TMQ Nation fires back   

Updated: December 19, 2007, 11:40 AM ET

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For several years, including here this October, TMQ has been contending that Harvard, Stanford and some other elite schools have such vast endowments, they should charge little or nothing to most students. As pointed out last week by many readers including Aaron Bushell of Wichita, Kan., Harvard just announced it is replacing all loans with grants, which will allow most students to graduate without debt, while greatly expanding middle-class eligibility for financial aid. Details are here. Among significant reforms, families earning up to $180,000 per year will receive tuition reductions -- a much higher ceiling than before -- while Harvard has dropped home equity as a factor in financial aid calculations, eliminating the problem of the family that is house-rich but cash-poor. Bully bully, Hahh-VUD!

Roy Jay Glauber

AP Photo/Stephan Savoia

Fight fiercely, Harvard! Fight fight fight! Reduce the tuition with all your might!

In expanding its aid programs, Harvard joins Princeton, Davidson, and several other elite schools that have taken dramatic steps to make top colleges affordable for the middle class. But as Fay Vincent, a trustee of Williams College, pointed out last week in The Wall Street Journal, elite schools still are not going far enough. Vincent calculates that with its $1.9 billion endowment, an incredible amount for a small college, Williams could be completely free for any student whose family makes $200,000 or less. So let's start a college price reduction bidding war! Elite colleges surely saw the fabulous press Harvard received last week for its announcement. What school will go one better and offer a still-better deal to average families with bright students?

TMQ quoted economists as saying that Christmas destroys economic value by causing billions of dollars to be spent on gifts the recipients either don't want or don't value highly. Daniel Goldstein of Los Angeles counters, "Wouldn't the losses be offset by gifts given to recipients who value the gift more than its purchased price?" TMQ derided Mitt Romney's favorite novel, the L. Ron Hubbard sci-fi opera "Battlefield Earth," which TMQ called a "series." Tracy Leslie of Butler, Pa., corrects, "The horrible L. Ron Hubbard books are the 'Mission Earth' series. 'Battlefield Earth' was actually not bad, but for some unknown reason John Travolta butchered the plot when he made the movie." Unknown reason? It was Hollywood, he was required to butcher the plot!

TMQ praised Brian Westbrook for not scoring at the end of the Philadelphia-Dallas game, allowing the Eagles to run out the clock. Katie Tedder of Tahlequah, Okla., writes, "As we watched the end of the Dallas-Philadelphia game, and saw Brian Westbrook's brilliance at dropping down on the 1, my boyfriend and I looked at each other in amazement. He has done that same move many times while playing Madden, but never have we seen it performed by the pros. " Me neither.

Nick Manning adds, "In the Madden games, if you break free then stand at the 1-yard line, the defender will tackle you into the end zone, forcing you to score. It's really funny." Manning then asks, shouldn't defenders in endgame situations stand aside, allowing an easy touchdown, even if this means they only attain the long-shot chance of a quick touchdown followed by a recovered onside kick? He writes, "This Sunday, Indianapolis was up 21-14 with 1:36 remaining and Oakland was out of timeouts. The Colts ran the ball twice, for 2 yards and 1 yard, as Oakland gang-tackled. If Oakland had allowed Indy to score, the Raiders would have gotten the ball back with about 1:25 [left] down by two touchdowns. Rather than attain a very slim chance of coming back, Oakland allowed Indy to run out the clock." I've never seen a defense deliberately stand aside in this way, though there's a long-standing argument about whether Green Bay deliberately allowed Denver to score near the end of their Super Bowl meeting, so that the Packers got the ball back down by a touchdown, rather than letting Denver run down the clock and kick a field goal. The ultimate standoff would come if a defense in this situation stepped aside to let the runner score, then the quarterback just knelt, refusing to attempt to advance.

TMQ lauded McFarlane sports figurines. Anselm Inman of Milwaukee points out that Todd McFarlane also makes celeb figurines, such as . Presumably there is a nuclear bomb on the other side, and Bauer is the sole person in the entire United States government available to deal with it! Everyone else in the entire United States government is in a meeting! Of the expensive new Barbie Collectible series, Todd Sullivan of Nashua, N.H., notes the Lady Luck Barbie, a lounge-singer doll, carries this disclaimer: "Does not sing." And if you've been waiting for NFL Cheerleader Barbie, here she is.

Steve McClaren

AP Photo/Tom Hevezi

Wet Coach = Victory.

Ashley Lawrence of London writes, "Thought I'd give you a little heads-up about your Cold Coach = Victory theory being applied in sport over here. Recently, the England national soccer team head coach Steve McClaren was fired after failing to reach next year's European Championships. The game in which his fate was sealed was against Croatia, took place on a rainy night at Wembley Stadium, with the field still in poor condition after the Giants versus Dolphins game played there over a month before. McClaren chose to watch the game while holding an umbrella, whereas Croatian coach and all-around tough guy Slaven Bilic deemed a woolly hat sufficient protection. Suffice to say, Croatia emerged 3-2 winners, and McClaren was criticized from all corners for his decision to employ an umbrella. He was fired the next day." Becky Durst of Shaker Heights, Ohio, notes that for the Cleveland-Buffalo Blizzard Bowl, practically all of the players came out with bare arms: "Both teams were obviously worried about impressing the football gods, but since both accepted the cold, neither got an advantage." The football gods were so impressed, they allowed this blizzard-conditions contest to be played without any turnovers.

TMQ warned that the new respectability of ticket scalping, caused by StubHub and similar services, may lead NFL teams and concert promoters to sell tickets at auction in the first place. Robert Kleisch of Chicago reports, "The Cubs are already doing that. Tribune Company set up a subsidiary, Wrigley Field Premium Ticket Services, and has been selling hard-to-get select Cubs (a Trib Company subsidiary) tickets at ticket-broker/scalper prices. These tickets are not from a resale or give-back inventory but from a never-offered-to-the-public stash. Here's a news report on the results of the trial that upheld the team's legal right to do that." Martin Del Vecchio adds, "When I visited the Ticketmaster Web site to buy tickets to see The Police at Boston Garden, I saw that the first five rows of seats were being auctioned off, by Ticketmaster. I put a bid in and ended up winning third-row seats. The premium I paid was pretty small, only about 15 percent higher than for sixth-row seats, which were not part of the auction. But Ticketmaster, and I assume The Police themselves, didn't leave any money on the table for those seats."

The Police

AP Photo/Robert E. Klein

They're auctioning off their tickets -- and better hurry, before all their fans go on Social Security.

TMQ warned that if the unstable megagiant star Eta Carinae, 7,500 light-years away, were to explode, radiation from the supernova might turn the Earth into a burnt crumpet. Matt Kauffman of Olney, Md. cheerfully writes, "For all we know, Eta Carinae has already gone full supernova. It could have exploded any time in the last 7,500 years, and we wouldn't know until the radiation started to hit us. Heck, the sun could have exploded five minutes ago, and we wouldn't know for another three minutes." Happy holidays!

TMQ noted that even though New England was stripped of its first-round pick in next year's draft because of the Beli-Cheat scandal, the Patriots will still draft high; they hold San Francisco's first choice in a trade. Brian Wuert of Minneapolis has a clever idea. The Niners should deliberately videotape another team's sideline and make sure they get caught, forcing Roger Goodell to void San Francisco's first choice, thereby leaving no pick for New England to use.

TMQ said 2-0 in overtime would be the ultimate final score, and asked if readers knew of any actual 2-0 games. Eric Runnebaum of Topeka, Kan., reports the Packers beat the Bears 2-0 in 1932, and the Bears returned the favor by beating the Packers 2-0 in 1938. William and Mary beat Richmond 2-0 in 1954, while Miami beat Oregon by that score in 1958. Ted Zuend of Carson City, Nev., writes, "I attended a 2-0 game in 1963. Pittsburgh Central Catholic, my alma mater as well as Dan Marino's, played its longtime rival Pittsburgh North Catholic. The final was 2-0 with North prevailing on a blocked punt that went through the end zone for a safety." Rick Schupp of Amman, Jordan, reports, "My alma mater, Rockford Auburn High of Rockford, Ill., once lost to Rockford Guilford by 2-0." Dave Wood of Champlin, Minn., writes, "My high school alma mater, Watertown of Wisconsin, defeated Waterford of Wisconsin 2-0 on a blocked punt in 2006." Joel Janisewski of Bloomington, Ill., reports, "My alma mater, East Troy High School of Wisconsin lost its homecoming game 2-0 in the late 1990s." Ouch -- to lose 2-0 at homecoming!

But was there ever a game that was decided by 2-0 in overtime? Yes! Dr. Russell Kelly, chairman of cardiology at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, reports, "The 1967 Indianapolis YMCA football championship for first-graders was a 2-0 victory for Eastside Y. I tackled a ball-carrier in the end zone in overtime for the winning safety." So this has actually happened, at least at the ankle-biter level.

Meanwhile, Patrick Breslin of Wayne, Pa., writes, "I would take more pleasure in a final score of 6-1. That could happen in college if a blocked PAT led to the incredibly rare 'conversion safety' -- the only way to record a final score of one point under American rules, at least." The "conversion safety," worth one point, occurs if a ball-carrier from the team attempting a PAT kick somehow ends up retreating all the way to his end zone, and was tackled or fumbled out of the end zone. Only one point would be recorded by the defense -- quirk of the rule -- and the team that attempted the PAT would kick off since it would have kicked off anyway following its touchdown. It is believed there has never been a conversion safety against the kicking team in college football. But in 2004, there was a conversion safety against the defense in the Texas-Texas A&M contest. A PAT attempt was blocked, a defender picked up the ball and tried to run -- a failed PAT run back the other way is two points for the defense in college -- but ended up retreating into his end zone and being tackled. The quirky conversion-safety rule gave one point, not two, to the team initially attempting the PAT. In the NFL, a failed PAT attempt is a dead ball, so it is impossible for a team to finish the game with one point.

After Randy Moss and Terrell Owens tore up the zone pass defenses of Buffalo and Washington, I objected to the zone pass defense on the grounds that cornerbacks could ignore their men, claiming the safeties were responsible Gunnar Hole of Greendale, Wisc., notes that the renowned management expert Edward Deming once wrote that "200 percent inspection is less reliable than 100 percent inspection," because when two inspectors look at the same product, each can blame the other for defects. Deming once was hired to examine a printing plant plagued by typographical mistakes. He found the plant employed too many copy editors; several looked at each page proof, and each blamed others. Deming advised that only one copy editor examine each page proof. Immediately the typos stopped.

Mayan calendar

Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

Will the world end in Dec. 2012? The Mayans thought so. And Mulder and Scully thought so.

Most of America did not see the Cowboys-Packers game, but, as usual, while viewing is restricted in the United States -- where the taxpayers who funded the stadia reside -- everyone overseas gets to watch. Jim Warburton of Halifax, Nova Scotia, reports that the game aired universally in Canada on TSN, their equivalent of ESPN. Gregor Fröhlich of Baden, Austria, reports the game aired lived on public over-the-air TV in his nation, though kicking off at 3 a.m. He adds, "At the beginning of the commercial break shortly after the final Cowboys touchdown, the network showed a replay with background music being the nice track by Snow Patrol, whose lyrics say, 'shut your eyes and think of somewhere.' So the NFL is showing replays but encourages its viewers to close their eyes."

Finally I noted there will be no Tuesday Morning Quarterback next week on Christmas Day; the column returns on New Year's Day. I further cautioned there will be no TMQ on Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. Jim Cross of Anderson, S.C., writes, "Of course there won't be any TMQ that day -- the world will have already ended on December 21, 2012 at 11:11:32 GMT. Or perhaps on December 23rd; depends on which interpretation of the Mayan calendar you believe." Happy holidays!

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 also is a contributing editor for The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Monthly.


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