinton carrier battle group to the Persian Gulf," recent capital ship names nevertheless seem to me indicative of favoritism toward one party, which is unbefitting the military. Ensign Juan Torres of Monterey, Calif. noted that because Carter served on a submarine, it was his preference that a submarine carry his name: "Jimmy Carter is the only president to have graduated from the United States Naval Academy and served as a submariner, so the Navy recognizes him by having an attack submarine, the USS Jimmy Carter, SSN-23, bear his name." Fair enough. That still leaves the question of why the latest supercarrier is named for Ford, who was a fine man but was never elected to any national office, while popularly elected presidents Johnson and Clinton are shunned.

Idan Avisar of Ramat Hasharon, Israel reports that here are the chaps the Colts' cheerleaders wore in the first half on Sunday, as their charges fell way behind, and here is the revealing, professional look the cheerleaders stripped to in the second half, helping inspire the Colts' epic comeback. "I assume that part of Tony Dungy's halftime adjustments was to instruct the cheerleaders to appease the football gods," Avisar writes.

Ritz-Carlton
AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma
They'll serve you well at a Ritz. But do you seriously think it is their "pleasure" to serve you?

TMQ complained of big corporations instructing workers to say the overstated "my pleasure" rather than "you're welcome." Brian of Fairfax, Va. says this trend began with Ritz-Carlton: "Regarded throughout the service industry as the standard bearer for perfect customer service, Ritz-Carlton puts its employees through intensive hospitality training focused on a list of basic tenets that include responding 'my pleasure' to guest requests, as if the Ritz worker is not merely willing to do what the guest has asked but actually enjoys enjoyed bringing an extra towel, making your next gin and tonic a bit stronger, etc. Copycatting is common in business. Retail operations envy Wal-Mart's supply chain efficiency and pay consultants dearly to try to help them adopt similar processes. Every fast food chain now has a Dollar Menu, all descendants of the Wendy's 99-cent value menu. In the service industry, the idol is Ritz-Carlton, and the wannabes thought wise to learn what they could from the Ritz and apply it to their own operations. Ritz-Carlton even offers courses on service through its Leadership Center. I am sure many corporate big wigs have attended these courses and are now instructing their minions to say 'my pleasure' to customers at every available opportunity." Click on the course "Developing a Dynamic Employee Orientation" at the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center and you'll find one subject heading is, "Fostering Psychological Ownership by Your Employees." In other words -- we're not going to pay them more, we're not going to give them stock, we're going to make them think we've done these things.

TMQ complained that in Hollywood epics about ancient Greece, the sizes of armies and naval fleets are exaggerated compared to the number of people alive at the time. Andrew Brown of Wadham College at Oxford, a grad student in Greek history, writes, "Modern scholarship is largely in agreement that the force of Persians at Thermoplyae numbered perhaps 150,000. The Persian empire stretched from what is now Afghanistan to Egypt -- including large population centers of the Levant, the Medes, the Persians, the Mesopotamians, the Greek city-states in modern Turkey, the Northern Greeks (such as the Macedonians and Thessalians) who had gone over to the Persian side. Additionally, while the city of Babylon might have contained only a few hundred thousand people, in this period the majority still lived in the countryside. A great deal of academic ink has been spilled on matters of ancient Greek population but the newest, and in my opinion, best study has recently been published by Mogens Hansen of Copenhagen. I met Hansen when he came to Oxford last year to present this work and was blown away by the depth of his inquiry. He placed the population of the ancient Greek world (that includes mainland Greece, the islands and Crete, northern Greece, the Greek cities of Ionia in what is now Modern Turkey, the Black Sea region, northern Libya and Egypt, Sicily, Southern Italy, Southern France and bits of Spain) at a couple million. Next, while it is true that the huge fleet depicted in the Brad Pitt crapfest 'Troy' is unrealistic, it is not impossible to imagine hundreds of ships being built in the later period of the Peloponnesian Wars. In that period, Athens manned perhaps 100 warships. The polis of Corcyra on modern Corfu had a fleet only slightly smaller than Athens, and Corinth too had a fleet. The island polis of Samos had a fleet. I recommend a recently published book by Carol Thomas, my undergrad mentor back at the University of Washington, "The Trojan War." She does a good job of presenting in not overly scholarly terms the historical outline of the period and the historicity of the legend."

Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Nancy Pelosi
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak
Which of these three is the most likely host of a space alien symbiot?

With my Tuesday Morning Quarterback Non-QB Non-RB NFL MVP to be announced next Tuesday, Heather Roberts of Edmonds, Wash. asks if I will also choose a Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year and the rest. No -- unless I can do it on a pass/fail basis. But I have been meaning to note that Peter King of Sports Illustrated, a fine sportswriter, in November lavishly praised San Diego's A.J. Smith as the best front-office man in the NFL. Then in December, a mere month later, King said Mickey Loomis of the Saints was the league's Executive of the Year "in a landslide."

Finally, it's normal to blink like crazy on television. Watch even professional newscasters and sportscasters, as they face the camera they blink constantly -- viewers zone the blinking out. Last night during the State of the Union address, George W. Bush, Nancy Pelosi and Dick Cheney were facing the camera. Speaker Pelosi blinked non-stop. The president blinked frequently. Cheney never blinked. Check a video. Increasingly I fear that "Richard Cheney" is the host of a slug-like alien symbiot creature that has been implanted in his body and controls his brain.

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