By Gregg Easterbrook
Special to Page 2

The Carolina Panthers, who last season set an all-time record for consecutive losses with 15, today are an awesome, unstoppable, undefeated juggernaut. Meanwhile, the Rams and Steelers, Super Bowl picks of most touts, have lost all their games and stand a combined 0-7 stretching back to the end of last season's playoffs.

The Steelers have forgotten how to tackle. The Rams have forgotten how to block. (Note to the Rams O-line after watching the Monday night game -- the trick is to stand in front of the guy you are blocking. Do not step out of his way and watch him go by! Try to get in front of him. It's a technique thing.) Alien-in-human-form "Kurt Warner" is reverting to human. Kordell Stewart is reverting to Kordell Stewart.

Maybe this is just the football gods having some fun with us mortals. Or maybe ... it's a conspiracy. TMQ called in two experts on the latter. Here is a wire-tapped transcript of their commentary:

Agent Mulder: Strange lights were observed above the Metrodome while the Panthers were beating the Vikings. And that Metrodome -- tell me it doesn't look like an alien mother ship.

Agent Scully: Don't jump to conclusions.

Agent Mulder: Four interceptions by Kurt Warner, or maybe I should say, "Kurt Warner." We already know he arrived aboard a starcruiser. From unknown to NFL MVP in a single year -- I've never bought that Arena League cover story. But now it seems he has been replaced by a different alien, one who can't play football, maybe from another planet trying to oust the first aliens.

Kurt Warner
Alien phenom Kurt Warner has reverted to human form.

Agent Scully: The DNA tests on Kurt Warner are incomplete. It may just be an evolutionary jump that his cells have 205 chromosomes.

Agent Mulder: Do you believe the Steelers are missing all those tackles by accident? Certain Mayan ruins contain prophecy glyphs depicting missed tackles just before a cataclysm envelopes the Earth. The figures in the glyphs are labeled with words that translate as "men of steel." I'd take you there and show you, but access to the ruins has been mysteriously sealed off by elite commando units.

Agent Scully: You're being too hasty. Maybe the Rams' plodding, robotic behavior has nothing to do with the slimy symbiot organisms found in their locker room. If only the slimy symbiots hadn't mysteriously disappeared just as I arrived with the containment team! This might explain Mike Martz, though.

Agent Mulder: Carolina beats Detroit by 24 points. The next week Detroit takes the mighty Green Bay Packers down to the final seconds. Coincidence? An unusual metallic alloy dye was found in the arm tattoos of Panthers players. The origin of this dye might not be of this world.

Agent Scully: I've been kidnapped by aliens, killed and brought back to life, impregnated with extraterrestrial tissue in a secret government project aboard a cloaked battleship that later exploded, suspended in protoplasm found at a starship crash site, attacked by invincible genetically engineered super-soldiers and infected with a million-year-old disease designed to turn humans into zombies. But I don't believe any of your wild speculation!

Agent Mulder: Crop circles, Scully. Mel Gibson found crop circles. And there are cornfields near the Panthers' training camp.

Agent Scully: Mel Gibson found those crop circles in a movie!

Mel Gibson
Touchstone Pictures
Mel Gibson's crop circles might explain the Panthers' amazing turnaround.

Agent Mulder: I know. That's what scares me.

In other NFL news, it's bad enough that the "Sunday Ticket" package -- which allows viewers to decide for themselves what they want to see rather than exist under the boots of the bad choices of local network affiliates -- is restricted by the NFL to the small percentage of American homes with the satellite service DirecTV. This conspiracy (alternatively, this restraint of trade) to deny viewers choice regarding games played in publicly financed stadiums and broadcast over public spectrums will be the subject of a coming, extended TMQ assault.

For the moment, what drives TMQ nuts is when a local affiliate chooses a game that turns into a sleep-inducing blowout and then doesn't switch to a better game. This Sunday in the 1 p.m. slot, the CBS affiliates in Baltimore and Washington chose the Miami-Jets game, while the Fox affiliates in these cities chose the Dallas-Philadelphia tilt. Neither involved home teams, for which local affiliates always show the compete game. CBS stayed with every tedious fourth-quarter snap of the 30-3 Marine Mammals-Jersey/B blowout, rather than switch to the exciting New England-Kansas City game, to which CBS had the rights, and which was going down to the wire with a huge underdog poised to upset the Super Bowl champs. Fox stayed with every tedious fourth-quarter snap of the 44-13 Eagles-'Boys blowout, rather than switch to the exciting New Orleans-Chicago game, to which Fox had the rights, and which was going down to the wire in the only contest of the day matching two undefeated teams.

Ye gods.

On the relationship front, memo to Keyshawn Johnson -- if we ever have a fight, when we make up, you don't have to kiss me, OK?

Best Yard Trailing by seven, the Chiefs had the ball on the Pats' 1-yard line with three seconds remaining. It's do or die. Did Kansas City go pass-wacky? Priest Holmes straight up the middle for the touchdown that forced overtime. Somebody can still run the ball for a yard.

Best Non-Blitz Trailing by six, the Bears had first down at the New Orleans' 18 with 10 seconds to play and no timeouts. NFL defensive coordinators big-blitz in long-yardage situations so predictably that Chicago quarterback Jim Miller seemed shocked when the Saints rushed only three, dropping eight against four receivers. Miller forced the ball into coverage for the game ending INT.

Best Ruse Trailing by a touchdown with a little more than two minutes to play and lining up for a kickoff, the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.0) decided to onside. They scrunched eight gentlemen to the right of the kicker and two left; the Flaming Thumbtacks responded with nine gentlemen in front of the scrunch bunch and a return man deep in case the Browns kicked away. That left just one Titan to stand across from the two Browns on the left; that's where the onside went, and with two against one, Cleveland recovered as 10 other Tennessee players stood far away, watching.

Oronde Gadsden
Oronde Gadsden not only made a great one-handed catch, he prevented an interception.

Wow! of the Week Oronde Gadsden of the Dolphins not only extended his entire body for a seemingly impossible flying one-handed catch, he prevented an interception, as the pass was traveling directly toward a waiting Jets defender. Note that the low-paid Gadsden went all-out to prevent an interception, while the extremely highly overpaid Randy Moss makes no attempt whatsoever to do this. (See below.)

Best Play by an Ivy League Graduate Against the Arizona (caution: may contain football-like substance) Cardinals, San Diego zone-blitzed on second-and-8; Jake Plummer threw the ball directly into the hands of Bolts DE Marcellus Wiley. The former Columbia halfback returned the pick 40 yards, setting up his team's first touchdown.

A defensive lineman dropping into coverage is the little-known part three of the zone blitz. Part one is LBs or DBs coming; part two is the remaining DBs in a soft zone, to avoid giving up a long gain; part three is a DE retreating to the left or right short-curl area. Most teams respond to blitzing by throwing a quick slant or short curl; when the DBs are in a soft zone, these patterns are effective. But if a defensive lineman drops into one of the short curl areas, this creates uncertainty in the QB's mind about whether he can safely zing a quick slant.

And if the QB zings one without looking -- as Plummer did -- the lineman might snag an interception. The same thing happened in the Rams-Bucs Monday night game. Zone blitz by Tampa, which usually doesn't zone blitz. Bucs DE Simeon Rice drops into coverage; "Kurt Warner" thinks he can safely zing a quick slant into the short curl area; Rice is there; "Warner" never sees him; the ball goes directly to Rice for the interception.

Fun question: How many former college running backs have played defensive line in the NFL?

Best Blocks When receiver Terrell Owens' trick-play pass attempt was disrupted against the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons, Owens took off running, and his Niners teammates provided some of the best broken field blocks TMQ has ever seen. Sportscasters praised Owens for "athleticism" (is that a disease?) on his twisting run. They should have praised the quick thinking and hustle of his teammates.

Best Use of TMQ Tuesday Morning Quarterback has been emphasizing that if you're going to play-fake near the goal line, do it on first down when the defense is thinking run, not on second or third down after a run has been stuffed and the defense is thinking pass. Leading by seven, Green Bay had first-and-goal against Detroit. Play-fake, touchdown pass. Leading by five with two minutes left, Denver faced first-and-goal against Buffalo. Play-fake, touchdown pass. Trailing by one, City of Tampa had first-and-goal at the St. Louis' 9. Play-fake, touchdown pass. Leading by 10, Miami had first-and-goal against the Jets. Play-fake, touchdown pass.

Contrapositive proves the rule: On the ensuing position against Miami, Jersey/B play-faked on second and goal after a run had been stuffed. Incomplete, the drive ending with a figgie.

Best Big BlitzTrailing by eight, Arizona faced fourth-and-goal on the San Diego 9 with 1:44 left. The Bolts sent six, and Plummer's hurried pass clanged to the ground incomplete. TMQ mentions this to acknowledge that big blitzing does sometimes work. But, see anti-blitzing item below.

Worst by a Jersey Gentleman No. 1 In his preseason preview, TMQ warned that "this year the blocking will be ugly" for the Jets because Jersey/B let go of starting OLs in its quest to free up cap space for the defensive players coach Herman Edwards wanted to stockpile. Now the Jets are last in the league in rushing at a pitiful 54.3 yards per game: If only their blocking would rise to the level of ugly! In a scoreless first quarter, Jersey/B faced third-and-3 against Miami. A Marine Mammals defender blew past Jets RT Kareem McKenzie -- McKenzie barely even brushed him -- for the sack. Jersey/B let last year's starting RT, the fine Ryan Young, go in the Houston expansion draft, on the grounds that McKenzie could handle the job and was cheaper.

Worst by a Jersey Gentleman No. 2 On the next Jets possession, Jersey/B faced third-and-3 again. A Marine Mammals defender blew past Jets guard J.P. Machado -- Machado barely even brushed him -- to drop Curtis Martin for a loss. Jersey/B let last year's starter in this position, the fine Kerry Jenkins, go to the Tampa as a free agent, on the grounds that Machado could handle the job and was cheaper.

Worst by a Jersey Gentleman No. 3 A Marine Mammals defender blew past Jets LT Jason Fabini -- Fabini barely even brushed him -- to clobber Vinnie Testaverde for a fumble that led to a Miami touchdown. During the offseason, Jersey/B released other starters partly to free sal cap space for a $7 million bonus for Fabini.

Vinny Testaverde
Vinny Testaverde's offensive line seems to have forgotten the simple "technique" of blocking.

Worst by a Jersey Gentleman "Protected" by Jersey Gentlemen Dolphins 10, Jets 0 in the second quarter; Miami blitzed, the Jets OL watched. (Hint to Jets OLs: Try to stand in front of the man you're supposed to block. It's a technique thing.) A man in his face, Testaverde forced a short pass into traffic for the INT. His intended receiver, Wayne Chrebet, was covered by three Marine Mammals.

Worst Prehensile AppendagesTrailing by six with 30 seconds left, Detroit reached the Green Bay 35 in the debut game at Ford Field. Joey Harrington hit TE Mikhael Ricks in stride with a beauty pass at the goal line for the win. Storybook ending -- magnificent new field, heralded new quarterback, huge comeback victory! Ricks dropped the ball as if it were a CIA anthrax sample. On the next snap the Lions called exactly the same play, which is sometimes a smart move. But Ricks wasn't open and Harrington forced it into coverage for the game-ending INT.

Fun factoid: when Bobby Beathard was at San Diego and annually trading away his first-round draft pick, he traded a No. 1 for the chance to draft Ricks in the second round. Ricks lasted just two seasons before being waived.

Randy Moss
Randy Moss hasn't put out the effort to match his mammoth contract.

Worst By a Legend in His Own Mind Randy Moss opened the season declaring that Minnesota "would have a ring now" if only the offense were based solely and exclusively on him. Timid rookie Vikes coach Mike Tice caved and drew up an offense based solely on Moss. Sunday, Moss rose to the challenge with four catches for 16 yards. On one play, he pulled up his pattern for no apparent reason and watched passively as the ball sailed to the Carolina safety for an interception. On another, he ran the wrong route, then, when the ball zinged by him, instead of knocking it down to prevent the INT -- as a receiver, if you can't get the catch your job is to make sure no one else does -- he weirdly tapped it up into the air as if to be sure to keep it alive for the Panthers interception that followed. Daunte Culpepper came off and screamed at Moss on the sideline. TMQ's question was: Why wasn't the timid Tice ("Timid Tice," that might catch on) screaming at Moss? Or sending him to the showers?

Stats of the Week The Bengals, Jets and Texans were outscored by a combined 83-9. In their last two outings, the Jets have been outscored 74-10.

Stats No. 2 Tampa linebacker Derrick Brooks has more touchdowns than the entire Baltimore Ravens team.

Stats No. 3 Marty Schottenheimer is on an 11-3 run, during which he has been fired.

Stats No. 4 Both New Jersey teams failed to record a touchdown.

Stats No. 5 Drew Bledsoe is on pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,424 yards. And if he doesn't, Tom Brady is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,189 yards. (The season record, held by Dan Marino, is 5,084 yards.)

Stats No. 6 Denver is now 175-56-1 at home in the last quarter-century, best home record in the league. Also, the best record above 6,000 feet.

Stats No. 7 The Giants needed a last-minute field goal to beat the Seahawks despite a 206-yard edge in offense, no turnovers and holding Seattle to seven first downs.

Stats No. 8 On a night when he threw four interceptions and his rating was a cover-your-eyes 48.5, "Kurt Warner" passed the 1,500-career attempts mark, the qualifying level, and became the No. 1 rated NFL passer of all time at 100.2. Steve Young had been first all-time at 96.8.

Ravens cheerleader
Don't be surprised if you see Tracey cruising Baltimore in a red BMW.

Cheerleader of the Week: Ravens fans had no game to watch, and the way Baltimore is playing, are better off looking at the cheerleaders anyway. Thus this week's TMQ Page 2 Cheerleader of the Week is Tracey S. of the Ravens' cheer squad. According to her team bio, Tracey has appeared in several television commercials and currently works as a financial advisor for Legg Mason, a brokerage firm that, in a refreshing change of pace, has not been accused of deliberately defrauding investors.

Tracey drives a red BMW convertible. Hot babe in a red convertible! TMQ did not know such things were possible in Baltimore. Her favorite song is Louis Armstrong's version of "Wonderful World" by George Weiss and Bob Thiele, which creates an excuse to quote its wonderful lyrics, including,

    I hear babies cry, I watch them grow
    You know they're gonna learn
    a lot more than I'll never know.
    And I think to myself, what a wonderful world

Baltimore is one of the few professional sports franchises with both female and male cheerleaders; chiseled ultra-hunks join buff mega-babes on the Ravens' sideline. This causes TMQ to fear that female readers will submit earnest, carefully reasoned arguments that the column feature some chiseled ultra-hunk as Cheerleader of the Week. Ha! I suppose next you'll tell me that a male cheerleader could become president of the United States.

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! Trailing 17-9, New England had first-and-goal at the Kansas City. The Chiefs big-blitzed six gentlemen, including a safety. Touchdown pass to Troy Brown, who zipped straight to the spot the safety vacated.

Score now tied at 17-17, New England faced third-and-10. The Chiefs big-blitzed six gentlemen, including a cornerback. Thirty-eight-yard completion to Troy Brown, who zipped straight to the spot the CB vacated. New England touchdown and the lead on the next snap.

New England now ahead 31-17, the Chiefs faced third-and-10 on the Patriots 15. New England big-blitzed six; touchdown to Kansas City WR Eddie Kennison.

Now it's overtime, New England faces second-and-10 on the Kansas City 44. The Chiefs big-blitzed six; 22-yard completion to David Patten, and the defending champs are in position for the winning field goal.

Want examples from a different game? St. Louis 7, City of Tampa 3, Bucs facing third-and-9. The Mouflons blitz six; completion to Keyshawn for the first down. Later on the same possession, the Bucs faced third-and-3. Straight defense, no blitz, incompletion. Yes, blitzes sometimes work, but as often they create first downs and touchdowns by thinning the defense. Predictably, NFL defensive coordinators big-blitz on long yardage downs. Not only do offenses expect this and plan for it, but since the average NFL passing attempt yields 5.9 yards, the percentages say that if you hang back and play coverage, you are likely to get a stop. Big-blitzing on long yardage downs is what the offense wants the defense to do.

By the Hammer of Grabthar, He Was Avenged! Obsessed with running up the score -- memo to Steve: There is no USA Today/ESPN poll in the NFL -- coach Steve Spurrier of the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons threw a deep pass on fourth-and-1 when leading by 24 points in the final quarter of the Persons-Niners preseason game. After the contest, Spurrier boasted of the Persons' high score; Niners coach Steve Mariucci fumed over Spurrier's poor sportsmanship. Sunday, the Persons and Niners met in a real game. San Francisco won, holding Spurrier's charges to 10 points.

Fun 'n Gun factoid: The Spurrier offense has recorded a total of one touchdown in its last two outings. Through those games, the entire Spurrier offense has been outscored by Tampa linebacker Derrick Brooks.

It Was That or Punt Trailing San Diego 28-0 on opening day, Cincinnati coach Dick LeBeau sent in the field-goal unit, more concerned with not being shut out than taking a chance to win. Memo to Dick: There is no USA Today/ESPN poll in the NFL. Sunday night, trailing Atlanta 20-0 and ball on the Falcons' 7 on the last play of the first half, LeBeau sent in the field-goal unit, more concerned with not being shut out than taking a chance to win.

Bengals Pregame Pep Talk: A Bedtime Story In his preseason predictions, Chris Berman called Cincinnati his "sleeper" team. Perhaps he meant to say, "coma" team. The winless Bengals have been outscored 84-16. Inexplicably, as they were going glub-glub-glub by a count of 30-3 on Sunday night, Joe Theismann declared that the Bengals "are close" to being a playoff contender.

He Who Does Not Learn From Game Film Is Doomed to Repeat It Trailing Seattle by six in the closing seconds of the first half, facing fourth-and-goal at the Hawks 1, Jersey/A ran and lost four yards. It was the third consecutive week the Giants had lost yardage on a critical fourth-and-1 or third-and-1 run. Each time the defense was in such an extreme overstack, an audible to a play fake would have been attractive.

Lamar Smith
Lamar Smith is leading the way for the unbeaten Panthers juggernaut.

Spurrier-Like Moment Leading by seven, the awesome, unstoppable Carolina Panthers juggernaut had fourth-and-5 on the Minnesota 19 with eight seconds remaining in the game. The Vikes were out of timeouts; if Carolina ran to try for the first down or simply knelt down, Minnesota would get the ball back with at most a couple seconds remaining. A punt would have accomplished nothing, going into the end zone and costing Carolina a yard. So awesome, unstoppable Panthers coach John Fox called timeout -- with eight seconds left and a clock-killer situation! -- to send his field-goal unit in. The football gods, offended, pushed the try wide left.

The Fallacy of Early Stats Tuesday Morning Quarterback pays scant heed to NFL statistics until one month of the season has passed, and suggests you do likewise.

Two or three games is simply not enough for statistics to show general tendencies. When you're averaging across just two or three events, small variations can have big effects, while there aren't enough data for quirks to "wash out." Going into last weekend, for instance, sportscasters and touts were making much of the unusually high number of pass attempts through the first two weeks, while raving over unexpected quirks such as Buffalo leading the league in passing and Denver leading the league in run defense. But it had only been two games. Pass attempts are likely to return to their recent average (TMQ will check at season's end) while if Buffalo leads the league in passing and Denver leads in run defense by Week 17, TMQ will eat an ESPN bobblehead.

Sominex Presents the NFL Game of the Week Giants 9, Seahawks 6.

Swimsuit-Based Dilemma of the Week. Boston College was driving late in the first half of what then looked like a shocker against No. 1 rated Miami -- just as the swimsuit competition started over at the Miss America pageant. Which to watch?

Jennifer Adcock
TMQ was distracted from the BC-Miami game by Jennifer Adcock, winner of the Miss America swimsuit competition.

TMQ has always loved the phrase "swimsuit competition." The suits themselves never do anything; how, exactly, are the suits competing? TMQ wishes the pageant would be more straightforward and call it the "T&A competition." Actually the official name is now the "lifestyle and fitness in swimsuit competition." To generate a fiction that the point is not gawking at scantily clad babes, each appearance now includes a segment showing the contestant jogging or pumping iron and talking about her workout.

TMQ was highly impressed by Miss America victor Erika Harold of Illinois -- gorgeous, admitted to Harvard Law School, melting-pot descent, and she did one fine job belting out Bizet. (Two consecutive winners singing opera for the talent portion, aspirants please take note.) But as you might guess, TMQ's heart belonged to the swimsuit winner, Jennifer Adcock of Mississippi.

Note that the host in Atlantic City was constantly described by the unseen voiceover not as Wayne Brady but as "the fabulous Wayne Brady." TMQ got the distinct impression his contract specified the adjectival phrase "the fabulous" had to precede his name. Or maybe he now styles himself as The Fabulous Wayne Brady, like that guy Cedric The Entertainer.

Note also that the Miss America organization calls itself "the world's leading provider of scholarships for young women," a claim TMQ finds difficult to believe -- wouldn't every individual college and university, even Indiana of Pennsylvania, provide more scholarships each year to its female students than the Miss America outfit gives winners?

Miss America boasts of being a "$40 million scholarship organization," but by its own accounting granted only 84 scholarships in 2001, which surely is fewer than given to female students by hundreds of colleges and universities. Doesn't this make the Miss America organization's central claim about itself a, um, what's the word I'm looking for, oh yeah -- a lie?

Michael Vick
Michael Vick is helping Atlanta fans rediscover pro football.

Worst Play by Fans Atlanta was leading 3-0 before a rare sellout crowd in its first nationally televised home game in a blue moon. On third-and-10 in Bengals territory, Michael Vick had nothing and so threw a short checkdown to FB Bob Christian, who positioned the ball for a field-goal attempt. As Vick trotted off, the home crowd lustily booed him. One non-spectacular play and they boo! There are many, many worse things a quarterback can do than throw a safety valve pass when in field-goal range. Atlanta residents come to NFL game so rarely, they might not know this.

Babe Reporter Cop-Out of the Week USA Today babe reporter Olivia Barker tried out for the Miss America pageant as a publicity stunt. That's her official job title, "babe reporter" -- see this feature from last winter where Barker wandered around Peoria, Ill., dressed in revealing "Sex and the City"-style clothes to determine if men would stare at her breasts and came to the remarkable conclusion that they would! In Barker's account of her Miss America experiences, she casually noted, "Because it's such a small part of the total score, I opt out of swimsuit." Copped out you mean!

Even Arli$$ Understands This! Vikings first-round pick Bryant McKinnie continues to hold out, which has already contributed to two Minnesota Ls. The third-string gentleman who filled in for McKinnie against Buffalo used the lookout blocking technique -- turn to your quarterback and yell "look out!" -- allowing among other things a blindside sack on Mr. Culpepper that resulted in a fumble and a Bills recovery for a touchdown. Sunday, the Vikes OL surrendered five sacks to the underwhelming Panthers front seven.

But if McKinnie thinks he's shafting the Vikings, the primary shaftee is him. Rookies who engage in lengthy holdouts always have bad first years. More importantly, they reduce their long-term earnings potential. A wiped-out first season results in bad vibes carried over into the sophomore campaign, and pretty soon instead of hearing talk about the monster contract you will sign once becoming a free agent after the fourth year, you're hearing the word "bust." Think of Akili Smith, who held out until a few days before the season opener in his rookie year and has never recovered from it. Smith ended up with slightly more cash when he finally signed his first contract, but now he'll never get the big payday of the free-agent deal, and in a couple years will be lucky to be covering punts for the Edmonton Eskimos. There are other examples of NFL rookies who shafted themselves out of big paydays down the road by holding out for ego reasons or for relatively small increments in their first year.

That rookie NFL players reduce their long-term earnings potential by holding out ought to be an economic reality against which agents warn them -- considering that in law, anyone who has an "agency relationship" to you is obligated to place your interests first. Responsible agents advise clients not to hold out; prospects are much better off accepting 90 percent of what they asked and getting to work on the big payday that follows becoming a top player. Irresponsible agents, on the other hand, want to max out the first deal to take their slice of the maximum pie today, and couldn't care less what becomes of the player down the road. McKinnie's agents are Jim Steiner and Ben Dogra. You make the call on which category they fall into.

McKinnie fun factoid: Vikings OL Matt Birk was criticized over the summer for calling McKinnie and urging him to get his butt into camp, no doubt making the long-view career points TMQ makes here. Birk did violate the unwritten rule that players should not get embroiled in each other's contract disputes. But Birk, at least, was acting in McKinnie's interest. If only his agents would!

Steve Spurrier

Kiss of Death "I have complete confidence in our coaching staff." -- Owner/Menace to Western Civilization Dan Snyder following the Persons' defeat in San Francisco. Four years Snyder has been in control: four head coaches, four defensive coordinators. Sleep well, Steve Spurrier and Marvin Lewis.

Magazine We Hope Never to See: "Rosie O'Donnell's Tongue" Rosie O'Donnell walked on her deal with Rosie magazine, which TMQ believes should have been called Rosie O'Donnell's Rosie Magazine Featuring Rosie O'Donnell. O'Donnell declared that she was "tired of acting nice all the time" -- what a burden! -- and had editorial disagreements with the owners. She did not specify the latter, but TMQ suspects the dispute had to do with her conviction that the phrase "Rosie O'Donnell" was not appearing in the magazine frequently enough, such as at least twice per sentence.

Last year TMQ his ownself heard O'Donnell give a speech to the American Society of Magazine Editors, and can report that her text consisted of the words "Rosie," "O'Donnell" and "Rosie O'Donnell," interspersed by the pronouns "me" and "I." But now that Tina Brown's Talk has folded and Rosie has left Rosie O'Donnell's Rosie Magazine Featuring Rosie O'Donnell, imagine what will happen if the eponym leaves the new magazine Gene Simmons' Tongue. Here's the cover of the premiere issue, featuring a tongue much more alluring than that belonging to Gene Simmons. TMQ has not been able to find Gene Simmons' Tongue on the newsstand, though is reassured by Simmons' statement, "We may not in fact have very much profound content. We will certainly not pretend we do, in any case."

The statement further explains that the "content, such as it is" of the premiere issue is highlighted by "five indistinguishable Playboy centerfolds sticking their tongues out" and that the Kiss founder's aim is to "turn his comic-book machismo into a lifestyle brand." See Hugh Hefner coaching indistinguishable Playboy centerfolds on how to stick their tongues out here.

This Week's Star Trek Complaint The "Enterprise" season opener sure was a dud. Last season ended on a cliffhanger note of Archer stranded 900 years in the future with the Earth in ruins and the time travel equipment destroyed. How was he supposed to get out of that one? "Hey, I've just realized I can modify my communicator to send messages backward in time!" Brief tinkering with Archer's radio enables it to communicate across time -- though in the episode of "Star Trek Voyager," a series set 200 years after Archer, in which Harry and Chakotay must alter time to save "Voyager," we're told that communication across time is phenomenally difficult, and Harry and Chakotay have access to much more advanced equipment. Obviously, what Harry and Chakotay needed was a 200-year-old communicator!

Not only does a moment of tinkering with a pocket radio enable Archer to send a message back 900 years through time, he can also hear what people are saying in reply, though the people in the past have no time-communication devices. In order for my radio to call your radio ... you've got to have a radio! Ye gods. A principle of science fiction is "within the premise," meaning you agree to suspend disbelief so long as the show or book is true to its own premise. The "Star Trek" reality had not previously enfolded magic into its premise. This episode was solved by Harry Potter waving his wand.

And Vulcans are supposed to have no emotions. So how come whenever we see the Vulcan ambassador to Earth, he's furious at humans and shouting?

Reader Haiku of the Week A reader screen-named "Fefj Enrrom" haikuizes, apropos of TMQ his ownself,

    Your words soar into
    the thousands, yet I read on.
    Soon, soon, cheesecake links
    -- Fefj Enrrom

Want to submit a haiku? Use the button at "Reader Animadversion."

Hidden Indicator Philadelphia has kicked a field goal on the final play of the first half in three successive games. This is the kind of hidden indicator that is essential to an insider's understanding of the game. Unfortunately, Tuesday Morning Quarterback has no idea what it means.

Running Items Department

Obscure College Score of the Week Slippery Rock 45, Fairmont State 0. Yes, Slippery Rock is a real place, located in the real town of Slippery Rock, Pa. ("Cradle of Obscure Colleges"), a classic college town north of Pittsburgh, of which the classic-looking Slippery Rock campus is the centerpiece.

If you wanted to attend college at a place with a campus that looks like a movie set in a town that looks like a college-town movie set, you'd be happy in Slippery Rock. Buy your official Slippery Rock mesh shorts here. And check the commercially run adjacent-to-campus housing, which sounds nicer than most apartments that grownups live in. Though the company does warn that student tenants will be charged for deliberate damage "such as an electrical outlet pulled from the wall." Kids at Slippery Rock pull electrical outlets out of the wall? Do their parents know?

Bonus Obscure Score Wheaton of Illinois 49, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 0. Located in Terre Haute, Ind., Rose-Hulman is one of the nation's top engineering schools, and boasts that its grads earn starting salaries that average $54,000 -- though not, apparently, as professional athletes. Campus groups include the realism-obsessed Rose-Hulman Model Railroad Club. Lunch on the day this column comes out is beef ravioli, corn dog or vegetable burrito; dinner is "blazing redfish." But check out the incredible menu of burgers, pizza, deli sandwiches, salads, fajitas and omelets available as alternatives, plus the baked goods and sides. When TMQ was in college, if you didn't want the mystery meat, your alternative was mystery meat. Rose-Hulman appears to offer students the experience of spending four years at a free restaurant.

TMQ Obscure College Game of the Year Ramp-Up It was Indiana of Pennsylvania 42, New Haven 6, and California of Pennsylvania 24, West Virginia Wesleyan 17 as the two mini-giants stayed on the winning track in their ramp-up to the incredible Tuesday Morning Quarterback Obscure College Game of the Year -- Indiana of Pennsylvania at California of Pennsylvania on October 19. Get your tickets now!

Bonus College Financial Factoid Hapless Northwestern State was paid $400,000 for allowing itself to be pounded 45-7 by powerhouse Georgia. As a previous TMQ pointed out, Florida A&M received $418,000 for agreeing to be clobbered by the University of Miami (Fla.). Must be the going rate for a big school beating up on a small school this year.

New York Times Final-Score Score. The Paper of Guesses went 0-14 in its quixotic attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 0-566 since TMQ began tracking.

They were in a cold sweat down on West 43rd Street on Sunday at 4:10 p.m. PT, as the Times had predicted a final of Niners 23, Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons 10, and there it was -- Niners 20, Persons 10, with San Francisco having the ball on the Persons' 16 and two minutes left. All the Niners had to do was hoist a figgie -- if positions were reversed, Steve Spurrier surely would have run up the score -- and the New York Times would finally have succeeded in its quixotic years-long quest to predict an exact final score. Plus, TMQ would have had to shut up about this!

But Steve Mariucci, a good sport, ordered his charges to kneel and the game ended 20-10. Terrell Owens, not a good sport, after the game denounced his own coach for not running up the score.

Reader Animadversion: Many, many readers objected to TMQ saying that the old Captain Kirk episodes described Mr. Spock as the "first Vulcan to explore space." As Rick Pettit of Rutland, Vt., among many, noted, the Captain Kirk episodes called Spock the first Vulcan to become a Starfleet officer. "Spock's father Sarek was ambassador to the Federation, and his great aunt T'Pau served on the Federation Commission of Worlds," Pettit notes. TMQ should know better than to match wits with Trekkers!" But I stand by my statement that in the Captain Kirk episodes, "Vulcans are depicted as an insular, technologically modest people," while in the new serial "Enterprise," a prequel that happens decades before Kirk, the Vulcans are a major spacefaring power whose enormous starcruisers course the galaxy.

A week ago many readers objected to TMQ's statement that the Bush vs. Gore legal contest was "over in the first quarter because the Florida Supreme Court fumbled the United States Constitution." Craig Heckman of Simsbury, Conn., countered that the United States Supreme Court "should have been called for illegal procedure and unsportsmanlike conduct" since the Court's conservative majority says it advocates states' right, yet the Bush v. Gore lawsuit ended when the Supremes refused to let Florida complete its third recount.

TMQ carries no brief for the Supremes' final decision on the 2000 election. The United States Supreme Court should have let Florida proceed to the bitter end on grounds of the very federalism that, Heckman rightly points out, the Supremes advocate on other matters. Technically, the Court's game-ending whistle was an injunction, and injunctions are justified to prevent "irreparable" harm. Nothing would have been "irreparable" about letting the final zany, wacky, "midnight recount" imposed by the Florida Supreme Court proceed.

We now know from the media-run Recount of the Recount of the Recount that George W. Bush almost certainly would have won the final recount anyway, and then the United States Supreme Court would have needed take no action. If Gore had won the third recount, the Supremes could have debated whether to reverse the outcome. In either case, letting the zany, wacky third recount proceed would have been wiser, and there's no doubt the United States Supreme Court's action to stop the third recount was politically motivated.

But also there's no doubt the Florida Supreme Court was politically motivated. Bush wins the original tally, then wins the mechanized recount. The Florida Supreme Court, as brazenly pro-Gore as the Washington court was brazenly pro-Bush, steps in and imposes a hand recount whose terms openly defy the Electoral Count Act of 1877, which Congress passed after the Hayes-Tilden election specifically with this situation -- disputed slate in one state that can determine the national outcome -- in mind. Bush then wins the hand recount, making him 3-for-3. Meanwhile, United States Supreme Court issues its first ruling, saying the Florida judges don't seem to understand the Electoral Count Act and ordering the Sunshine State court to explain its reasoning. The Florida judges refuse! Given a direct order by the United States Supreme Court, the Florida Supreme Court repudiates the United States Supreme Court, since the Florida judges know they can't give any coherent explanation of their first set of orders.

TMQ has always thought the Florida court's snub of the Supreme Court (Florida judges issued an explanation only many weeks later, when the dispute was over and no one cared) was the overlooked momentum-changer in the whole recount mess. How could anyone with a One L understanding of the Constitution think a state court could simply refuse to answer a direct instruction from the United States Supreme Court? Rebuffing a direct instruction from the United States Supreme Court made several Supremes think the Florida Supreme Court was a bunch of buffoons. Sandra O'Connor, prominently, swung to the end-the-recounts position when she concluded that the Florida Supreme Court was under the control of buffoons.

Al Gore
Al Gore was destined to be picked off in the 2000 presidential election -- no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court did.

Then the Florida Supreme Court imposed its wacky, zany "midnight recount" plan, whose distinguishing feature was that it compelled different vote-validating standards for different counties, based on guesses about what would favor Gore. In so doing, the Florida court violated the due-process clause of the 14th Amendment. One tenet of due process is that any particular level of government must treat everyone the same. Thus, different counties in Florida could enact different vote-counting standards, so long as within any given county -- within the level of government -- all standards were the same for everyone. Thus, Illinois might have one standard for chads and Texas a different standard, as was the case in 2000, so long as everyone within each state was treated the same. But the state of Florida could not mandate that some counties use one counting standard and other counties use another -- that would constitute one level of government (in this case the state of Florida through its Supreme Court) not treating all citizens the same. When the Florida Supreme Court imposed different recount standards for different counties, it generated a due-process violation. A relatively small one, to be sure, but this Constitutional violation practically begged the United States Supreme Court to step in.

And though the Supremes should have let the zany, wacky final recount proceed, was any real harm done by their stepping in? We know from the Recount of the Recount of the Recount that Bush was the true winner in about three-quarters of the vote-validating scenarios. Bush would have been the winner in all political scenarios. Had Gore prevailed in the final midnight recount, there would have been two slates of electors from Florida (one for Gore chosen by the Florida court, one for Bush chosen by the Florida legislature) and either the United States Supreme Court would have had to sort it out anyway or the issue would have gone to Congress where the House (pro Bush) and Senate (pro Gore) would have split. That under the Electoral Count Act would have left the final decision to the governor of the state where the dispute arose -- namely, Jeb Bush.

Once he failed to win any of the first three tallies, Al Gore was fated to spend 2001 in Europe growing a beard; there just wasn't a scenario where he prevailed. Is it so bad that nine unaccountable old people in robes took the heat for ending this mess sooner rather than later? One shudders to think how bad vote-buying by both sides would have been, had the election been thrown into Congress.

By the way, the worst thing about the Florida recount follies was that they diverted attention from the fact that Gore won the popular vote. Bush was the true winner in electoral terms, but Gore was the choice of the people, which is what ought to matter. Had the election ended without the ridiculousness of the recounts, the focus would have been on revising the Electoral College to prevent the second-place finisher from ever coming out on top again.

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TMQ Challenge Owing to a computer glitch, last week's entrants were electronically misplaced. They've been found but not in time to read them. So watch this space next Tuesday for last week's result.

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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