By Gregg Easterbrook
Special to Page 2

What an opening weekend. The Saints-Bucs finish! The Falcons-Packers finish! The Jets-Bills finish! The Chiefs-Browns finish! The Vikings-Bears finish! Tuesday Morning Quarterback hasn't seen so many back-and-forth, down-to-the-wire, anybody's-game finishes since Bush vs. Gore. I mean the election, of course. The lawsuit was over in the first quarter, after the Florida Supreme Court fumbled the United States Constitution.

TMQ can think of no better choice to analyze this stellar opening action than Jack Grubman, recently deposed stock-fraud front man of Wall Street giant Salomon Smith Barney. Grubman, you and your 401(k) might recall, was the motive force in hyping shares of WorldCom, Global Crossing and other fine investments; he kept promoting WorldCom as a "strong buy," even as its stock was plunging 80 percent amid rumors of the accounting swindle that resulted in the firm's bankruptcy. Sure that he would provide his usual candid, totally honest analysis, TMQ contacted Grubman at the undisclosed remote Montana cabin where he is currently holed up with bottled water, canned tuna and numerous hunting rifles:

TMQ: What did you think of opening weekend?

Jack Grubman: Fabulous, magnificent! All 32 teams won, with an average victory margin of 200 points. Even the Chargers-Bengals game got a higher Nielsen rating than the series finale of M*A*S*H. The NFL is just going to keep shooting up, the sky's the limit. I'm telling you, buy season tickets as fast as you can.

TMQ: Only 16 teams won. One team wins and the other loses.

Grubman: That's Old Economy thinking! Some of these teams are going to be winning five, six, seven games a week. They'll be winning on days they don't even play. I've seen the insider numbers, trust me! Buy their tickets while you still can. Profits are going to be so huge, touchdowns will be declared to fans as dividends. And hey, and did you notice all 42 NFL teams won this weekend?

TMQ: What did you think of the expansion Houston Texans being victorious in their first game?

David Carr
NFL investors should get in on the ground floor with David Carr's Texans.

Grubman: Not just victory, winning by 346 points! And David Carr throws 18 touchdown passes in the first quarter. You've got to get in on the ground floor of this franchise. Houston, they know business there -- you should buy Enron. Don't tell anybody where you heard that. And don't worry about the Cowboys, they will be undefeated for the next 20 consecutive seasons and are $70 billion under the salary cap.

TMQ: Any other teams you like?

Grubman: The Lions, they will win the Super Bowl by November, if not sooner. I rate the Lions a "strong buy." And buy Raiders tickets fast, don't waste time bickering about prices. Their quarterly statements will go up, because they have been hiding their salary-cap charges offshore in Canada by conducting sham transaction in CFL players and booking them as if they were Raiders. Um, wasn't supposed to tell you that. Actually, I never knew that! Mr. Chairman, I never knew anything about irregular practices at the Raiders!

TMQ: How can you in good conscience recommend the Lions?

Grubman: Don't get hung up in old, linear-thinking concepts like actual results.

TMQ: Is there any team you would caution fans away from?

Grubman: Absolutely, the Providence Steam Roller. I rate their shares "sell now." Steam rollers are too fossil-fuel, too old-economy, too actual-object.

TMQ: But the Providence Steam Roller franchise folded 70 years ago.

Grubman: My point exactly. Nobody can say I'm not tough. Hey, did you notice all 52 NFL teams won this weekend?

Dwayne Rudd
Dwayne Rudd (57) and the Browns are mourning that one that just barely got away.

In other NFL news, you will watch a lot of football before you again see anything weirder, stupider, lucky and stupider than the bizarre Trent Green overhead no-look flip to tackle John Tait for 25 yards (weird and lucky) and the Dwayne Rudd helmet throw for the additional penalty (stupider and stupider) that allowed one last play and Kansas City its 1,000,000-1 win at Cleveland. Rudd's toss gave the Chiefs extra yards, but much more importantly, gave Kansas City one more snap, even though the clock had expired on the Tait rumble, because a game cannot end on a penalty against the defense. Pity the Browns Release 2.0 faithful, who still hadn't calmed down from the bizarre "turn back the clock" retroactive reversal that decided the previous home game!

Lest it be lost in the carnival of recriminations in Cleveland, don't forget that Rudd was not the only Browns idiot. Three snaps earlier, the Browns nailed a field goal to take the lead with 29 seconds left. Kicker Phil Dawson went mental and began screaming boasts of prowess into the face of a Kansas City player. Zebras threw the flag for taunting, assessing it against holder Chris Gardocki by mistake. Result: Cleveland had to kick off from its 15, giving Kansas City the field position that set up the 1,000,000-1 ending. Two incredible boneheaded idiotic self-defeating plays in three snaps. Ye gods.

Helpful suggestion: Last year, after the "turn back the clock" game, Browns management banned the plastic beer bottles that fans rained down on officials. This year, obviously, Brown management should ban helmets.

Tom Brady
Tom Brady and the champs soared behind a brilliant game plan.

Best Plays of the Week: Game scoreless in the first, the defending champ Pats had first-and-goal at the Pittsburgh 4. Heavy package, play fake, touchdown to uncovered TE Christian Fauria. If you're going to play-fake at the goal line, do it on first down, when defenders are thinking run, not on second or third down after a run has been stuffed and defenders are thinking pass. This rule is incredibly basic, yet constantly violated by NFL offensive coordinators. Here, the Pats' Charlie Weis got it right.

And did you notice how New England flew down the field at the start of the second half -- 74 yards in four plays for the touch -- when the Pats came out of the locker room in a five-wide? NFL defenses see lots of five-wides these days, and have found ways to counter the tactic. But nobody had seen this from the conservative Pats, not least when the Pats were holding a lead. Nice touch!

Best Offensive No. 2: Second-and-goal at the Green Bay 2, Michael Vick and his blockers executed a perfect bootleg left for the touch. Several possessions later, once again at the Packers' 2, Vick once again bootlegged left, then stopped to zing the ball to an uncovered Alge Crumpler for six, the exemplar of the "series" call -- one play that sets up another. The Falcons also sent FB Bob Christian straight down the deep middle for a 55-yard gain on a perfect Vick lob, and the young QB threw other beauty passes on which his teammates did not cooperate (see below). In a losing cause, Atlanta had the best-looking game plan of the week, and Falcons can feel guarded optimism that they have the genuine article in Vick.

Michael Vick
Michael Vick didn't look like a second-year quarterback with his perfect execution at Green Bay.

(TMQ aside: Alge must feel relieved that his parents didn't name him Pond Scum Crumpler. Does he have a brother name Fungi?)

Best Offensive No. 3: Holding a tenuous three-point lead over the Rams in the early fourth, Denver faced fourth-and-1 at its own 38. Nine of 10 coaches would have done the safe, play-not-to-lose thing and punted; Mike Shanahan went for it. Significantly in this pass-wacky era, he called a run. Fake to the fullback up the middle, quick-flip to halfback Clinton Portis for an 11-yard gain. The Broncos scored four snaps later and never looked back.

Best Play by a 39-Year-Old: Trailing by eight, the Arizona (caution: may contain football-like substance) Cardinals faced third-and-8 on the Persons' 29. The call was dinky screen left -- technically, in AZ playbook lingo, it was Smash Strong, Six Z Over, Flip Double, Dinky Screen Left. On two! Bruce Smith read it, jumped the screen receiver and dropped him for a 5-yard loss, forcing the Cards to attempt a 52-yard figgie that doinked; the Persons took possession at their 42, and marched for the pull-away touchdown. As the running-out-of-gas Smith continues his improbable quest to pass Reggie White for first all-time in sacks, bear in mind, this gentlemen has been much better against the run and in other routine defensive plays than generally given credit for.

Best Debut: Man, Gillette Field looked great, and in an age when Seahawks owner Paul Allen, one of the richest men in world history, rakes in public subsidies for the private profit at his new stadium, it was wonderful to learn that Robert Kraft paid for this field himself. Wonderful, too, to learn there was no "personal seat license" gimmick designed to fleece customers. Long live Gillette Field!

Tom Brady, Charles Woodson
The Snow Game provided a most fitting farewell for Foxboro Stadium.

Nobody will miss the bench seats at old Foxboro Stadium -- though TMQ has fond college-days memories of watery-but-cheap Schaeffer beer, the non-micro brew for which what became Foxboro was once named Schaeffer Stadium. And it is pleasant to remember how Foxboro went out. Sometimes great stadiums go out with a whimper; Three Rivers with a meaningless game in a year the Steelers missed the playoffs. Foxboro went out with the Snow Bowl -- driving snow, an improbable overtime Patriots win that sent the team on to its first Super Bowl title. Foxboro Stadium honored sports lore by saving the best for last.

Worst Plays of the Week: Should be suspended in respect for the Browns self-destruct, a record-never-to-be-broken all-time worst. Nah, let's do it ...

Worst Defensive No. 1: On the deciding touchdown of the Denver-St. Louis game, the Rams had a linebacker covering Ed McCaffrey deep, despite dropping seven pass defenders against four Denver receivers.

Worst Defensive No. 2: On Tony Gonzalez's first-quarter "I don't need no stinking practice" touchdown catch against the Browns, no one covered the Pro Bowl tight end, despite Cleveland dropping seven defenders against four Kansas City receivers.

Worst Defensive No. 3: On the game-tying last-second fourth-down 29-yard touchdown pass to Eric Moulds, the Jets had a linebacker covering Moulds, despite dropping seven pass defenders against four Buffalo receivers.

Worst Defensive No. 4: On Chicago's game-winning touchdown pass to David Terrell with 35 seconds remaining, no one covered Terrell, despite Minnesota dropping seven defenders against four Bears receivers.

Worst Defensive No. 5: On Qadry Ismail's go-ahead touchdown catch, no one covered Ismail despite Jax dropping seven defenders against three Colts receivers.

Worst Defensive No. 6: On Hines Ward's first-quarter touchdown catch against the Pats, he was running alone despite New England dropping seven defenders against four Steelers receivers.

Attempted Worst Defensive No. 7: With 18 seconds left in the half, Jermaine Lewis of the Texans let a perfect David Carr touchdown pass go through his hands as if it were an Enron stock option. Lewis was running by his lonesome at the Dallas goal line despite the 'Boys dropping seven defenders against three Houston receivers.

Worst Offensive No. 1: Facing fourth-and-inches at the Niners 21, score tied in the second quarter, Jersey/A sent Tiki Barber up the middle, although Barber's four previous rushes had netted zero yards. Result: loss of three. And as the Giants lined up for the snap, San Francisco, anticipating run, stacked an incredible nine gentlemen into the box, meaning a play-pass audible would have been highly attractive.

Worst Offensive No. 2: Score still tied in the second, San Francisco faced third-and-one at the Giants 29. The Niners went pass-wacky with a junky-looking "all dodge" play (receivers improvise five yards off the line), incompletion, field-goal attempt. San Francisco was second in the league in rushing last year! Can't anyone just run up the middle for a yard anymore?

Worst Offensive No. 3: Leading 24-20 in the fourth against the Jets, the Bills faced third-and-2 at their own 46. To that point in the game, Buffalo tailback Travis Henry had rushed for 122 yards. The Bills went pass-wacky with a junky-looking "all dodge" play, incompletion, punt blocked on the following snap, setting up a Jersey/B field goal. Can't anyone just run off-tackle for two yards anymore?

Mike Martz
Mike Martz's genius rep took another hit in Denver.

Worst Offensive No. 4: Trailing by three at the end of the third, the Rams faced fourth-and-2 at the Broncos 10. Mike Martz elected to go for it -- a defensible decision, despite the grating told-you-sos of Fox announcer Cris Collinsworth, who repeatedly slammed Martz after his gamble failed, but later lavishly praised Mike Shanahan when a Denver fourth-down gamble worked. Martz's call was a play-fake to the end zone. As the teams lined up, the Broncos seemed to be expecting pass, Denver keeping four gentlemen back, meaning little chance of a play-fake success, and putting only seven in the box against a Rams "heavy" alignment, meaning odds in favor of a run. Nevertheless, Kurt Warner did not audible to a rush. Pass incomplete, turnover on downs. Can't anyone just run off-tackle for two yards anymore?

Worst Offensive No. 5: Leading by three with 2:15 remaining, New Orleans faced third-and-2 at its own 37, Tampa having no timeouts left. The Saints went pass-wacky with a junky-looking "all dodge" play, incompletion, stopping the clock at 2:10 and ultimately allowing the Bucs one extra play. Without that one extra play, Tampa's 40-yard regulation-tying field goal would have been a dicey attempt from 51 yards instead. Can't anyone run up the middle to grind the clock anymore?

Contrapositive Proves the Rule: Trailing by four with a minute remaining, Green Bay faced fourth-and-goal at the Falcons' 1. Did the Pack go pass-wacky? Fullback William Henderson straight up the middle for the touchdown. Somebody can still run for a yard.

Worst Prehensile Appendages: In a game ultimately lost in overtime, the Falcons saw WR Brian Finneran drop like a live ferret a perfect pass from Michael Vick that would have been a long touchdown, and TE Reggie Kelly, yes the Reggie Kelly, drop like an open beaker of West Nile virus a perfect Vick pass that would have been another six. Both drives then ended in punts. (TMQ calls him the Reggie Kelly, because the Falcons inexplicably traded a No. 1 draft pick for this who-dat gentleman.)

Dwayne Rudd May Be the Leading Idiot But He's Not the Only Idiot: Willie Whitehead of New Orleans can thank his lucky stars Rudd's brainless helmet throw is drawing all the attention. When Tampa got the ball back with two minutes in regulation, mired on its 26 and no timeouts, the first snap was a loss of one, runner tackled in bounds keeping the tick-tick-tick going. But DE Whitehead, frustrated that he hadn't stacked Brad Johnson, picked Johnson up and body-slammed him directly in front of a zebra. The flag both moved the Bucs out to their 40 and stopped the clock, creating the extra time that made Tampa's last-second tying figgie possible.

Happy Four-Year Reunion: When Jersey/A placekicker Matt Bryant drilled a figgie against the Niners on Thursday night, it was his first kick in competition in four years; he'd been working as a pawnbroker. When Dallas punter Micah Knorr boomed one against the Texans on Sunday night, it was his first kick in competition in four years; he'd been working as a manager of a sporting-good.

Best, and thrilling to behold, was that when Marine Mammals tailback Robert Edwards caught a rinky-dink 6-yard safety-valve pass against Detroit on Sunday afternoon, it was the first time Edwards had touched a football in competition in four years. He'd been told he would never walk again.

WorldCom-Like Special Teams Disaster of the Week: The Bills had the worst special-teams day of any club in many a moon; see item below. But let's not overlook the end-zone breakdown by Tampa that resulted in Bucs punter Tom Tupa doing a wacky Garo Yepremian-esque heave-ho directly into the hands of a Saint for the winning touchdown. New Orleans had a return on; the Saints rushed just five against eight Tampa blockers, yet waiver-wire gentleman Fred McAfee blew in barely touched to grab Tupa and force his desperation heave. Ye gods.

The winning catch was a rarity, an interception occurring in the end zone -- that is, a scoring reception covering no yardage. But TMQ was disappointed that McAfee didn't complete the tackle and win the game with a safety. Only one overtime game in NFL history has ended on a safety -- a 1989 Rams-Minnesota fifth-session contest in which Vikes LB Mike Merriweather blocked a punt out of the end zone for the win. And besides, TMQ just likes safeties.

Stats of the Week: From the end of last January's AFC Championship Game to the beginning of last night's Monday Night contest, Kordell Stewart threw interceptions on four consecutive possessions against the Patriots.

Stat No. 2: Both of the most-touted teams for the year -- the Rams and Steelers -- honked their openers. Stretching back to last season, both are riding two-game losing streaks. The Rams, who spent the offseason boasting about being unstoppable, have scored just three touchdowns in their last two games.

Stat No. 3: Carolina has won its last two opening games, and lost every game in between.

Stat No. 4: Stretching back to last season, the Niners have allowed just four touchdowns in their last five regular-season games. Stretching back to last season, the Patriots have allowed nine offensive touchdowns in their last nine games

Stat No. 5: The Eagles onside kicked in a non-onside situation on opening day for the third consecutive year.

Stat No. 6: Stretching back to last season, coach Marty Schottenheimer is on a 9-3 run -- during which he has been fired.

Brian Griese
Brian Griese finished strong, reaffirming Mike Shanahan's faith in him.

Einstein-Esque Coaching Moment: Shanahan staying with Brian Griese despite two third-quarter INTs. Griese is best in close, tense games -- exactly what was in progress.

Adam-Sandler-Esque Coaching Moment: Score tied at 10 early in the fourth, Dallas CB Bryant Westbrook was called for illegal contact on Texans WR Corey Bradford. Westbrook has a rep for drawing interference flags, and 'Boys coach Dave Campo had warned him to watch it, though the call in TMQ's opinion was ticky-tack. (Possibly tacky-tick, I didn't have a perfect view.) Smoke steaming from his ears, Campo yanked Westbrook, inserting journeyman Duane Hawthorne. On the next passing snap, the Texans sent Bradford deep against Hawthorne, toasting the gentleman for a 65-yard touchdown catch that was both the Texans' sole long completion of the game, and the winning points.

Bengals Pregame Meal -- Ambien and Warm Milk: On ESPN's "Countdown" pregame show, Chris Berman chose the Cincinnati Bengals as his "sleeper" team of the year. Cincinnati went on to lose by 28. Perhaps Berman meant to say his "snoring" team of the year. Next week: Cincinnati coaches ask hotel operators for wake-up call at 1 p.m. Eastern.

It Was That or Punt:Trailing the Chargers by 34-3 with 5:48 left in the game, rather than go for a first down, Cincinnati kicked a field goal. Then the Bengals didn't even onside, but kicked away. What were they trying to do, limit the margin of defeat for their BCS standing? Jiminy cricket! (Matchup note: the Cincinnati Bengals could not defeat most teams in the BCS.)

Cheerleader of the Week: A Raiderette is due for this week, but first a word of praise for the Raider cheer-babes' cheesecake-inspired swimsuit calendar, whose latest number was "unveiled at a private ceremony on Sept. 5," according to the team web site. What exactly does "private ceremony" mean in the context of hot babes in swimwear? Other than, of course, that you and I were not invited. Worse, "Those in attendance included members of the Raiders staff; media, including the ESPN crew filming "The Season;" tryout judges; friends; family and calendar sponsors," which is to say that those invited to gawk at a dozen evening-gowned mega-babes included everyone but you and me.

Raiderettes
Here are some Raiderettes that ESPN.com is allowed to show you.

The TMQ ESPN Cheerleader of the Week is Raiderette Maria Wintermute. Sadly, the Raiders would not give ESPN.com permission to run her seriously hot portrait from the swimsuit calendar. Don't they want to sell the calendar? Apparently not. And is this the way the club thanks ESPN, which just featured the Raiderettes in a laudatory special? Wait, this is how Al Davis thanks everybody!

According to her team bio, Wintermute, the daughter of a single mother, put herself through college at Loyola Marymount, earned her degree in accounting and now "works as a consultant for one of the top accounting firms worldwide." TMQ hopes this is not a cryptic reference to Arthur Andersen, and also wonders how come no consultant TMQ has ever had to deal with looks remotely like this.

Lit note: Wintermute is the name of the sinister artificial intelligence trying to take over the world in the cult novel "Neuromancer." In the book's best scene, as the anti-hero, Case, runs through an airport attempting to avoid contact with Wintermute, the sinister AI makes every pay phone in the terminal ring exactly as Case passes by. Of course, this assumes that in the future there will be pay phones, which seemed reasonable in 1984 when "Neuromancer" was published, but in the cell phone age, the pay phone is already going the way of the hand-crank gasoline pump.

Kyle Turley
Kyle Turley is here to remind us that Rudd isn't the only one to lose his head in the NFL.

Haiku of the Week: Kyle Turley, you might recall, cost the Saints a game last season with a zany, madcap helmet throw that pushed his team back from a first-and-goal with seconds remaining. Thus TMQ is moved to haikuize,

    Turley, Dwayne Rudd --
    dumb and dumber. Bicep girths
    exceed their IQs.

Bruce DeHaven's Revenge: Buffalo dominated Jersey/B in offensive yards, first downs and time of possession but lost 37-31 on a special-team implosion, as the Jets returned two kickoffs for touchdowns, totaled 300 kick-return yards and blocked a punt to set up a field goal. The football gods, and a gentleman named Bruce DeHaven, chortled.

From 1988 until January 2000, DeHaven was Buffalo's special teams coach, and consistently kept the Bills near the top of the many special-teams categories, as well as high in the influential annual Dallas Morning News composite ranking of special teams. Then came the Music City Miracle that cost Buffalo a playoff victory against the Titans. This was, arguably, the worst single special-teams breakdown in NFL history.

DeHaven was partly to blame. During their sideline huddle before the kick, he failed to remind his unit to watch for a trick play on a kickoff with 16 seconds remaining and the receiving team desperate -- an obvious trick-play situation. Yet during the week, DeHaven had shown his charges tape of Tennessee running the "home-run throwback" action that caused the Miracle, and told them that if they lined up and saw the left outside Titans guy changed from the previous kickoff, that meant the throwback play was coming. The Bills lined up, saw the left outside Titans guy changed from the previous kickoff and did nothing, botching it as DeHaven madly screamed, "Throwback! Throwback!" from the sidelines as the ball was kicked off.

Chad Morton
Chad Morton's two kick returns probably made Bruce DeHaven smile.

TMQ's point, and why the football gods took note: DeHaven was fired the next day, rendered the scapegoat for one totally screwed-up 10 seconds in an otherwise outstanding career. DeHaven has gone on to the 49ers, where special-teams play has improved since his arrival. The Bills, meanwhile, dropped from fourth-best to dead last in the Dallas Morning News rankings in the first year DeHaven was gone, giving up several touchdown returns (including a kickoff touchdown to the Jets that lost a game that season) and firing DeHaven's replacement.

In 2001, the Bills once again finished dead-last in overall special-teams play, then Sunday opened the 2002 season with one of the worst special-teams days in league annals. While DeHaven was with the Bills, the club was 135-78; since his petty scapegoating and the Buffalo special-teams collapse, the club is 11-20. Aye carumba.

TMQ Would Meet Susan Sarandon at the Refrigerator Anytime: The 596-page September issue of InStyle, the magazine's annual "What's Sexy Now" cover, recently arrived at TMQ's home via crane. Just seeing the size of the issue was depressing enough. In magazine publishing, high page length means loads of advertising. A glam magazine with 596 pages! In contrast, the September and current weekly issues of The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, Harper's and the New Yorker -- the four publications that are the last, shining hope of American thought and culture -- totaled 464 pages. InStyle bested all of them combined, despite the fact that its content is indistinguishable from advertising. Check that -- maybe because its content is indistinguishable from advertising.

Last September, after thousands of interviews on land, sea and air, the InStyle "What's Sexy Now" issue came to the conclusion that what's sexy now is -- naked babes. TMQ agrees, but talk about your counterintuitive conclusion. Last year, the cover featured Kate Hudson nude, hands strategically placed; an interior photo spread had a dozen (high-class, of course!) nudes of Hudson, plus disrobing snapshots of various other mega-babes.

InStyle
InStyle magazine actually manages to make Jennifer Aniston look "unsexy."

This year, InStyle abandoned the naked-babes premise. The new cover is a fully clothed Jennifer Aniston, photographed at considerable expense to make her look as unattractive as possible. There's no skin inside other than a few nameless hunk models with their shirts off and tungsten-steel abs rippling. In other words, what's sexy now is no longer naked babes! More indication of the decline of Western civilization.

Rather than cheesecake, this year's InStyle "What's Sexy Now" feature -- which begins on page 485 -- offers preposterous written-by-a-publicist "interviews" in which celebrities "confess" the supposed "sexy things" they "like to do after midnight."

Mega-babe Hilary Swank declares that what turns her on is dancing alone in front of a jukebox in Iowa (TMQ is not making this up) and that, "Anyone who is uninhibited and unaware of his or her own body is free, and that's the sexiest thing there is." Being unaware of your body makes you sexy? TMQ thought is was the other way around. "Star Wars" super-hunk Hayden Christensen says he finds water "totally sensual" and reports that when "Episode II" was being filmed in Australia, he would go out drinking till 2:30 a.m. and then jump into the ocean fully clothed. No wonder Christensen's performance was so robotic -- he was hung over. Middle-aged babe Andie MacDowell declares she finds horses sexy and that, "Horses have always been my sanity and refuge." Andie, if you are sexually attracted to horses, have your sanity checked immediately! Mega-hunk Joseph Fiennes confides that he is turned on by "the orchestral sounds of insects at night." Fiennes is sexually aroused by insects? Suddenly horses sound reasonable. Ageless always-babe Susan Sarandon, posed in a low-cut negligee in front of her refrigerator late at night holding an ice-cream pint -- in a 20-page feature about sex this is the sole cheesecake photo, actually an ice-cream photo, though maybe there is cheesecake in the refrigerator, too -- declares that "Eating is sexy because a person who says 'yes' to food is likely to say an enthusiastic 'yes' to other things!"

But Susan, everyone says "yes" to food. Does this mean everyone is sexy? That has not been TMQ's experience.

Hilary Swank
Hilary Swank gets her groove going when she dances alone in front of a jukebox.

In contrast to InStyle, the September Atlantic Monthly is chock with magnificent articles including installment two of William Langewiesche's moving "American Ground," a detailed insider account of the disassembly of the World Trade Centers. The September Harper's has an hysterical conversation between Wyatt Earp and Ike Clanton -- great-grand descendants of the historical figures. Wyatt Earp reveals that what history calls the Shootout at the OK Corral was actually the Shootout at the Vacant Lot Behind the Photography Studio. Hmmm, no wonder the Shootout at the Vacant Lot never entered American iconography. Ike Clanton maintains that his ancestor was a peaceful man -- practically a transcendental meditation instructor! -- peacefully trying to leave Tombstone when accosted by the Earps and the malevolent Doc Holliday. Somehow the whole thing turns into a debate about government power versus individual initiative. Anyway, either of these Atlantic Monthly or Harper's articles alone has more to offer than the entire 596 pages of InStyle.

Instead of a Golden Parachute, He Should Have Gotten Golden Handcuffs: After WorldCom imploded, Jack Grubman told CNBC, "Nobody saw it coming," though the stock's plunge even as Grubman tirelessly shilled WorldCom shows everybody saw it coming except Salomon Smith Barney and the investors the company merrily helped fleece. (TMQ owned no WorldCom, in case you were wondering.) When Grubman left, Salomon Smith Barney gave him a $32 million severance package. Though Grubman systematically swindled Salomon Smith Barney customers out of billions, he did make money for the firm, which is apparently all that matters to investment bankers and brokerage houses these days. By this logic, Ryan Leaf should have gotten a $32 million severance package from the NFL. (TMQ was not a Salomon customer, in case you were wondering.)

You're a Grand Old Apparel! At halftime of the Giants-Niners opener on ESPN, Bon Jovi performed. Guitar wallah Richie Sambora, the one who's married to Heather Locklear -- she must see something in him, or at least in his wallet -- took the stage with an American flag wrapped around his waist. He strutted around thrusting out his butt, and thus the flag draped over his butt, at the crowd.

Now maybe somewhere in Richie Sambora's fuzzy cranial cavity the idea of wearing an American flag seemed like a 9/11 gesture. Or maybe it seemed like a way to get attention. Or maybe Richie Sambora was trying to tell us he thinks the American flag can kiss his butt. At any rate, this was a huge violation of flag protocol, and TMQ was distressed that the ESPN announcers said nothing, gushing about Bon Jovi while pretending the flag-on-the-butt wasn't happening.

According to the American Flag Code, Section 8(d), "The flag should never be used as wearing apparel." People who handle the flag -- soldiers, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, building directors and so on -- take the Flag Code very seriously. The flag is never to touch the ground; it can only fly after dark if lit by a bright light; there are approved and unapproved ways of folding and washing it, and so on. Flag-like patterns -- stars-and-stripes ski caps, swimsuits, whatever -- are unrestricted, since they can't be mistaken for actual flags. But the flag itself is a special object and should "never be used as wearing apparel."

Saying the flag can't be worn is different from saying it can't be burned. The First Amendment clearly protects the right to destroy the flag as a gesture of political speech, as the Supreme Court has ruled several times, most recently in 1990. The Court's ruling that year, striking down an anti-flag-burning law passed by Congress, enunciated a broad First Amendment license regarding political speech and the flag, but left open employment of the Flag Code to regulate propriety.

Jon Bon Jovi
Jon Bon Jovi should tell his employees to show some respect for the flag.

Today the version of the Flag Code linked to above is law in the District of Columbia and in any state that has not passed a successor code. The Giants-Niners game occurred in New Jersey, and the New Jersey state attorney general's office told TMQ accomplice and The New Republic super-intern Spencer Ackerman that Jersey has no flag code to supersede the D.C. code. Thus, that code was in effect at Giants Stadium, and Sambora broke it. (If Sambora was making some kind of political statement, he neglected to mention anything about it to anyone.)

Bad enough that Jon Bon Jovi didn't tell his employee, "For God's sake man, show a little respect." Bad enough that the NFL front office, with control over the event, didn't tell Sambora to show some respect or stay in the green room. Bad enough that the ESPN announcing team didn't know what to say. Bad enough that so few Americans know what's in the code governing the flag they claim to love that this wasn't a controversy the next day.

Worst, American Forces Network beamed that game around the world to the dozens of distant nations where selfless men and women of the U.S. military have gone to defend the kind of freedom that allows people like Sambora to become exceptionally rich by making loud, unintelligible noises. Soldiers watching the game in Kandahar or at the Bagram fire base -- watching with one ear cocked toward the perimeter for the freedom-hating fanatics they are risking their lives to stop -- must have been disgusted to see everyone clapping and gushing, while the American flag was wrapped around some rich punk's butt.

Still More Scientific Proof That It's Good for You to Gawk at Beach Babes in Triangle Tops: Miami has now won 11 straight on opening day -- sun and sand rule! The old industrial Cities of Rust (Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland and Detroit) are now on a combined 1-11 opening-day streak.

TMQ Insider Exclusive! Tuesday Morning Quarterback has learned on an exclusive basis that moments after Dallas' humiliating opening loss to expansion Houston, Jerry Jones was heard screaming at state troopers guarding the Cowboys locker room, "What do you mean I can't have the players killed? Do you have any idea who I am?" Remember, this is a Tuesday Morning Quarterback exclusive.

Running Items Department
Obscure College Score of the Week: C. W. Post 54, Assumption 0. So they beat an Assumption -- but which assumption? There are lots.

Located in Brookville, N.Y., on Long Island's quiet north shore, C.W. Post is not overwhelmed with business; its web page advises, "There's still time to enroll for Fall 2002!" The site also warns, in portentous bureaucratese, that C.W. Post "is in the midst of the decennial self-study process that will culminate in a visit and evaluation by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education."

Kids, this means your school might lose its accreditation -- enjoy those football victories now. The arrival at C.W. Post of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education sounds to TMQ about as welcome as when the dementors arrived to "save" Hogwarts in "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban." The astonishing 22-step process of deciding whether C.W. Post keeps its accreditation will, however, drag on far longer than, say, a Supreme Court nomination. On the brighter side, the Italian Club is sponsoring a candy sale on Halloween.

Bonus Obscure Score: Lycoming 54, Delaware Valley 0. (Harmonic obscure scores!) Located in Williamsport, Pa., the state nationally known as "Cradle of Obscure Colleges," the school boasts that "Lycoming College joins Harvard, Yale and others in the 2002-2003 edition of "Competitive Colleges." This is a little like saying "Tom Clancy joins Hemmingway, Faulkner, Eugene O'Neill and other authors in the latest 'Books in Print.' " The school's website also advertises that the influential U.S. News college scorecard "ranks Lycoming as a national liberal arts college." But that's just the category it's under! A school that does have a solid liberal-arts reputation and a classy college-looking leafy campus, in 1848 Lycoming became the first American institution of higher learning to go co-ed. All hail Lycoming!

Double-Bonus Obscure Score: Muhlenberg 54, Kings Point 3. (Almost a triple harmonic.) Check out the Mules' ominous who-you-lookin'-at mule football logo.

New York Times Final-Score Score: The Paper of Guesses goes 0-16 for season-opener week of Year Three of its quixotic attempt to predict the exact final score of an NFL game. Times predicted: Steelers 19, Patriots 17. Actual: Patriots 30, Steelers 14. And so on. This brings the New York Times Final-Score Score to 0-536 since TMQ has been tracking.

Bonus bad prediction: Seeking to emulate the most ridiculous thing about the Times, the Washington Post took a stab at predicting an exact NFL final score last week, divining an outcome of Giants 17, Niners 10. Many other papers, websites and sports touts offer worthless predictions of exact final scores; TMQ will ridicule them in turns.

Terrell OWens
The 49ers are determined to rid themselves of Terrell Owens.

Kenneth Lay Could Tell the Truth: Vinnie Iyer of The Sporting News predicted last week that in the Thursday night opener against the Giants, Terrell Owens "could" break the single-game receiving record, of 20 catches for 283 yards. Owens finished with four catches for 41 yards.

Lots of things "could" happen. George W. Bush could win the 2000 presidential election. (Ha! Just kidding.) Jennifer Lopez could agree to meet me for the weekend at the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe. (J-Lo, the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe is the perfect place for our long-delay assignation! It's got three-tiered swimming pools, a 14,000-square foot spa, a "couples massage suite with fireplace" and promises that "guest disruption will be minimal," owing to ongoing renovations.) Even more statistically improbable, my agent "could" return my phone calls. Many unusual things could happen. Usually, they don't.

Reader Animadversion: Many readers wrote in to protest that although TMQ predicted the Super Bowl winner would come from the group of teams not slated for a "Monday Night Football" appearance (the same prediction I made last season, rendering me the sole representative of genus homo to have picked the Patriots, at least sort-of), I then proceeded in individual team forecasts to predict that every team not slated for "MNF" would finish with a losing record.

Well! As Emerson once said, "Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds," a quote TMQ amazingly finds on the Internet attributed to Sen. Bennett Johnston praising a Louisiana colleague. Senator, bear in mind, Emerson meant this as an insult.

Matt Newbery, a Pitt State alum, wrote in to protest that the proper spelling is "Pittsburg" of Kansas State. Newbery notes that city fathers of the Pennsylvania metropolis made theirs "the only one of 12 P-burgs in the United States to stick the 'h' on, and they ruin it for the rest of them."

Got a comment on TMQ, or a deeply felt grievance? Comment on the column here, and give your name and hometown, as I'll quote readers by name. Funny or clever entries will get most attention, vulgar entries zero attention.

TMQ Challenge: So it's Pittsburg State, not Pittsburgh. And it's Miami University, not Miami of Ohio, named after a river and not a town. (TMQ's favorite thing about Miami University is that its existence forces the Hurricane university to call itself "Miami of Florida.")

Did you graduate from a school whose name is constantly botched by sportswriters? Explain here and append a witty comment. That is this week's Tuesday Morning Quarterback Challenge. Funny or clever entries will get most attention, vulgar entries zero attention. TMQ will quote successful entrants -- include your name and hometown for mention in the column -- and the author of the best may receive a bobblehead or some other dubious ESPN trinket, delivered to his or her door by a uniformed agent of the federal government.

This isn't a contest, it's just a challenge. We promise nothing, the rules are kept secret even from the judges and the final decision will be completely arbitrary. That's what makes it a Challenge!

Gregg Easterbrook is a senior editor of New Republic, a contributing editor of The Atlantic Monthly and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is believed to be the first Brookings scholar ever to write a pro football column. You can buy his football book, the incredibly cleverly titled "Tuesday Morning Quarterback," here.




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Easterbrook
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