By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

So Donovan McNabb signed a "12-year, $115 million contract." TMQ has two observations. First, wasn't "McNabb" a minor character in Hamlet?

    Page: Rosencranz, Gildenstern and McNabb are here to see you, sire.

    Claudius: Privily bring them unto me, that I may examine their contracts.

    Later, upon the parapet:

    Hamlet How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, seem to me all the uses of this world. Fie on it, ah, fie! 'Tis an unweeded garden that grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature possess it merely.

    McNabb Bunch right! Twenty-six strong! Blue! Hut one! Hut two!

Second, there is no chance on Earth that McNabb's agreement actually will run 12 years or pay $115 million. In 12 turns of revolutions around the sun -- the year 2014! -- McNabb will be 38 and applying 3-in-1 Oil to his knees. Even if all goes well, his deal will be redone multiple times between now and 2014 for cap reasons. So why do the sports media report fictional contract numbers as if they were real?

Unlike NBA and MLB contracts, which contain extensive guarantees, NFL numbers are mostly illusion. Only the first two years can be taken seriously -- see the Marshall Faulk item below. Under current NFL chicanery, contracts are given an artificially high paper value both to stoke the athlete's and his agent's egos -- agents love to boast about the huge, huge deals they just landed for clients -- and as part of accounting fictions that allow teams to postpone salary-cap penalties to future years.

In 1999, Chidi Ahanotu of the Buccaneers signed a "six-year, $30 million" contract; he actually received about a third of that, then was waived two seasons later. In 2000, Antonio Freeman signed a "seven-year, $45 million" contract with the Packers; he actually received about a quarter of that, and was waived two seasons later. Jerry Wunsch signed a "five-year, $13 million" contract with the Bucs in 2001 and was waived in 2002. This spring, Bill Romanowski signed a "seven-year" contract with the Raiders. Don't look for Romanowski on the field in 2008 at Oakland's Not Bankrupt Yet Coliseum -- he will be 44 years old and yakking it up somewhere as a color man.

Donovan McNabb
Don't expect to see Donovan McNabb celebrating for the Eagles in 2014.

James Dearth, the long snapper for Jersey/B, recently signed an "eight-year" contract impossible on its face: the out-year portion calls for a salary of $670,000 in 2009, which in the remote event Dearth is still playing for the Jets then, will be less than the veteran minimum for his age at that point. This summer Rich Gannon signed a "seven-year, $56 million" contract at age 36. Nancy Gay of the San Francisco Chronicle says Gannon actually will receive $16 million over the next three years, then retire, rendering 70 percent of the contract fictional.

If stoking the ego of the athlete and agent is the purpose, teams might as well grant "25-year, $1 billion" contracts, so long as the big bucks are in the out years. The back ends are always renegotiated, assuming the player isn't cut outright. Yet somehow, when players renegotiate away the big money -- see the Stephen Davis item below -- agents never call press conferences to boast about the huge, huge concessions their clients just made.

Why do the sports media pretend the dollar values of NFL long-term contracts can be taken at face value? To make stories sound more compelling. "Donovan McNabb signs generous but ambiguous contract sure to be rewritten several times" simply doesn't grab the eye like "12-year, $115 million contract." For the same reason, news organizations report damage requests in lawsuit filings as if they were substantive, when such numbers are usually imaginary. A litigant registering a tort claim can request any amount; for most suits the figure is immaterial, as judge or jury will later determine the award. Thus, when you hear news stories that go, "Outraged Party A today filed a $100 million lawsuit against irate Party B," bear in mind that the "$100 million" part is meaningless. Party A might as well ask for $100 billion, or $100 trillion, or the entire world GDP; any award will be determined by the law and facts in the case, regardless of what's in the initial brief. But news organizations treat the fictional dollar numbers in lawsuits as real in order to pump up the volume. Same, too, with sports media treatment of NFL contracts.

In other NFL news, Jerry Rice became the all-time leader in yards from scrimmage, passing Walter Payton. Rice is so good there exists little need to praise this gentleman, but what has always struck TMQ about him is the margin of his achievements.

In most sports records, the mark-holder has done only slightly better than whoever is No. 2. Rice, on the other hand, has 25 percent more receptions than the No. 2 all-time, Cris Carter. He has 47 percent more receiving yards than the No. 2 all-time, James Lofton. He has 43 percent more receiving touchdowns than the No. 2 all-time, Carter. Rice has 61 percent more postseason receptions than the No. 2 all-time, Andre Reed. He has 55 percent more postseason receiving yards than the No. 2 all-time, Michael Irvin. He has 67 percent more postseason receiving touchdowns than the No. 2 all-time, John Stallworth.

Jerry Rice
The numbers don't lie: Jerry Rice is clearly the best football player ever.

Ye gods. Best football player ever? I won't argue.

With this latest Rice record, surely they must be celebrating in San Francisco. How's that? Say what? You cannot seriously be telling me that the 49ers cut Jerry Rice, the best football player ever!

Best Game Plan: The Patriots showed you can beat the Steelers by drip-drip-drip passing on every down. Last weekend, rushing 34 times for 221 yards, the Chiefs showed you might be able to beat the Patriots by drip-drip-drip running on every down. San Diego took this message and ran with it, as it were, rushing 34 times for 234 yards, as it became the first team to defeat the Pats since Nov. 18, 2001. At one point, the Bolts ran on 15 consecutive snaps, harmonically from the 2:28 mark of the second quarter to the 2:28 mark of the third.

Best Gamble: Leading by a touchdown in the third, San Diego went for it on fourth-and-1 from its own 37. Though the possession ended without points, this play set the tone for the second half. Sports lore says you can't dance with the champ, you must take it to him. By gambling in their own territory, the Bolts showed they were not afraid.

Best Block: Not only did QB Trent Green make the key downfield block on Priest Holmes' 25-yard touchdown run against the Marine Mammals, he pasted Miami safety Arturo Freeman. Oh, you do not want to be Arturo Freeman when it's time to look at game film.

Best Play by a Team with One Postseason Victory in the Last 45 Years: Leading by five, the winless Lions needed to grind the clock with two minutes remaining. They faked an end-around and New Orleans bit, chasing the fake man as RB James Stewart went off tackle for the 37-yard gain that iced the game.

Best Flag Football Play: TMQ coaches eighth graders in a county flag football league, and one of his favorite calls is a roll right, the left TE pretending to fall down on his block and then leaping up for a throwback in the left flat. TMQ's eighth-grader playbook calls this action "special right," because the ball goes left. Dallas executed "special right" to perfection against St. Louis, 17 yards to Darnay Scott for the touchdown. Scott, a wide receiver, lined up as a tight end, but the Mouflons defenders were oblivious to this classic trick-play giveaway.

Best Second Chance: While driving with Grant, Official First Child of TMQ, to flag football practice, TMQ was listening to the Steelers-Browns overtime on the radio. The Official First Child asked why Pittsburgh was lining up for a figgie on second down. A knowledgeable observer told Grant that coaches do this on early downs in game-winning situations so that if something goes wrong and the kick does not get off, they can try again on the next down. TMQ then sagely added, "But that never actually happens." Wham! Kick blocked, Pittsburgh recovers behind the line, retains possession and boots the winner on third down.

Fred Taylor
Imagine what Fred Taylor could do if he never got injured.

Best Anodyne Play: Ball at the Bears' 26 in overtime, Bills QB Drew Bledsoe was under pressure. Rather than do anything crazy, he flicked a safety-valve pass in the flat to RB Travis Henry, who scooted for the winning six. Last week, the Atlanta home crowd booed Michael Vick for throwing a safety-valve pass in scoring range. Never, never underestimate the importance of the boring safety-valve pass. Most of the things that can happen when a quarterback is under pressure are bad; having the sense to throw a short checkdown for a couple of yards, and then line up again, is the mark of smarts. In this case, the smart move was especially rewarded.

Best Player We Don't See Enough: Man, oh man, did Fred Taylor look good on that 72-yard catch -- not many RBs can run an "up" -- and that gravity-defying 25-yard rush. If only this endlessly injured gentleman could lace his cleats more often.

Slick Play of the Day: Leading the Texans by 13 in the third, Philadelphia lined up to punt. The ball was direct-snapped to the slot man, ageless Brian Mitchell. He flipped a shovel pass to safety Brian Dawkins, who sprinted 57 yards for the score and the rout was on. The Eagles have now run a fake kick in each game this year, and TMQ heartily endorses fake kicks. But why expend such a slick play on anodyne Houston?

Worst Defense: Leading by 14, the Seahawks lined up at the Minnesota 29 with WR Darrell Jackson as the tailback. No one on the Vikes side seemed to notice this classic trick-play giveaway. He ran a post, was ignored, and caught a 26-yard pass. Shaun Alexander scored on the next snap and the rout was on.

Worst Special-Teams Play: Game close in the second quarter, surrendering the NFL's longest-ever touchdown still in their future, the Denver special teams lined up to punt. Wham! Baltimore safety Edward Reed came through untouched by human hands for the block. The Ravens scored on the possession, and the rout was on. Tip to Broncos special teams: You see those people running toward the kicker? Get in front of them. It's a technique thing.

Ominous Omen: In consecutive weeks, the mighty Packers have just barely beaten Detroit and Carolina, last season's two worst teams.

Cover-Your-Eyes Sequence: Minnesota turned it over three times in four plays.

Worst Line Play: Trailing by three with 27 seconds left, ball at the Packers 5, Carolina called the quarterback draw for Rodney Peete. When the play started, guard Jamar Nesbit simply stood up and looked back at Peete, making no attempt whatsoever to block. As Peete frantically tried to sidestep Nesbit's man, incredibly highly overpaid tackle Todd Steussie stopped blocking and simply turned around to watch. Peete get nailed -- amazingly, he proved unable to block for himself! -- and on the next play the Panthers doinked a 24-yard field-goal attempt, game over.

NORAD Has Been Alerted: At 9:47 p.m. Eastern on Sept. 30, the Baltimore Ravens scored for the second time in the 2002 NFL season.

Shaun Alexander
Shaun Alexander unleashed a touchdown avalanche for the Seahawks on Sunday night.

Stats of the Week: The first four touchdowns of the Seattle Seahawks' season required 207 minutes. The second four touchdowns required 1 minute, and 28 seconds.

Stats of the Week No. 2: The Rams and Steelers, favorites of most touts, are 1-6 and a combined 1-8 stretching back to the end of last season. Kurt Warner and Kordell Stewart have combined to throw four touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.

Stats of the Week No. 3: San Diego is allowing a little less than 10 points per game, while the Eagles are scoring 35 points per game.

Stats of the Week No. 4: In its last three games, Jersey/B has been outscored 102-13.

Stats of the Week No. 5: Marty Schottenheimer, the only coach to have beaten the Patriots since November 2001, is on a 12-3 run -- during which he has been fired.

Stats of the Week No. 6: Drew Bledsoe is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,380 yards. And if he doesn't, Tom Brady is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,304 yards. (The season record, held by Dan Marino, is 5,084 yards.)

Stats of the Week No. 7: Bills RB Travis Henry, who fumbled five times in 2001, has already lost four fumbles this year, two of them returned for touchdowns.

Stats of the Week No. 8: Bubba Franks of Green Bay became the second tight end in less than a year to complete a pass; Frank Wycheck of the Flaming Thumbtacks completed a pass last season. (Wycheck has also thrown a touchdown pass, the Music City Miracle.)

Stats of the Week No. 9: Undrafted obscure-college (Cheyney State) gentleman James Williams of Chicago has blocked nine field-goal attempts in his career.

Stats of the Week No. 10: Miami and Tennessee, two teams that preach defense, gave up a combined 100 points.

Clock Management Highlight: It was Dallas 7, St. Louis 0, with Mouflons backup quarterback Jamie Martin driving his charges late in the first half. Martin ran to the line and spiked the ball to stop the clock -- just as the clock ticked to the two-minute warning. Time would have stopped regardless, and St. Louis lost a down.

David Carr
David Carr has had a painful initiation to the NFL.

Welcome to the NFL: David Carr was sacked 26 times in September.

Mike Brown Play of the Week: Bears safety Mike Brown scored his third touchdown in less than a year.

Good Seats Available! A crowd of 30,014 attended the Giants-Cardinals game in Tempe.

He Hath Lost Favor with the Football Gods: Just before Tommy Maddox entered the game and led the Steelers to their improbable no-huddle comeback against the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.0), Kordell Stewart had his charges at second-and-4 on the Browns 22, trailing by a touchdown, nine minutes left. Under no pressure, with a man open on the shallow crossing pattern that is one of the easiest routes for a quarterback to see, Stewart threw the ball deep into double coverage, directly to safety Robert Griffith for the INT.

The Football Gods Chortled: Denver has previously shown hubris regarding long Jason Elam kicks on the final play of the first half, notably in the 1998 game when the Broncos deliberately committed a penalty in order to march Elam backward so that he could tie the longest-ever record at 63 yards. Last night, the football gods decreed that Denver pay the price. Elam lined up for a 57-yard attempt on the final play of the half, a hubris-colored risk considering that the Broncos were trailing 24-3 at the time and the odds of something going wrong on such a long try exceed the odds of a 57-yard success in the non-mile-high air of Charm City. The Elam boot fell short and Baltimore's Chris McAlister returned it 108 yards for the touchdown, longest scoring play in NFL history. Jason Elam last-second kicks have now resulted in football's longest-ever touchdown and longest-ever field goal.

Seeing a field goal returned for six, many ask, "Why don't they do that all the time?" But the circumstances hardly ever present themselves. Most missed field goals sail out of the end zone. When a long try falls short, doing nothing will give the receiving team the ball in good field position around its 40; because of this, teams rarely even put a returner back on field-goal attempts, all personnel being employed to attempt to block the kick. Usually only the end of the half, when field position has no value, justifies trying to run back a figgie. Special-teams coaches are supposed to know this and instruct their charges to defend against a runback in such situations. Monday night, as the Elam boot sailed, Denver players casually turned to walk off the field -- and the football gods chortled.

Cheerleader of the Week: In sympathy for the fact that fans at Paul Brown Field are desperate for someplace to rest their eyes -- no rational person would want to look at the Cincinnati Bengals -- the TMQ ESPN Cheerleader of the Week for this week is Angela of the Ben-Gals cheer squad.

Angela
TMQ will forgive Angela and the Ben-Gals for not watching the Bengals.

According to her team bio, Angela, the Ben-Gals choreographer, is an RN who works in a cardiovascular intensive-care unit. A nurse and a cheerleader -- TMQ's erotic fantasy gauge is registering overload! Angela lifts weights, is studying for her master's in nursing and says the person she would most like to meet is Meg Ryan, "because she seems so grounded." Meg Ryan seems to you "grounded?" Meg Ryan would have to a wear a lightning rod to be grounded! (Electromagnetism joke for nerd readers.) Didn't you see "Sleepless in Seattle"? She throws over her own fiancé for a voice on the radio. Didn't you see "Kate & Leopold"? She quits her job at the very moment she receives the promotion she has dedicated her life to winning, in order to jump off the Brooklyn Bridge to fall through a travel-time portal. Grounded?

While Bengals fans are far better off watching the cheerleaders than the team, this raises the question, what do the Ben-Gals look at? Apparently they don't watch the team either. Along with such items as "favorite movie," bios on the Bengals cheerleader site include the entry, "Most memorable Bengals game that you've cheered in." Numerous Ben Gals answered, "N/A." Honesty is the best policy! Several Cincinnati cheer-babes said their "most memorable" Bengals game was the opening of the new stadium, or the closing of the old one. One said her most memorable Bengals game was "the first preseason game last year."

A single Bengals cheerleader, Hazel, cited a day when what happened on the field itself was the event, saying her most memorable game was the Bengals' September 2001 upset of the Ravens, then the defending Super Bowl champs. You'd need to have been cheerleading for the Bengals for more than a decade to have been present at a game that meant anything.

It Was That or Punt: Trailing 45-10 with seven seconds left in the first half, the Vikings had the ball at the Seahawks 26. Mike "Timid" Tice -- who last season, in his coaching debut, punted when down by nine with two minutes to play -- sent in the field-goal unit. Outraged, the football gods pushed the try wide.

More Proof of the Decline of Western Civilization: At 9:56 p.m. ET during the Sunday night game, 48,539 people voted in an ESPN online poll about whether to reverse a call. Late on a Sunday night, and almost 50,000 people were watching television and using their computers simultaneously!

Injury Update: "Kurt Warner" will spend eight to 10 weeks at a secret underground installation near Area 51, regenerating his "human" tissue. And luckily for Cincinnati tackle Richmond Webb, he has been placed on injured reserve for the remainder of the season. This means Webb will receive his full pay but not have to participate in any more Bengals games.

Why Don't Announcers Watch the Game? The Cleveland Browns (Release 2.0) were leading Pittsburgh by six when Jerome Bettis was stopped at the 1 and then lunged the rock forward, zebras signaling touchdown. No way that's a touchdown! TMQ his ownself shouted at the screen, since Bettis' knee clearly went down on the 1. Yet the announcers continued to laud the "touchdown" even after watching a replay which plainly showed no score. When Butch Davis challenged the ruling, the announcers seemed shocked. The "touchdown" was reversed.

Why Don't Announcers Know the History of the Game? "What a mistake!" the announcers cried as, score tied and 10 seconds remaining, Dallas holding no timeouts and on the St. Louis 35, Quincy Carter threw a short pass over the middle to the 30.

The announcers wanted Carter to throw to the sidelines -- exactly what the defense expected. But as Kenny Stabler taught purists a generation ago, when it's late and you're out of timeouts and it's crazy to throw down the middle, that is the time to throw down the middle. The 'Boys barely got to the line to spike with a single second left; clock stopped, Billy Cundiff drilled the 48-yard figgie for the win. Sure, Dallas' deliberate throw to the middle -- which had to be short so there would be time to run up for a spike -- might not have worked, but then the game simply would have gone to OT. What the Cowboys called was an intelligent move, executed perfectly by Carter, to give the kicker a better chance. The announcers might have been surprised, but purists weren't.

OK, You Had Your Little Joke, Now Bring Out the Real Uniforms: Is it just me, or do the new Buffalo and Seattle home uniforms look like malfunctioning screen savers?

TMQ Inks $14 Billion, 200-Year Contract with ESPN:The recent phony-contract record belongs to RB Stephen Davis of the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons. The "nine-year, $91 million" deal Davis's agent announced to great fanfare in 1999 lasted three seasons before being rewritten this summer. Out years of the "nine-year" contract, where the big money resided, mysteriously vanished, replaced by a new "five-year, $31 million" deal whose paper value Davis will never see either.

All the runner can be sure of is about $7 million, which he got at the front end. The new "five-year" deal might not even last Davis until Valentine's Day, since it calls for a $7.5 million salary in 2003, a figure the Persons cannot possibly afford under their salary cap. Davis will either be cut next winter or his contract rewritten yet again, for the second time pressing the delete key on the imaginary mega-money.

Quote of the Week: "He definitely probably underestimated the loss of me." Bills linebacker London Fletcher to the Chicago Tribune on Mike Martz's decision to let him leave the Rams. In a similar vein, last spring, Persons boss Steve Spurrier said of Marco Coleman, "If it weren't for the cap, we would probably be sure to want him." Note that Martz showed the door to three starters from last year's third-rated St. Louis defense -- Fletcher, Mark Fields and Chidi Ahanotu -- not for cap reasons, but because they had crossed swords with him personally. All are now playing well for other teams, as the Rams defense sputters.

Oxana Fedorova
Oxana Fedorova was "fired" as Miss Universe, much to TMQ's dismay.

Swimsuit-Based Dilemma of the Week: Last spring, the Miss Universe pageant bought full-page ads in the business sections of major newspapers to boast that its broadcast drew better ratings than Game 5 of the NBA's Eastern Conference finals between the Celtics and Nets. Well, of course it did. The Miss Universe contestants are beautiful. The Celtics-Nets series was ugly, ugly, ugly.

Adorning the Miss Universe full-page ads was a spectacular swimsuit shot of Oxana Fedorova of Russia, who won the crown. Fedorova got a 9.88 from the swimsuit judges, which is certainly good enough for TMQ. But in a shocking setback to the world of gawking, Fedorova's title was revoked last week. Did a French judge have anything to do with this? Fedorova was "terminated," in the heartwarming words of the press release, for "failure to fulfill her duties." This did not mean failure to disrobe in public on a regular basis, which TMQ assumed to be the principal duty of Miss Universe, but to appear at AIDS research fundraising events, this being the Miss Universe organization's charitable cause. Replacing her is runner-up and seriously gorgeous Justine Pasek of Panama.

TMQ is sad to see Fedorova go, and not just owing to her swimsuit 9.88. Fedorova was a cadet at the St. Petersburg Police Academy -- TMQ can hear hundreds of guys saying, "Cuff me! Cuff me!" Upon her victory Vladimir Salnikov, an Interior Ministry official, proudly read on Russia's NTV television excerpts from Federova's training records: "Physically in top condition ... knows the rules for maintaining and firing weapons ... knows how to keep state secrets." What kind of state secrets do cadets have access to? Salnikov also boasted that Fedorova won marks for speed in stripping and reassembling a Kalashnikov, and in a post-victory interview, Fedorova called firing weapons her favorite pastime. OK, perhaps the world's guys should abandon any plans to hit on the Kalashnikov-firing mega-babe.

Miss Universe Fun Factoid No. 1: You can view incredible detail of many beauty pageants at Turn for the Judges.com. The site's extensive breakdown of this year's Miss Universe competition includes such critical statistical data as, "Only contestants from Albania, Hungary, Ireland and Israel wore one-piece swimsuits. Egypt, Guatemala and Yugoslavia opted for tankinis while the remaining 69 delegates wore two-piece swimsuits." TMQ congratulates the 69 who had the good sense to go two-piece. ("Tankini" is a mega-babe technical term for a cross between a bikini and a one-piece.)

Miss Universe Fun Factoid No. 2: Phil Simms hosted this year's pageant and fortunately resisted urge to exclaim, "She's wide open!" (Simms' grating verbal tic of calling every receiver "wide open!" will be the subject of an upcoming TMQ discourse.) But if it was a really a Miss Universe pageant, why weren't there constants from other star systems? You'd think at least Kurt Warner's homeworld would have been represented. Babes from his homeworld have long, glamorous tentacles that go all the way down to the floor. And the vestigial proboscis -- va-va-voom.

Justine Pasek
Although TMQ won't argue with the choice of Justine Pasek as Fedorova's replacement.

Miss Universe Fun Factoid No. 3: The full-page Oxana ads declared "Special congratulations to pageant owner Donald Trump for having the foresight, imagination and well-known understanding of quality and beauty" necessary to make the event a success. But wait, Donald Trump not only owns the rights to the Miss Universe telecast, he owns the Miss Universe promotional company that bought the ads. That is, Trump took out full-page ads to offer congratulations to himself! Note to The Donald: ad space on Page 2 is available.

Miss Universe Fun Factoid No. 4: One of the disappointments of the Miss America pageant is that its website is so disorganized, you're wasting your time trying to find the cheesecake parts. No such problems with the Miss Universe site -- surely reflecting the Trump influence. Download the 2002 Miss Universe screensaver here, promoted with the declaration, "Now you can have 75 of the most beautiful women in the world right in front of you." (That is slightly more than appear in TMQ's fantasies.)

Better still, the Miss Universe sites allows quick access to swimsuit photos for each "delegate," official name of the contestants. Go here, click on "select a delegate," choose a nation, click "photos" and then "swimsuit." You can easily waste most of a morning gawking at these unattainable mega-babes -- not that I did! For quality gawking, TMQ particularly recommends Miss Belgium, Miss Norway and Miss Venezuela.

Bengals Postgame Press Conference: Crackers, Juice and a Nice Nap In his preseason preview, Chris Berman called Cincinnati his "sleeper" team. Perhaps he meant to say "hibernating" team. The winless Bengals have been outscored 119-23. Berman wasn't alone. Pete Prisco of CBS Sportsline in his preseason preview called the Bengals "deep and talented," projecting them to make the playoffs.

Elliot Spitzer Should Indict 29 General Managers: TMQ just loves Marshall Faulk, and continues to marvel that the Rams not only got him from the Horsies for the low-low act-before-midnight-tonight price of second- and fifth-round draft picks -- TMQ also marvels that this low-low price was possible owing to lack of competition, because no other team was bidding on Faulk. Collectively, the 29 GMs of the 29 other clubs of the time were guilty of dereliction of duty.

Marshall Faulk
Marshall Faulk's mammoth new contract actually reduces his salary over the next two years.

But much as TMQ loves Marshall Faulk, it must be noted that the "seven-year, $44 million" contract he signed this summer, extensively hyped by sportswriters as an astonishing bonanza, actually cuts his pay. Faulk's new agreement guarantees him a take of $12 million over the next two seasons, the next two seasons being the only part of an NFL contract with meaning. But Faulk was scheduled to receive $13 million through the same period under his old deal. On paper, the "seven-year, $44 million agreement" does grant Faulk hefty raises in later years, but there is about as much chance he will ever see that out-year money as there is a chance Reese Witherspoon will meet me at the couples massage suite of the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe this weekend.

No doubt Faulk is happy with his new pact, because it means he will actually receive the next two seasons' worth of income rather than be a cap casualty in 2003, the track he was barreling down. The same applies to the "eight-year, $48 million" extension the estimable Curtis Martin just signed. This deal will pay Martin around $19 million over the next two seasons, which is impressive. But in the event Martin has legs beyond that -- 2004 would be his 11th season, and running backs who are effective in the double-digit years are rare as University of Cincinnati basketball players who get diplomas -- the remaining six years, along with most of the on-paper value, will be ripped up for something more modest.

Martin no doubt is happy, too, because his next two years of income are now assured, and that's all you can ask in the contemporary NFL. But for the sports media to buy the line that deals like this are blockbusters for Faulk, Martin and others ignores the reality that modern NFL contracts never run to their conclusion.

Demonstrators Swarmed the Streets, Chanting Slogans in a Silent Protest: Cops outnumbered protestors 10-to-1 at the fizzled-out anti-World Bank demonstrations last week in Washington. Two things TMQ doesn't get:

1. Since the purpose of the World Bank is to channel money to impoverished nations, if the World Bank didn't exist, wouldn't angry demonstrators be marching to demand that it be created?

2. Since the protests accomplished nothing other than petty vandalism, instead of traveling to Washington to smash windows, why didn't the anti-globalizers pool the money they would otherwise have spent on travel and use it to buy off members of Congress? They'd have a lot better chance of realizing their agenda in this time-honored way.

Actually the demonstrations did accomplish something: They created anti-American visuals that, TMQ feels sure, television networks in the European Union and elsewhere artfully edited to give the impression that Washington had been brought to its knees by vast mobs denouncing George W. Bush. Considering the demonstrators' claim to despise globalization, how interesting they wanted to play to a global audience!

GAP protest
What's the best way to gain attention for your cause? Strip down to your underwear.

One faction went so far as to adopt the globalized tactic of taking off clothes to ensure media coverage. In enlightened Europe, where nudity is acceptable on television, demonstrators often strip to attract cameras, or even hire babe models to strip and draw the cameras. A few years ago, when Bill Clinton's Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman went to a Rome conference on genetically modified foods, opponents retained three mega-babe models to march naked in front of him holding protest signs; this ensured media coverage through the European Union. (It also insured that Glickman said, "How soon can I go back to Rome?")

Last week in Washington some anti-globalizers stripped to their underwear -- the most the prissy U.S. media will show -- outside a Gap outlet. TMQ mentions this to create a legitimate public-policy reason for the Page 2 art department to insert a wire photo of this vital news event. Anti-globalization babes, who would have thunk it? They can demonstrate at TMQ's office anytime.

His HMO Should Deny the Claim: Desmond Howard of the Lions, who injured himself celebrating a 70-yard kick return, became the second special-teams player in less than a year (Bill Gramatica of Arizona) to injure himself celebrating a play.

They Had to Pull a Team Off the Lindbergh Kidnapping: Bad enough that prosecutors gave Zacarias Moussaoui government files containing classified information. ("And would you like a free tour of CIA headquarters, sir?") The files were retrieved from Moussaoui's cell, the New York Times reports, during searches that took "several days." It took the FBI several days to search a jail cell?

Still More Accounting Fiction: Ray Lewis of the Ravens will receive $19.5 million this season, but his new deal is structured so that his salary cap charge for 2002 is about $7 million; Peter Boulware's new extension will pay him about $14 million this year but also with an artificially small cap charge. This means the Ravens used Enron-style accounting to throw most of the true cost of the Lewis and Boulware contracts into future years. That, in turn, means Baltimore has totally screwed its future in order to pacify Lewis and Boulware, who were already under contract anyway. The Lewis deal specifies ever-escalating cap charges, up to $9.4 million per season all the way out in 2007 and again in 2008. There is little chance Lewis will still be playing for the Ravens in those years. Huge penalties will crash-land onto the Ravens cap whenever Lewis retires, is waived or is led away in handcuffs.

Randy Moss
The "Randy Ratio" has turned the Vikings' salary-cap situation into a major mess.

It's the same thing the Vikings did last summer with the Randy Moss mega-bonus. Last season, Moss received $18.5 million for moping, quitting on pass routes, denouncing his teammates and refusing to block. The accounting was delayed to future years. Right now many think Minnesota should unload Moss; this would have the salutary effect of turning the Vikings back into, what's the word I'm looking for ... oh yeah, a "team." But if Moss is waived or traded all the delayed accounting would come due in 2003, a penalty of about $13.5 million, fully 20 percent of Minnesota's 2003 cap. Yet another Minnesota roster purge would follow, with multiple Vikings waived to create cap space to allow the Moss termination.

Enron, Global Crossing, Adelphia, WorldCom and others used accounting chicanery to make expenses disappear temporarily -- but when the numbers came home to roost, they did so with a vengeance. Now the Ravens and Vikings have done the same. Enjoy it while you can, Baltimore and Minnesota fans.

Standings note: Baltimore and Minnesota management mortgaged the future in order to field teams that are a combined 1-6. Yumpin' yiminy.

TMQ Insider Exclusive! Tuesday Morning Quarterback has learned on an exclusive basis that Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher has tested positive for strawberry Yoo Hoo. (Check the incredible history of Yoo Hoo here.) Remember, this is a Tuesday Morning Quarterback exclusive.

Obscure College Score of the Week: Muhlenberg 68, Franklin & Marshall 22. Well, of course, an entire team beat just two guys! Located in Lancaster, Pa. ("Cradle of Obscure Colleges"), Franklin & Marshall takes itself super-ultra-seriously with a 14,280-word declaration of Student Rights and Obligations. The entire United States Constitution is 4,615 words. The Preamble of the United States Constitution is 52 words and includes such ringing phrases as, "We the people of the United States ..." The Preamble of the Franklin & Marshall statement of Student Rights and Obligations is 147 words and includes such ringing phrases as "Academic freedom depends for its vitality upon appropriate conditions ..."

The incredible Franklin & Marshall 14,280-word declaration of Student Rights and Obligations contains such clauses as "At any event where alcohol is to be consumed by more than 50 participants, a professionally licensed bartender must be hired at the expense of the sponsoring group" and "posting and chalking on our campus are not rights; they are privileges open only to members of the community." When the Framers were writing the Constitution, they forget to include rules about chalking sidewalks and circumstances requiring a professionally licensed bartender. No such oversight at Franklin & Marshall.

Bonus Obscure Score: Doane 17, Dana 7. Well, of course an entire team beat one guy or, possibly, one woman. Located in Crete, Neb., Doane "is the only college or university in Nebraska, and one of a select few in the nation, to offer a four-year guarantee. The college guarantees that its students will graduate within four years, or Doane will pay for additional course expenses." Doane offers a master's in management degree "designed for the nontraditional student" in which writing the master's thesis is optional. How nontraditional.

TMQ Obscure College Game of the Year Ramp-Up: It was California of Pennsylvania 51, Cheyney State 7, and Indiana of Pennsylvania 43, Millersville 16, 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 -- California of Pennsylvania at Indiana of Pennsylvania on Oct. 19. Get your hotel reservations now!

Obscure College Tyco-Class Business Deal: Tiny Division 1-AA Wofford College, enrollment 1,100, received $225,000 for agreeing to be clobbered by the University of Maryland on Saturday. As previous TMQs have pointed out, Florida A&M got $418,000 for agreeing to be clobbered by the University of Miami, and Northwestern State was paid $400,000 for allowing itself to be pounded by the University of Georgia. Down in sleepy Spartanburg, South Carolina, where Wofford plays its home games at a high-school stadium, they must not know prices have risen.

Wofford serious factoid: Wofford graduates 85 percent of its football athletes, whereas the University of Maryland graduates 45 percent. Except for the one-in-a-thousand student who advances to the pros, college athletes who get a scholarship and then don't graduate are blowing the opportunity of a lifetime. Not that University of Maryland minds using 'em up and spitting 'em out. Its NCAA championship basketball program posts a shameful 19 percent graduation rate -- which the NCAA, one of Western civilization's most hypocritical organizations, cares not the slightest about.

Wofford fun factoid: the school has about 600 male students, of whom 86 are on the football team. Fifteen percent of a college's men on the football team! If this were true at the University of Michigan, the football squad would have 1,841 members.

New York Times Final-Score Score: The Paper of Guesses goes 0-14 in its quixotic attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 0-580 since TMQ began tracking.

Joke Left at the Altar: Here is the script used by the Columbia marching band during the Columbia-Fordham game; Catholic Church officials and many attending the game have called the script insulting. If you want to know what was said, scan for "altar boy" -- TMQ won't reproduce the joke, because it was in bad taste. Priests forcing themselves on underage boys caused genuine trauma to the victims; it's a dicey thing to jest about, and the Columbia band joke just did not work. (Priests having consensual sex with adults, on the other hand, might be hypocritical, but is nobody's business but that of the parties and God; splashy headlines about priest sex with consenting adults is media sensationalism.)

TMQ does sympathize with the script's undergrad author, who refused to apologize on the grounds that the Catholic Church was to blame for this problem, not him. The Church should be relentlessly criticized for its systematic cover-up of abusive priests. Catholic officials who responded to the Columbia marching band episode with statements that boil down to "How dare they criticize us" still don't get it, do they?

The band itself, which rivals Stanford and a few others for jokey behavior, posts its wares here. TMQ likes the Columbia Marching Band motto: "If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the Band."

Headline TMQ actually saw, over a story about a poll showing American Catholics were not satisfied by their bishops' new sex-abuse policy: CATHOLICS SAY SEX POLICY DOES NOT GO FAR ENOUGH.

Reader Animadversion: I received so many responses to the Gore-Bush recount item that I cannot do them justice in summary. Suffice to say that overall, Gore supporters accused me of being pro-Bush and Bush supporters accused me of being pro-Gore.

Many, many readers objected to TMQ's statement that the Broncos have the best record "above 6,000 feet." They pointed out that Please Don't Buy From Invesco Field -- TMQ cannot abide the commercial ruination of that magnificent name Mile High Stadium -- rests slightly below the 6,000-foot plateau. Two Denver fans phrased their points in haiku, the second having been received prior to the Monday night Baltimore-Broncos tilt:

    Mile High Stadium
    only fifty-two eighty.
    So's Invesco Field.

    -- Kevin Downing

    Rocky Mountain men
    playing so far over heads,
    seems like six thousand.

    -- Jeff Kiesling

Just as TMQ feared, female readers sent earnest, carefully reasoned appeals for the column to feature some beefcake along with the cheesecake, such as beefcake shots of the Ravens' male cheerleaders. Mary of San Jose phrased her appeal in haiku -- and I'm trying to work up to it, Mary.

    Buff male cheerleaders,
    it is only September.
    Take off your shirts please.

    -- Mary of San Jose

Apropos TMQ's item on Rose Hulman Institute of Technology, Tom Moran of Richmond, Va., who grew up in Rose Hulman's home of Terre Haute, issued a warning in haiku, adding, "trust me:"

    Used to work at Rose
    cafeteria; don't eat
    the salad bar cheese!

    -- Tom Moran

Lisa Smith of Monclair, Va., offered this incredible haiku triptych on the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons:

    Persons' defense says
    Lewis' schemes "too complex."
    Tackles aren't basic?

    Three men watch McNabb
    trot by for six -- the Persons'
    all-pro linebackers.

    Dan Snyder may be
    an annoying jackass, but
    so was Jack Kent Cooke.

    -- Lisa Smith

You are cold, Lisa, cold. Hope you don't own a Kalashnikov.

Got a comment, a haiku or a deeply felt grievance? Offer it here.

TMQ Challenge: Last week's Challenge -- delayed by techno-glitches -- was to take a football phrase or cliché, run it through the Babelfish automated translator into another language, translate it back into English to see if fun results.

P.J. Knight of Lewisville, Texas, translated "We have to give 110 percent all the time" into Korean and back and got, "We all hours only one hundred things and gave 10 percent to do, Oh! it does." Oddly, TMQ can hear Jim Mora hollering that.

Brian Bleck of Albuquerque translated "the tight end blocked the charging free safety but the quarterback was flushed from the pocket where he threw the ball away" into Portuguese and back and got, "The pressed extremity obstructed the free security guard loading but quarterback was leveled of the pocket where the moved away sphere played." Another reason not to trust computers!

Matt McFerrin of Mill Valley, Calif., translated "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" into Chinese and back and got "Tuesday Morning four minute health." Read TMQ, the Confucian way to health.

Tom Schneider of Dayton, Ohio, translated "use the run to set up the pass" into German and back and got "use the run in order to set up the run." How did Babelfish know the San Diego game plan?

The winner of the TMQ Challenge is Patrick Stonelake of Chicago. He took the famed movie version of the "win one for the Gipper" speech, translated it into Japanese and back.

The original:

"Rock, sometime, when the team is up against it -- and the breaks are beating the boys -- tell them to go out there with all they got and win just one for the Gipper. I don't know where I'll be then, Rock, but I'll know about it -- and I'll be happy."

The Babelfish version:

"With victory for the Gipper in order, all things which one are obtained exactly to go out there the team it confronts that, it is broken, the eye when having struck in those which say the boy, the stone, once upon a time. I the stone do not know somewhere then it is but, you know concerning that, it is happy."

If that wouldn't motivate the team, what would?

This week's Challenge is to propose an NFL player who reminds you of a Shakespeare character, and give some clever reason why. Submit entries here and be sure to include your e-mail address in the unlikely event your submission is chosen. The best might receive some dubious ESPN trinket, but as always, the final decision will be completely arbitrary.

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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