Finally the monkey is off Peyton Manning's back! And by saying that I've waited all the way till the second sentence to point out that although the entire big-deal sports world evinced amazement that Indianapolis won the Super Bowl by using the running game, last week's Tuesday Morning Quarterback forecast exactly this outcome. Specifically: "Indianapolis will feature the run against a Bears defense that has spent two weeks practicing for bombs away." Yea, verily, it came to pass, and I analyze the details below. But first, let's pause for an aside. This is, after all, Tuesday Morning Quarterback.
Could anything exceed the Super Bowl for hype, audience, glamour, cost or public fixation? Could anything exceed today's football at the high school, college and pro levels for disproportionate prominence in a world where 10,000 things matter more than touchdowns? I think something can and I think that something is football. Football is on its way to becoming more important than it already is, though for reasons that might surprise you.
The least significant way in which football could grow still more important is financial. There's plenty of room for expansion. The popularity of American-style football is likely to grow internationally gridiron is taking off in Mexico at the moment, for instance. Not only is football fun to watch and to play, most of the world continues to admire the United States and look up to us it's our foreign policy the world disdains; the American dream remains beloved almost everywhere. As democracy expands and more nations liberalize, more nations will long to become like the United States. And since football resides near the core of American culture, more people internationally will want the sport. They will reason, "America is strong and free and prosperous, America loves football, maybe football somehow helps you become strong and free and prosperous." There's a case to be made that football actually does help society I'll suggest why in a moment. Anyway, this awareness, spreading globally, will increase the impact of the sport.
The next way in which football might rise in importance is a major increase in viewing access. You think there's a lot of football on television now: You ain't seen nothing yet. Soon Congress might break the cartel arrangement by which only DirecTV can broadcast NFL Sunday Ticket, the paid service that allows a viewer to watch any game. Worst case, the contract that creates the cartel expires in 2012. From then on those who pay a fee will be able to watch any NFL game on any television, computer, phone or other screen device that comes along. The NFL's current cartel arrangement for Sunday Ticket has the economic impact observed in all cartels: Prices are artificially high and demand artificially suppressed. End the Sunday Ticket cartel, and the price of watching any game would rapidly tumble from the current roughly $500 per season (the Sunday Ticket fee plus DirecTV installation and bundled charges) to a much lower number. If watching any NFL game was $25 a year, most of the nation's households would sign up. Cell-phone effect would take over, in which falling prices rapidly convert a product from a rich person's luxury to something anyone can have. If most American households could tune in to whatever NFL game was hot rather than be forced to watch the woofer chosen by the local network affiliate interest in pro football would rise even more.
The coming democratization of NFL viewing pales, however, in comparison with the coming advent of independent sports television. This is going to be the Next Big Thing in sports media the sports answer to YouTube. Today, if you wonder how your old high school team is doing, the only way to find out is to make a pilgrimage home and attend a game. The same for the 95 percent of colleges whose teams rarely if ever play on network TV. As broadband and cheap video production proliferate, high schools and non-football-factory colleges will start broadcasting their own games. I'm betting that within 10 years, a significant portion of America's high schools and colleges will be self-broadcasting games over the Web. Your computer will sling the image to your HD television, which by then may be your HHHD television. You'll click off Fox 10 years from now, Jack Bauer will have just 24 hours to stop an asteroid from striking the Earth, and his dog will be kidnapped! and you'll watch your high school play its crosstown rival, or your college play its homecoming game. No traditional network will be involved in either end of the broadcast.
Now we get to the major ways in which football will become more important ways that concern the evolution of culture and economics. As Michael Mandelbaum wrote in his wonderful 2004 book "The Meaning of Sports," football in the past century has leapfrogged other team games in importance because its structure reflects the modern industrial era. Like big corporations and complex organizations, football requires large numbers of people cooperating. As recently as the stillness before World War II, most Americans made their livings working alone or in small groups in agriculture, craftsmanship, merchandising or owner-operated industry. For the past 60 years, large organizations have dominated the social structure of the West. Large organizations ask large numbers of people of diverse backgrounds to work together cooperatively. Football asks large numbers of people of diverse backgrounds to work together cooperatively. And it's not just the guys on the field who must cooperate. TMQ's Law of the Hidden Moms holds that for every boy who steps onto the high school football field, two people worked behind the scenes to make it possible. In big-college and the pros, it's more like five or six behind the scenes for every one on the field. Other team sports require much less in terms of group commitment. For football to happen, large numbers of people who otherwise would have nothing to do with each other must make a commitment to get along. And that describes a modern economy, doesn't it?
Now consider the direction in which the global economy is headed. In a global world, communication and interpersonal skills grow ever-more important. The explosion in communication, especially, means the successful person of coming decades must be able to cooperate with not just those in his or her immediate field of vision, but people all around the country and all around the world. Daily contact with people all around the country, if not all around the world, is the likely state of affairs for coming generations. Because sports are part of education, there will be rising emphasis on sports that teach interpersonal skills. And that points to more importance for football.
Fans see pumped fists and bumping chests during the game itself, and think football is an event of brute conflict. Obviously, that's a factor. But before the game are extraordinary periods of cooperative work. There's perhaps 1,000 hours of preparation for each hour of play, and almost all the preparation must be done jointly. Football players and coaches spend more hours together, in complex social settings, than the players and coaches of any other sport. The ability to get along with others is more important to football than to any sport. Some star basketball players barely speak to their teammates. In football, even the most renowned star must be a good teammate and must interact constructively with everyone in the locker room down to the lowliest player, or the game simply cannot be won. There's a reason towns view the success of their high school football teams, and cities view the success of their NFL teams, as symbolizing the town's and cities' prospects because football cannot happen unless large numbers of people get along. And we're entering a world in which it will matter more than ever that large numbers of people get along. Football teaches that very thing: So expect the sport to grow in importance.
In Super Bowl news, not only were my clothes soaked through to skin -- so much for Gore-Tex being "waterproof" -- and all leather on my person ruined, my fingertips actually were wrinkled by the end of the Purple Rain Game. Tuesday Morning Quarterback doesn't like to sit in the press box. I've long felt one reason sportswriting and sportscasting often leaves so much to be desired is that sportswriters sit in the press box, which is pleasantly enclosed and high up away from the field. They yak to each other, eat the free sandwiches and occasionally pay attention to the game. You've got to be out in the stadium, ideally near the sidelines, to understand what's really happening in a football game. That means sitting in a regular seat, not the comfort of the press box. Anybody out in Dolphin Stadium near the action on Sunday night instantly knew after Manning's interception on a deep attempt on the first Colts' possession that the rain would make deep passing dangerous, so rushing would decide the title. Well, not everybody knew: for example, the Chicago coaches. Loyal readers, I got drenched at the Super Bowl for you! See Purple Rain Game analysis below.
He never got the minkey off his back. At least Peyton Manning did.
In other sports news, everybody loves Miami, but why? See my speculation below. See below as well for my annual NFL State Standings. Also, once again I make the case for removing clergy of all stripes or stoles from sports opening ceremonies, and instead using the nonsectarian "athlete's prayer."
Stat of the Week No. 1: Indianapolis became the first dome team to win a Super Bowl outdoors.
Stat of the Week No. 2: Bears' rookie return man Devin Hester scored more touchdowns than 13 of the league's top 25 rushers, including the postseason.
Stat of the Week No. 3: Hester finished with 1,344 return yards more yards gained rushing by than all but six NFL running backs in the regular season.
Stat of the Week No. 4: Despite Hester's touchdown, Indianapolis outgained Chicago 225 to 147 in total return yards.
Stat of the Week No. 5: From the point of Hester's game-opening score, he touched the ball only once more.
Stat of the Week No. 6: Discounting the final-minute, garbage-time drive that Chicago used to pad its stats (see below), in the contested portion of the Super Bowl, Indianapolis outgained Chicago 430 yards to 217 yards and 24 first downs to 9 first downs.
Stats of the Week No. 7: There were two sets of back-to-back turnovers.
Stat of the Week No. 8: Through the playoffs Indianapolis coaches called 164 passing plays and 142 rushing plays (see below).
Stat of the Week No. 9: The Colts have won 57 of their past 74 games, a .770 winning percentage.
Stat of the Week No. 10: More rain fell at Super Bowl 41 (eight-tenths of an inch) than at all other Super Bowls combined.
She's from Louisville. The Colts won't say much more than that, but then they don't reveal Peyton Manning's hand signals either.
Welcome to the Washington Monument Brought to You By Quiznos: Over the past decade or so, many state governments have messed up their finances through corruption (Ohio), incompetence (Illinois), mismanagement of pension funds (New Jersey) and other offenses. As a result, some states are selling off roads or other items of public property to raise cash. Indiana just sold the Indiana Toll Road for $3.8 billion; the buyers will operate the road and keep the tolls. The Chicago Skyway was just sold for $1.8 billion under a similar arrangement. (Note the Chicago Skyway FAQs page advises that anyone seeking a job with the Skyway organization should first go to his or her alderman's office the alderman must be furious that the sale will now deprive them of control over patronage no-show jobs.) Illinois is taking bids for its state lottery program, asking $10 billion for a lottery that had $650 million in revenues last year. Fifteen times revenue is a high selling price for a business; maybe buyers figure Illinois residents will become steadily more financially insecure as Springfield lurches from one bumbling governor to the next, and thus more likely to gamble. New Jersey is contemplating selling off the Jersey Turnpike. Let's hope Bruce Springsteen is the buyer!
If the New Jersey Turnpike is sold, please don't tell us the road will lose the famous rest stops with its quasi-historic names the Vince Lombardi Rest Stop, the James Fennimore Cooper Rest Stop, the Grover Cleveland Rest Stop. TMQ has always been partial to the Joyce Kilmer Rest Stop; many acres of trees clear-cut to make room for a service area honoring someone who implored others to preserve trees. (Note: Joyce Kilmer was a man; he died in combat at the Second Battle of Marne in July 1918.) Private owners of the Jersey Turnpike are likely to license the service area names. The Woodrow Wilson Rest Stop will become Prez Woody's Rest Stop Brought to You By Pizza Hut.
Here are possible sales the United States government might make to reduce the federal deficit:
If the government sells the Grand Canyon, the ad will read, 277 MI, GRT VU
• Fort Knox, Ky. Since the United States Bullion Depository there holds 4,600 tons of gold worth about $95 billion, at current prices, surely the same wily federal negotiators who drove such a hard bargain on the Gulf of Mexico oil leases could sell that gold for millions of dollars!
• The Grand Canyon. Sold to Chainsaw Dan Snyder's Six Flags company, it could be converted to an amusement park with one heck of a flume ride.
• The United States Air Force. With private security a boom business and many private contractors working for the military in Iraq and elsewhere, why not make it official and privatize the Pentagon? Gated communities for the rich could hire a privatized Air Force to conduct air strikes against rival developers. Some oil sheik or Japanese keiretsu would pay a pretty penny to own the Air Force and then lease it back to Congress after adding cost overruns.
• The White House. Wait, that's been bought and sold several times already.
How come we never had a first-grade teacher who looked like Monica?
It's Unbelievable! Super Bowl week is the week of "proposition" bets, and there should be a prop bet on how many minutes until an announcer calls a play "Unbelievable!" This season Cris Collinsworth said it was "unbelievable!" that Oakland took an interception back for a touchdown against Pittsburgh. Joe Buck said it was "unbelievable!" that Willie Parker ran for 213 yards against the Saints. Al Michaels said it was "unbelievable!" that Tony Romo fumbled the hold in the Seattle playoff game. Daryl Johnston gets the year's award: he said it was "unbelievable!" that Philadelphia jumped offside. You just saw what happened with your own eyes why don't you believe it?
Cheerleader of the Week No. 2: Monica, hometown Indianapolis, is a first-grade teacher.
Purple Rain Game Analysis: The Miami Herald ran a 24-page special Super Bowl sports section the morning following the game. It featured article after article about Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy; articles about Rex Grossman and the Florida players in the game; and lots of stats. In 24 pages, the Miami Herald said almost nothing regarding the strategy and tactics of the game, the downs that mattered or the line play. In this the paper was hardly alone. The New York Times ran a nine-page section on the Super Bowl. It was all Peyton Manning this, Peyton Manning that, plus Prince, rain, stats and a few paragraphs mentioned scoring plays -- nary a word on tactics or what actually happened on the field. Nearly all post-Super-Bowl coverage in print and on television was about atmospherics, celebrities, quarterbacks and what was said at the postgame news conferences. Why the media obsession with writing about postgame news conferences rather than about the contest itself? You can cover the postgame news conferences without paying any attention to the game! Therein lies the problem; TMQ to the rescue.
TMQ knew he'd get the ball. Every high school coach who saw the weather knew he'd get the ball. Why didn't the Bears know he'd get the ball?
Going into the Super Bowl, everyone expected the Colts to be pass-wacky. As Tom Weir of USA Today wrote in one of the few Super Bowl stories devoted to the game itself rather than to the pre-hype and post-hype, "Chicago defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said he didn't expect Indianapolis' offense, known for its quick-strike scoring, to be able to pull back and adopt a ball-control philosophy so fluidly. 'Honestly, I really didn't," Rivera said. The story was headlined, BALL CONTROL STRATEGY BY COLTS THROWS CURVE TO BEARS DEFENSE. Why were the Bears so surprised by Indianapolis' rushing? My prediction that the Colts would go to the run was not pulled out of the air -- it came from a cursory look at game film and statistics. What were Bears coaches looking at in the past two weeks?
In the Colts' Christmas Eve loss to Houston, a game hardly anyone saw, the Texans frustrated Manning by playing their safeties unusually deep; the deep strike routes just weren't there. All defensive coordinators got the tape, saw Manning's frustration and started playing their safeties deep against the Colts. Chicago safety Chris Harris crashed the line on a couple first-down snaps in the first half, anticipating the run, but otherwise the Bears' safeties were 12-15 yards off the ball all night -- exactly what the Colts have seen since the Texans showed it would take away the Indianapolis deep strike. Yet Chicago seemed taken aback that Indianapolis would be ready for a deep-safety defense. Since the Houston loss, the Colts have known this defensive tactic is coming and adjusted by running more and throwing short. During the regular season, Colts coaches called 592 passing plays and 419 rushing plays, a 59 percent passing share. In the playoffs Indianapolis coaches called 164 passing plays and 142 rushing plays, down to 54 percent passes. And the passes have shifted toward short stuff and flares to the tailback. The Indianapolis regular-season average was 6.0 yards per offensive play, the Colts' postseason average fell to 5.1 yards as the Lucky Charms went with more runs and short passing. Nothing about this was a state secret! It's hardly a surprise that full-time professional sportswriters had no idea what was going to happen in the Super Bowl; that requires actually watching the games! The big surprise was that the Chicago defensive staff had no idea what to expect, either. Maybe it's a sign of a defensive coordinator who spent the Super Bowl interregnum auditing for the Dallas head coaching job.
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
I only wanted 2 see u underneath the purple rain.
Now factor in the rain. Leaving Washington on Friday afternoon aboard United's Ted Operated by United for Ted Airlines (see below), I packed my "water-proof" Gore-Tex because I knew the long-term forecast called for rain. Why didn't the Bears' 20-man coaching staff know? Chicago seemed to lack a rain game plan. Throwing short in rain is OK, but rain makes it hard to throw deep. The farther the ball flies, the more friction from rain slows its movement. It's standard in the rain for the quarterback to think he has delivered a perfect deep strike, only to see the ball come down several yards shy. Five deep passes were attempted in the Super Bowl. The result was one offensive touchdown, one defensive touchdown off an interception, two other interceptions, and an incompletion. Thus deep passing strongly favored the defense over the offense -- just what you'd expect in rain! Chicago's second-half deep passes, both intercepted, were the undoing of the Bears. When it's raining, run the ball! This football folk wisdom should have been available to the megabucks coaching staff of the Bears. Instead, Chicago was surprised when Indianapolis did the smart thing and ran.
Then there's the issue of hand size. Manning is tall and has huge hands; quarterbacks with big mitts are better at controlling the ball in rain. Rex Grossman is normal size and has normal-sized hands. Quarterbacks without big hands tend to lose grip on the ball in rain, as they rotate their hands down and point their thumbs at the ground during delivery. Several times Grossman seemed to lose control during delivery, while big-handed Manning never did. And small-handed quarterbacks tend to bobble the snap in the rain -- as Grossman bobbled two snaps, both for painful losses. At the high school level we talk about hand size and its relation to rain, and modify game plans accordingly. Why did the Bears seem oblivious to this?
Though attention focused on the two big-play return touchdowns, what struck me most was that the Colts controlled line play on both sides. With Indianapolis trailing in the second quarter, the Colts offensive line took over the game. No Bear reached Manning until a meaningless sack in garbage time, while 42 rushes for 191 yards against the league's No. 1 defense does not happen unless your blockers play well. I would have voted for the Colts' offensive line as the game's MVP; and was relieved that Jeff Saturday broke the Tuesday Morning Quarterback Non-QB Non-RB NFL MVP curse by having a good game after accepting his award. He's the first winner to receive an actual trophy, which must have broken the curse. Yet if anyone in the sports press mentioned any aspect of line play other than sacks -- the only easy-to-see aspect of line performance -- I missed it.
Lost in the media sauce was the outstanding performance by the Indianapolis defense. The Colts came into the game having surrendered more regular-season points than any team ever to reach the Super Bowl, yet held the Chicago offense to 10 points. Tackling by the Colts was always exact. Part of the rebound by the Indianapolis defense, much mocked at midseason, has been the return of tackling machine Bob Sanders; every good defense needs a tackling machine. On Sunday, good tackling and disciplined position-oriented defense took the Lombardi. Indianapolis won four postseason games with only eight sacks, showing that coverage, pressure and tackling mean as much or more than the sack stats that television announcers extol. Consider the deciding sequence of the Super Bowl. Trailing 29-17, Churchill faced third-and-8 at midfield with five minutes remaining. Indianapolis had a blown personnel switch; as Grossman was calling signals, reserve tackle Darrell Reid was hustling onto the field. So in effect, Chicago ran this down against a 10-man defense. Grossman threw a designed sideways pass to Thomas Jones -- a puzzling ultra-conservative call with the clock ticking and the Super Bowl on the line. Marlin Jackson made a perfect open-field tackle for a loss. On fourth down, Grossman hit tight end Desmond Clark for what would have been the first, but coverage was flawless and dime back Matt Giordano drilled Clark as the pass arrived, causing the drop that effectively ended the contest.
Had Purple Rain Game not been such an appealing label for the 41st championship, Vanilla Bowl might have served. I've never seen less variety on offense or defense -- and even considering that half the world's sportscasters and sportswriters rarely actually watch games, I find it amazing this is Tuesday and the bland tactics still have gone unremarked upon. No screen pass, reverse, end-around or other deception was tried by either offense. No trick formations by either team. Only two man-in-motion downs in the game, at the end when Indianapolis was killing the clock. Once the Bears set running back Jones wide to go deep. That was it for variation, as all other offensive calls were vanilla.
Defense was vanilla squared. Both sides played conventional 4-3-4 the entire way, no stunting, no presnap movement. Chicago blitzed three times and showed the blitz three other times, then backed out. Indianapolis blitzed once. My guess is this game offered fewer blitzes than any other of the NFL season. Chicago used no mixed or disguised coverages. On every snap the corners played the wideouts one-on-one with safeties deep, linebackers dropping to the slant zones. This conservative scheme prevented Indianapolis from connecting on any long passes, save for the touchdown to Reggie Wayne -- a broken play in which the safeties came up because they thought Manning had crossed the line of scrimmage. Because the coverage was so conservative and vanilla, the Colts' star receivers had an average night while the flare pass to Joseph Addai was open: The best thing Manning did was simply check down to Addai on third downs. By the eighth or ninth flare completion to Addai, I was wondering when the Bears defense would adjust. Answer: never.
Kevin C. Cox/WireImage.com
Hey look, Chicago is finally moving -- at last a chance to do my chicken dance!
There was a lot of talk before the Super Bowl about Chicago trying to figure out exactly what Manning's chicken-dance signals mean. Then Manning made no hand-signals on most plays, because there was no Chicago stunting to counter. Three times Brian Urlacher signaled that he'd gotten Manning's read and wanted the Bears to shift assignments. On these three downs Indianapolis averaged five yards, same as on the Colts' other downs. Chicago seemed to expect Manning to do his chicken dance a lot, then steal signals. Turns out the dance is exactly what it seems to be -- a response to a defensive shift -- and when the Chicago defense didn't move, Manning didn't dance. For its part, Indianapolis also was in its conventional 4-3-4 defense all the way, no presnap stunting, no fake blitz, no disguised coverages. Both defenses sold out to stop the deep-strike pass, and both succeeded. The Indianapolis offense adjusted and went short, while the Bears didn't start throwing short until they were behind in the fourth quarter, which is kind of the reverse of the way you're supposed to run an offense.
Speaking of adjustments, after kicking directly down the center to Devin Hester to open the Super Bowl and watching his touchdown return, the Colts' special teams squib kicked or angle kicked for the remainder of the contest. The result was Hester having just one more return for 3 yards. I don't know why Indianapolis had to watch Hester take one to the house to realize he's as good as advertised. At least the Colts adjusted.
Super Bowl Sweets and Sours: Here's a hidden play -- the kind that never make highlight reels, but stop or sustain drives. Trailing 16-14 with four minutes remaining in the first half, the Bears faced third-and-3 on their 43. Jones carried off tackle and was brought down after 2 yards on a perfect stop by Gary Brackett. Then Chicago punted on fourth-and-1 from their own 45 -- what might have been different had the Bears gone for the first?
Now it's still 16-14 and Indianapolis faces third-and-2 on the Chicago 17 with 39 seconds showing in the first half. The Colts run up the middle and Urlacher makes the stop for no gain -- the sole big play of the night for the storied Urlacher. The storied Adam Vinatieri honks the short field-goal attempt. What hurt here is that Indianapolis was holding two timeouts, and had called the run to position the ball where Vinatieri likes it. With two timeouts, why weren't the Colts aggressive here in trying for six?
Now it's still 16-14 and Indianapolis faces third-and-goal on the Chicago 10 in the third quarter. Manning threw to Dallas Clark to the 2. Tony Dungy challenged whether Chicago had 12 players on the field, which Chicago did not, and sportscasters questioned why the Colts would waste a timeout on this point. If you'd been in the stadium instead of in the pressbox you'd have known! Dungy was summoning his staff together to decide whether to kick or go for it; since he would spend a timeout anyway, he might as well challenge, which creates a longer delay than a standard timeout. After losing the challenge, Dungy sent in the field goal unit, and the kick made it 19-14. The Bears were called for running into the kicker. Now came an overlooked choice. Dungy's dilemma was whether to decline the penalty and take the points, or accept and make it fourth-and-goal on the Chicago 1. That's a pretty attractive down for a team that is rushing well, especially since a failed rush on fourth-and-goal would leave Chicago pinned on its 1. Indianapolis won, so Dungy's decision to leave the points on the board looks sound. Had the Bears rallied to win, on Monday you would have heard about how this decision was an ultra-colossal blunder.
Now the most important sequence of the Super Bowl: Trailing 19-14 midway through the third quarter, Chicago moves smartly to second-and-1 on the Colts' 45. The call is a play-fake attempt for a deep pass -- Grossman sprints backward 11 yards, falls down, then is tagged to make it third-and-12. Considering this was a designed as a deep-pass attempt, the Chicago litany for deep passes really was four calls resulting in two interceptions, one incompletion and an 11-yard loss. Bears coaches: IT'S RAINING, RUN THE BALL! (Rain was worst in the third quarter.) On the next down, Grossman fumbled the snap and again was tagged for a loss. Consider: The Bears went from second-and-1 in Indianapolis territory to punting on fourth-and-23.
Lord Kelvin did much to clarify the science of thermodynamics, but even he couldn't explain why Rex Grossman threw directly to Kelvin Hayden of the Colts.
Now it's Indianapolis 22, Chicago 17 early in the fourth quarter and the clock is about to strike midnight on Chicago's season. The Bears have first-and-10 on their 38. There's plenty of time. Chicago trails by less than a touchdown. IT'S RAINING, RUN THE BALL. Deep pass right; Grossman pumps as the receiver runs a stop-and-go; Grossman throws; intercepted and returned for a touchdown. The Indianapolis corner did not bite on the pump. Nickel back Kelvin Hayden -- for whom the kickoff temperature was 293 K -- stayed deep the whole time. Did Grossman even look before throwing it to the player who should henceforth be known as Lord Kelvin?
Now it's Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17, with the Bears having first-and-10 at midfield with six minutes remaining and holding one timeout. Chicago's sequence: a short incompletion to the tight end, short check-down to the tailback, sideways to the tailback for loss of yardage, short incompletion to the tight end, Colts' ball and game. With the Super Bowl on the line and plenty of time remaining, Chicago here called four consecutive unimaginative plays. Reverse? Crossing pattern? Anything unexpected?
Finally, it's Indianapolis 29, Chicago 17 with 1:42 remaining and the Bears on their 16. Chicago coaches called five checkdown passes and a draw, Super Bowl over. Sure the Bears should have been throwing short earlier. But now it's the endgame, why are you padding Grossman's stats instead of going for broke? Chicago did not even attempt to score on its final possession -- a fitting conclusion to a blown Super Bowl opportunity.
Super Bowl Leftover Points: I've always liked the colorful meshuggass of Cirque de Soleil, but the Super Bowl crowd was not amused. Silence -- not even polite clapping -- as the performers exited following their multimillion-dollar pregame show. The show itself seemed shoddy dashed-off stuff by Cirque de Soleil standards; note the circus' Web site makes no mention of the Super Bowl appearance, seen by more people than all previous Cirque de Soleil performances combined. Hey Cirque de Soleil, if you're not proud of your own work, don't take the money and then make us watch, OK?
This year's flyover was by the Thunderbirds, the Air Force's F16 stunt team. Seconds before they appeared, the scoreboard flashed a cool view from the lead plane's camera looking backward toward the formation. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Thunderbird pilots were on hand and introduced to the crowd -- two were women. This really must be the 21st century! Flying with the Thunderbirds or the Blue Angels, the Navy's aerial stunt team, is pretty much top of the pyramid in aviation -- more challenging and at least as dangerous as combat flying.
Nearly an inch of rain did not deter their professionalism, and the football gods reward that sort of thing.
Indianapolis had cheerleaders and Chicago had none. Let the record note that with rain in the first half, the Indianapolis cheer-babes wore minimalist summer outfits. During driving rain in the second half, they added chaps but stayed with tank tops. Outstanding cheerleader professionalism!
Everybody liked the halftime show by The Artist Formerly Known as the Artist Formerly Known as Prince. Three consecutive Super Bowl halftime shows have gone well, which is a modern-era record, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. But though the show went well, something was eerie about Prince himself. He appeared, sang, then vanished beneath the stage on an elevator without ever showing any facial expression or addressing the crowd. This was by far the largest audience before which Prince has ever performed -- probably, considering global ratings, the largest audience before which anyone has ever performed. Yet for all we knew, the purple figure on the stage was an animatronic Prince copy.
On the religion side, during a TV timeout the scoreboard showed a short video in which former Baltimore Colts player Bill Curry declared, "If you don't believe in God or prayer, you do on the sideline of the Super Bowl." God does not care who wins football games! Accepting the Lombardi Trophy, Tony Dungy declared that it was a good night not only because both teams were led by African Americans but both he and Lovie Smith are "Christian coaches." I understand Dungy was trying to say that both he and Smith have high standards and believe in something larger than themselves. But God does not care who wins football games! See the item on the Athlete's Prayer.
Why the Estate Tax Helps You Live Longer: I just heard a radio commercial for the Accuquote life insurance service which declared, "We guarantee your money back even if you don't die." If I don't die? Sign me up, and you can keep my money! On this subject, Congress continues to debate whether the estate tax will go out of existence in 2010 as currently scheduled, then come back into existence in 2011. Today the first $2 million of an estate is exempt from taxation, meaning only about one estate in 100 is taxed. In 2009 the exemption rises to $3.5 million and fewer estates will be taxed. In 2010 there will be no estate tax. Then in 2011 the tax would return with a lower threshold than today, imposed on any estate above $1 million. This goofy schedule is the result of legislative sausage-making during a tax-cut bill a few years ago. What this boils down to: from now till 2009, death is lightly taxed; then in 2010, not taxed; then in 2011, heavily taxed. Economic theory holds that society gets less of whatever it taxes. That's why taxes on income and capital should be as low as possible (so we don't discourage labor or investment) while taxes on pollution and energy use should be as high as possible (we want less of these things). Therefore taxing death is good we'll get less of it! With estate taxes declining from now till 2009, there is increasing incentive to die in these years. With no estate tax in 2010, that's a really great year to die. With a high estate tax in 2011, death should be discouraged that year.
This Item Sponsored by the Miami Chamber of Commerce: Most television viewers pay only passing heed to the question of where the Super Bowl is played. To reporters, corporate managers, celebrities, customers of the NFL and its owners and any others with a reason to attend the game, location is key. The sports-nut and media worlds have fallen all over themselves praising the location of this year's Super Bowl in Miami. This reflects two factors the junketeering nature of many Super Bowl trips, and the status of Miami as America's Sexiest City, replacing New York and Los Angeles, previous holders of that distinction.
First, junkets. This year more than 3,400 journalists were accredited to cover the game, and only a small fraction will contribute any insight that could not have been gleaned from watching on television. (Note to ESPN accounting department: My trip was NOT a junket, it was ESSENTIAL that I be on-scene to develop this item.) Journalists from all over the world attend to "cover" the Super Bowl. A few years ago at a Super Bowl event I sat between a South Korean reporter and a woman from Danish television who had never seen an American football game; Al Davis almost hired her to coach the Raiders. This year Al Jazeera was accredited to cover the Colts-Bears collision. The multitude of journalists present is unnecessary, but that's 3,400 junkets to a desirable destination, and human beings love junkets the press bitched, bitched, bitched about the last two Super Bowls being in Detroit and Jacksonville owing to low junket appeal. And junkets hardly are limited to those accredited to swarm the locker room after the game. In recent years, many television stations have begun sending reporters to cover the "atmosphere" at the Super Bowl city. All four local news shops of Washington, D.C. ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC sent two reporters plus camera crews to Miami to cover atmosphere. They won't even attend the game, they're just doing "standups" from South Beach and outside parties. Beyond that many thousands of corporate junketeers travel to every Super Bowl. Some don't have tickets, but do have an excuse for a nice junket. Thousands of people who aren't on a company expense account, and don't have tickets, migrate to the Super Bowl city just to mill around and soak up the feeling. It's not a junket when you pay for it yourself, but the principle is the same.
Then there's the specific appeal of Miami. Once New York was America's Sexiest City skyscrapers, Times Square, leggy showgirls, money, power, jazz, the best night clubs. Then Los Angeles became America's Sexiest City the cinema crowd, the Hollywood sign, the movie mega-babes and matinee idols, power lunching on food you can't identify, mega-mansions in Malibu. Now the title of America's Sexiest City is held by Miami. (I'm skipping Las Vegas because, though it has the highest concentration of beautiful naked women of any location in the world, and also more prurient sex-linked themes, I find Vegas a ridiculous place utterly lacking a sense of culture.) As TMQ noted earlier this season, one reason so many sports types predicted great things for the Dolphins this season despite unsettled quarterbacking, an middling roster and a coach with a track record of being a quitter was that people wanted excuses for expense-account trips to Miami.
Miami is sexy, physically: the architecture has a voluptuous aesthetic and the ubiquitous use of pastel colors against the sky and water give Miami a visual allure no other metropolis possesses. South Beach has become the country's No. 1 babes-on-the-beach destination, surpassing California; future historians will puzzle over that. South Beach is the best hunk-watching destination in the world, too at any given moment on South Beach, there are more really good-looking young men and women than you would have guessed lived in the entire country. The Latin culture that infuses Miami's night club and music scene is sumptuous and sensual. What follows is a generality, but one that I think is reasonably fair: Latin culture views the pleasures of the Earth (sex, drinking, dancing, music) as good things to be embraced, while the attenuated Puritanism that still underlies mainstream American sociology views these things as, if not exactly bad, traps to be avoided. The Latin view: Life is short and God wants us to enjoy it. The neo-Puritan view: Life is a burden God wants us to overcome. Obviously self-indulgence can backfire or cause harm. But I've long thought the multitude of ways in which human beings can experience delight is one of the proofs of the existence of God. Natural selection did not need to make sex or food or wine or music or art or beauty pleasurable, yet they are. Perhaps our ability to enjoy life is a gift from a friend. Miami as a city projects the message that it is OK to enjoy life, and though Miami has many problems especially persistent areas of poverty in our too-short lives it is pleasing to be somewhere that having a good time is not frowned upon.
Parked on cruise ship row near South Beach was the Voyager of the Seas, one of the world's largest cruise ships. At 138,000 tons, the Voyager of the Seas displaces more than a Nimitz-class supercarrier, and boasts such niceties as a seagoing ice-skating rink, rock-climbing wall and nine-hole golf course. But if you're going to spend $600 million of a cruise ship bigger than the largest aircraft carrier, couldn't you come up with a better name than the Voyager of the Seas? It might as well be called the Boat That Floats.
Is this what God saw when the universe was new?
Family Jewels Strangely Unimportant to NFL Coaches: The resignation of Bill Cowher reduces by one the number of NFL coaches who routinely stuff their clipboards down their pants. Rams coach Scott Linehan continues to stuff his clipboard down his pants, as does Rams defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. How did this strange practice become a football custom? Aren't coaches worried about their reproductive health? Any of the dozens of flunkies and factotums on an NFL sideline would be happy to hold the coach's clipboard. And just how do you thrust a clipboard down the front of your pants on a regular basis without unpleasant consequences? Since the league now enforces a strict dress code having to do with NFL Properties wear, you'd think a fashion rule about clipboards and slacks would be in order.
Get that clipboard out of your pants!
Academia note: it's come to my attention that at magnificent Davidson College, the Princeton of the South, they do your laundry for you! Maybe other colleges offer this, but it's the first time I've heard of such a collegiate feature. Here is the Davidson laundry policy. This is such an attractive benefit it seems amazing the sign at the main gate does not announce, DAVIDSON COLLEGE, ESTABLISHED 1837, WE DO YOUR LAUNDRY." This message should be emblazoned on the Davidson crest though in Latin, of course. The crest would read, Universitas Davidsonsis, MDCCCXXXVII, Nos Tersus Vestri Induviae Vobis.
The Athlete's Prayer: Every year between the college bowls and the Super Bowl, there's at least one major game that begins with some unctuous minister leading a prayer for victory. As a churchgoing Christian, I wince whenever I hear clergy appeal to the divine for success in sports. God doesn't care who wins games, while many sports prayers boil down to, "Lord, help me crush my opponent." For that matter public prayer contradicts Jesus, who taught, "Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Amen I tell you, they have received their reward. When you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will reward you." (Jesus often said of religious hypocrites or the rich that they "have received their reward," meaning they will not ascend to heaven everything they are ever going to get, they already have.) At sports events, dedications and at the openings of legislatures, Christians routinely violate Christ's teaching regarding public prayer. Considering the rabbi Jesus even opposed prayer in synagogues, it can be argued that Christians contract Christ when they pray together in churches. Each time I read of Christian fundamentalists or evangelicals demanding prayer in public schools, I wince anew, since it suggests they know little about the actual ministry of their Redeemer. But don't get me started on ways in which Christians ignore the teachings of Jesus.
While prayer for victory in sports is offensive, there seems nothing wrong with nonsectarian prayer for inner strength during competition. Years ago for the ecumenical Web site Beliefnet.com which is by a huge margin the best destination on the Internet for anyone interested in any faith I composed a nonsectarian athlete's prayer:
The Athlete's Prayer
God (or Adonai or Allah), let me play well but fairly.
Let competition make me strong but never hostile.
In this and in all things, guide me to the virtuous path.
If I know victory, grant me happiness;
If I am denied, keep me from envy.
See me not when I am cheered, but when I bend to help my opponent up.
Seal it in my heart that everyone who takes the field with me becomes my brother.
Remind me that sports are just games.
Teach me something that will matter once the games are over.
And if through athletics I set an example let it be a good one.
Two notes. First, there have been centuries of debate in the rabbinical, pastoral and imam's traditions regarding what can be asked of the divine; I would argue that "in this and in all things, guide me to the virtuous path" is the essence of prayer. Second, you might wonder, why pray for happiness in victory -- aren't all victors happy? If only! It's amazing how often the victorious don't seem to enjoy their triumphs: rather complain that the score wasn't higher or the accolades louder or the opponent humiliated. A basic reason people engage in sports is for that happy moment when victory is won and all involved can hug and dance and spend the next 24 hours on cloud nine. In athletics and other aspects of life, too many work arduously to win, then do not enjoy their triumphs. Therefore the humble athlete prays that God will grant happiness.
Earl Campbell, who now suffers panic disorder, is among many once-seemingly-invincible great athletes dealing with long-term health consequences of football collisions.
Obviously football is a contact sport. But the pro and big-college versions of the game are run by wealthy, comfortable people who never place themselves at any risk, while urging young, impressionable, eager performers to prove their manhood by playing through injury and pain. This is not healthy, in many senses of the word. Every big-college and NFL player knows there is a stigma attached to saying, "Coach, it hurts, I'm worried about going out there." The rich, comfortable people who run the NFL and big-college football also know it is common for fabulously fit young athletes to consider themselves immortal. The rich, comfortable people in charge know this isn't true they've seen the conditions of 50-year-old former players who once believed themselves immortal. But the rich, comfortable in charge don't warn the young, impressionable people, and therefore allow them to come to harm that might have been avoided. This does not sound like responsible behavior.
Many NFL players have switched to an anti-concussion helmet such as the Riddell Revolution. Why isn't it mandatory for every football jones to have an anti-concussion helmet on his head?
And for goodness sake, for those programs that still haven't switched to the new Riddell Revolution anti-concussion helmet, or an equivalent, get wise! My kids' high school has been all-Revo for three years; we held a fundraising drive to go Revo, having seen the concussion research that came years before the current wave of concern. The pros and college, where money is not an issue, simply should not allow players on the field unless wearing a Revolution helmet or another with an equivalent anti-concussion design. Some players don't want to go Revolution because they don't like the look of the alien-monster bulging ridge on the new helmet designs, preferring the traditional perfect-globe look. So NFL owners and college conferences, just enact a rule that forces everyone to wear anti-concussion headgear. For some high schools, the price of new helmets is an issue: the Revo costs $170, versus $143 for the standard Riddell VSR model. Adams and Schutt standard models cost less still, while many high schools use reconditioned standard helmets that sell for as little as $50. But school boards, the best helmets are a lot cheaper than losing a major lawsuit. For that matter, why do Riddell, Schutt and Adams even still sell football helmets that lack anti-concussion design features? Helmet manufacturers and sports supply chains should agree jointly to cease commerce in helmets without the best medical design. You know there's a lawyer out there planning the lawsuit that will force them to do so.
Hilari may hail from the Midwest, but she has the Miami worldview.
Can "Fox News Operated by CNN" Be Far Behind? All travelers are driven crazy by affiliate airlines like the recently discontinued Song, which looked and quacked exactly like its parent Delta but claimed to be a different company, and commuter-affiliate airlines that use the logos, livery and reservation systems of their parent airlines but are legally distinct. For instance, I just used the United Web site to book a United flight from Washington to Syracuse (New York, not Greece). But it's not on United, it's on United Express Operated by Trans-States. It's on United Express Operated by Trans-States even though the plane will bear the color and logos of United, the flight crew will wear United uniforms, United central dispatch will control the plane's movements. Knockoff carriers like Song and commuter airlines run by affiliate companies are structures used to pay pilots, gate clerks and others less for the knockoff carriers and commuter airlines than for the parent airline. United created Ted, a knockoff company, for this purpose: Ted planes look and quack like United planes, yet the yellow word Ted on the tail means the flight crews earn less. Initially Ted and Song were different from their parents by offering no in-flight service; since United, Delta and all major carriers now offer no more than peanuts on any flight, that distinction has faded. Anyway, to fly to Miami for the Super Bowl, I boarded an Airbus 320 that was listed as Operated by United for Ted. So United spun off Ted to be different from United, and now United is operating Ted.
This car offers the world's most technologically advanced high-performance disclaimer.
Disclaimer of the Week No. 2: Reader Chris Flood of Columbus, Ohio, reports that the DVD case of the movie "Crank" warns, "Strong violence, pervasive language, sexuality, nudity and drug use." Also offered on the DVD is an optional sound track that eliminates swear words. The teaser says, "Family Friendly Audio! Enjoy the film without the expletives." Flood observes: "So families are now free to enjoy the strong violence, sexuality, nudity, and drug use without worrying that the children will be exposed to expletives."
Disclaimer of the Week No. 3: Last week I enrolled in National Rental Car's Emerald program, and first had to click "I accept" to a record-setting 12,109-word disclaimer. A typical Atlantic Monthly cover story is about 10,000 words. Much of the disclaimer was in all-caps, so as to discourage reading: When legal documents contain sections in all-caps, that doesn't mean "this section is more important," that means, "we hope you can't read this section." Included was a statement telling me that if I wanted a record of what I just agreed to, "print a copy of the Terms now. I understand that I will not be able to come back later and print a copy of the Terms in their entirety." So not only must you accept 12,109 words you're not allowed to check on what you agreed to!
Another Government Hand in Your Pocket: In 2005, TMQ complained that it is ridiculous that the guy with the over-glamorized title Secretary of the Smithsonian earns nearly $1 million a year, despite having virtually no responsibilities beyond deciding where to eat lunch. Last week the Smithsonian's Inspector General filed a report saying the Secretary of the Smithsonian, Lawrence Small, earned $884,733 in 2006 more than double what George W. Bush was paid while two other Smithsonian officers earned more than $400,000. The Smithsonian likes to claim to be a private organization whose CEO should be paid like a corporate officer. But the Smithsonian is a federally chartered monopoly operating on federal subsidies. In the current fiscal year, the taxpayer is providing $644 million to the Smithsonian, 85 percent of which is for salary and expenses. The Smithsonian isn't remotely like a private business in the sense of risk-taking or any need to please customers to insure revenue. In turn, Congress makes all the big decisions about Smithsonian management, Lawrence Small being just a figurehead. So why do federal taxpayers, with a median family income of $55,000 a year, pay this guy nearly $1 million a year? Any competent civil servant could run the Smithsonian.
Final State Standings: Annually Tuesday Morning Quarterback compiles NFL State Standings, based on where teams actually play the Jets are a New Jersey team, the Redskins are a Maryland team and so on. Below are the final 2006 state standings. Note that once again four of the five traditional hotbed states for high-school recruiting and NFL draft choices California, Florida, Ohio and Texas finished the year with losing records. California, Florida, Ohio and Texas combined to fail to win a postseason game. Of the traditional hotbed recruiting and drafting states, only Pennsylvania finished the year with a winning record or a postseason victory. And note that both top spots are occupied by rust-belt states, not sunbelt states.
New Jersey 18-16
North Carolina, Tennessee and Wisconsin 8-8
Georgia, New York 7-9
Florida at 18-30, Minnesota at 6-10 and Ohio at 12-20
Jeff Saturday of the Colts speaks about winning the coveted TMQ
Non-QB Non-RB NFL MVP award.
Jeff Saturday's Trophy: Last week at media day before that Super Bowl thing you might have heard about, ESPN.com executive editor Kevin Jackson presented Jeff Saturday with the impressive actual trophy that now accompanies the coveted "longest award in sports," the Tuesday Morning Quarterback Non-QB Non-RB NFL MVP. If you look closely at the trophy in the photos or the ESPN Motion clip of Saturday, you'll see the new full name is ESPN.com's Tuesday Morning Quarterback Non-QB Non-RB NFL MVP, making the title even longer. Maybe next year it can be the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network Web site's Tuesday Morning Quarterback Non-Quarterback Non-Running Back National Football League Most Valuable Player Award, which would pretty much require two trophies side-by-side.
Eliminate the Dime! Every now and then someone launches a crusade against the penny, which clogs America's pockets, purses and cash-register drawers. One cent is a unit of currency so small as to be meaningless; the sole role of the penny is to cause needlessly complex prices such as $19.82. That shopkeepers leave bowls of pennies by checkout lines reveals the stark truth that the modern penny is of no value. The absurdity of the existence of the penny got worse in 2006, when rising copper prices meant the United States Mint spent 1.4 cents for every penny it produced. Since the Mint made nine billion pennies last year, United States taxpayers lost $36 million on penny production. Not only are pennies an annoying inconvenience they are a net financial loser whose existence costs you money!
For years they've been worthless. Now they actually cost you money!
As part of my crusade, I no longer provide exact payment for utility bills or similar invoices that come to ridiculously specific amounts such as $206.84. I round up, and pay $207. This takes less time to write on the check, and makes me feel like a Rockefeller, since I am tipping a major corporation. Probably it forces a clerk on the other end to input that I have paid $207 instead of $206.84. For the labor time it takes her to enter these numbers, she will be paid a nickel.
Actual Rocket Man In Planning Stages: A German engineering firm called ESG has designed this powered flying wing for paratroopers. In theory a special forces paratrooper using the wing, which has tiny jet motors, could jump from a carrier aircraft and sail more than 100 miles with a combination of gliding and powered flight; smallness and shape make the flying wing invisible to radar. Of course, after a dramatic 100-mile flight abroad the stealth wing, the special forces soldier would arrive at the target with a pistol and a signal flare, which is about all the device can carry. Don't you just sense generals are right now looking at this picture and saying, "I so don't know what this is for, but I want it."
"You Are Sentenced to Death, Plus a Fine": TMQ is always perplexed by criminal sentences summarized as, "Ten years in prison plus a $500 fine." In almost all cases, the loss of freedom associated with incarceration is far more significant than any fine. Taking the cake in this category is a sentence imposed recently by a Pennsylvania court on a man named Paul Voulo, who fired a shot toward another motorist during a road-rage incident on the Pennsylvania State Turnpike. Voulo was sentence to up to four years in prison and fined $59.
Reader Animadversion: Got a complaint or a deeply held grievance? Contact me at TMQ_ESPN@yahoo.com. Include your real name and the name of your hometown, and I may quote you by name unless you instruct me otherwise.
Next Week: The stadium lights are switched off, the groundskeepers have gone home, the cheerleaders have put their miniskirts away in a very small drawer, the trainers rolled up the Ace bandages and the film room is dark. But TMQ saved the best for last check next Tuesday for my annual Bad Predictions Review.
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.