Page 2 columnist
The Jacksonville Jaguars have retained a "sports psychologist" to help players think winning thoughts. So far, Jax is getting its money's worth, with a big win Sunday over the Eagles. This is not the first time an NFL team has gone to head doctors. During the 1970s, the Cowboys fell for a supposed cranium-enhancing program called SyberVision that was to allow players to "dream visualize" success. And Ryan Leaf, as everyone knows, was turned into a great NFL quarterback by the psychiatrist Bobby Beathard hired to analyze him.
If NFL teams are going to lay players on the couch, TMQ wondered which therapeutic philosophy might be used. Here's what the sessions might sound like depending on the treatment, starting with the first major school of psychotherapy, Freudian analysis:
Player: Doc, I'm not getting along with the coach.
Freudian analyst: This is an expression of your repressed desire to kill your father and marry your mother. Subconscious hostility regarding your father has been transferred to the coach, whose place with his wife you long to assume.
Player. Say what, the coach's wife! No way. Have you ever gotten a look at her?
Freudian analyst: Everything is determined by your infantile sexual compulsions. You are doomed to a life of meaningless misery, and the most you can hope for is to convert debilitating neurosis into ordinary unhappiness.*
* Actual Freud quote!
Player: Doc, you're supposed to help me stop dropping touchdown passes.
Freudian analyst: Even if you catch the pass this will not bring fulfillment because football is a pallid re-enactment of primitive patriarchal manhood rituals. Symbolically you will never reach the end zone. The end zone represents gladness, which is nearly impossible to achieve, while unhappiness is much less difficult to experience.*
* Actual Freud quote!
Player: Are you saying that even if I get featured on "NFL Primetime" I will never feel good about myself?
Freudian analyst: We have no interest whatsoever in making you feel good. Our goal is weekly billings.
Freudian analysis gave way to behaviorism, which holds that human beings are mindless rats in a social maze, seeking rewards and avoiding punishments but bereft of ethics, dignity or purpose. So suppose the NFL psychologist were a behaviorist.
Behaviorist therapist: Here is a bottle of ice-cold Gatorade. If you catch the touchdown pass, you will be allowed to drink the beverage. If you drop the pass, you will be subjected to electric shocks.
Player: Man, I make $5 million a year. I already own a Gatorade distributorship.
Behaviorist therapist: Very well, we will alter the reward and the punishment. If you catch the touchdown pass, you will be given an additional $5 million. If you drop the pass, you will be executed.
Player: Johnnie Cochran is my lawyer. You couldn't convict me if I did it on videotape in front of the entire Supreme Court!
Behaviorist therapist: Very well, we will alter the reward and the punishment. If you catch the touchdown pass, you receive a date with one of the cheerleaders. If you drop the pass, you will be required to watch "Men in Black II."
Player: (Suddenly highly motivated.) I'll catch the pass! I won't fail!
Behaviorism then gave way to cognitive therapy, which holds that everything is in your mind. Suppose the sports psychologist were a cognitive therapist.
Player: Doc, I keep dropping the touchdown pass.
Cognitive therapist: Your own mind is what is preventing you from catching the pass.
Player: I think it's the defensive backs.
Cognitive therapist: We will give you coping tools and success therapies. For example, if you drop a pass, don't think of it as a humiliating failure. Think of it as a learning opportunity.
Player: Coach says if I have any more learning opportunities, I'll be cut.
Cognitive therapy then gave way to Dr. Laura. Suppose she were an NFL psychologist.
Dr. Laura: You pitiful whining liberal pinko! You godless lesbian group-sex addict! It's people like you who are ruining this country with your debased movies and loud music and demands for higher taxes.
Player: Doc, you may be looking at the wrong file. You see, my problem is ...
Dr. Laura: Shut up! I'm the doctor, I'll tell you what your problem is!
Recently, Dr. Laura gave way to Dr. Phil. Suppose he were an NFL psychologist.
Dr. Phil: Out with it, my audience doesn't have all day.
Player: It's kind of hard to talk about. You see, when I try to ...
Dr. Phil: Aha! (Turns to audience.) Obviously this man is suffering from self-doubt, inadequacy, acute sexual dysfunction, mood disorders, inability to express feelings, undifferentiated somatoform anxiety, sleep apnea, social phobia, pre-traumatic stress, disassociative amnesia and numerous disorders so cutting-edge they don't even have names yet. That is my professional judgment based on this consultation.
Player: But I haven't said anything yet.
Dr. Phil: (Looks only at audience.) This man needs to get in touch with this himself! And also to get in touch with my TV show, radio spots, "books," tapes, CDs, lecture appearances and 24-hour all-Phil channel.
Player: No, I need to catch the pass.
Dr. Phil: Well if that don't beat a coon dog in a buzzard's nest on a hazy day in the high hickory hills.
Player: What's that supposed to mean?
Dr. Phi: I have no idea. My marketing consultants want me to sound folksy.
Player: Stop hugging me!
In other NFL news, that curly horn on St. Louis helmets should be replaced with an curlicue letter Q -- for Quitters. Rarely has TMQ seen a team so totally, utterly quit as the 0-5 Mouflons. The 0-5 Bengals put out more effort Sunday. St. Louis played with no heart and, trailing in the fourth quarter, lackadaisically strolled up to the line on offense making no attempt whatever to hurry-up for scores. When Tony Parrish of the Niners intercepted a pass deep with San Francisco leading 17-3, eight of the 11 Mouflons on the field made no attempt to chase him. Check the tape; just three St. Louis players pursued, Parrish went 50 yards, a field goal followed and the Mouflons were down by 17. With 10 seconds left in the first half, Jason Webster of the Niners intercepted again. This time no one from the Rams chased him -- not one player -- as he scooted 37 yards to make it a 24-point hole at the half.
But why shouldn't Rams players quit when their coaching staff has quit? Officially, Mike Martz quit on the 2002 season when it was San Francisco 27, St. Louis 3 with five minutes remaining in the third and the Mouflons facing fourth and 17 on the Niners' 19. Martz sent in the field-goal unit. Yes, fourth and 17 is a long shot, but the Rams had to score a touchdown at that point to hold any hope of a comeback. Rather than leave what he had on the field as champions do, Martz wanted a figgie to hold down the final margin of defeat. That is called quitting.
St. Louis is now the first Super Bowl contestant ever to open the next season 0-5, discounting the 1987 strike year when records were scrambled by "replacement" teams. Ye gods.
Pretty play No. 1: Clinton Portis on the shovel pass for the touchdown that makes it Denver 10, Chargers 0 and the Bolts were on their way to stepping aside as one of the two remaining undefeated teams. With Junior Seau out, the Broncos directed much of their action at the San Diego middle linebacker position. The Bolts acted surprised.
Play play No. 2: Game scoreless in the first, Green Bay ball on its 15. Brett Favre fakes the handoff right and bootlegs left, using the "hidden ball" move in which the QB keeps the rock on his back hip. Donald Driver runs a deep cross from the right, beauty pass, 85-yard touchdown. Best part: Bears "will" linebacker Mike Caldwell is so mesmerized by the fake that when Favre bootlegs and ends up right in front of Caldwell, the Chicago gentleman just stands like a statue watching rather than rush forward and break up the play.
Pretty play No. 3: Trailing 13-6, the Arizona (caution: may contain football-like substance) Cardinals faced third-and-seven on the Panthers' 15. Jake Plummer pumped a screen fake right, did a dancer-style "turn out" pivot back the other way and threw the left TE screen to Freddie Jones, who went for six.
Bounces of the day: New kid Patrick Ramsey of the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons flipped a lateral to WR Kevin Lockett for the receiver pass. Lockett fumbled the ball, it bounced back into his hands and he heave-hoed to RB Stephen Davis for six. Once-was-a-new-kid Jake Plummer was hit by new kid Julius Peppers and fumbled. The ball bounced back into Plummer's hands and he heave-hoed a 12-yard completion that moved the Cards close to position for what would prove the winning figgie.
Fastest chip-speed play: Intercepting a deflected pass against the Falcons, Bucs DT Warren Sapp immediately lateraled to quicker teammate Derrick Brooks, who ran in his third return touchdown in just five games. Watch the tape; it's amazing how rapidly Sapp realizes the ball is bouncing around, grabs it and gets it out of his hands and into Brooks'.
Scoring quibble: The line score for the game says, "Brooks 15 interception return." It should say, "Brooks 15 lateral pass from Sapp."
Best non-panic: After Jersey/B took a 25-22 lead with 2:48 to play, Kansas City got the ball on its 22. The Jets defense fell back to defend against long passes. The Chiefs noticed, went "under" with short plays and moved to the winning touchdown using safety-value passes, quick outs and draws exclusively.
Best use of TMQ: This column's current hobby horse is that if you are going to play-fake near the goal line then do it on first down, when the defense is thinking run, not on second down after the defense is just stuffed a run and is thinking pass. It's first-and-goal for Jax on the Eagles' 2; play-fake, touchdown pass to TE Kyle Brady. It's first and goal for the Horsies on the Bengals' 2; play-fake, touchdown pass to TE Mike Roberg. Um, wait, overturned on review, but Indianapolis scores on the next snap. It's first-and-goal for the Bears on the Packers four; play-fake, touchdown pass to TE John Davis. Um, wait, he drops it, but Chicago scores two plays later.
Worst by last year's No. 1 defense: "One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, four-one thousand, five one-thousand." That's how far TMQ got counting the time Aaron Brooks spent in the pocket before zinging a touchdown pass; no Steeler was near him.
Worst by the 2000 season's No. 1 defense: "One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, four-one thousand, five one-thousand." That's how far TMQ got counting the time Pat Ramsey spent in the pocket before zinging a touchdown pass; no Tennessee Titan was near him.
Worst by last year's Super Bowl-winning defense: "One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand, four-one thousand, five one-thousand, six one-thousand." That's how far TMQ got counting the time Jay Fiedler spent in the pocket before taking off for his touchdown scramble; no Patriot was near him.
Worst by last year's No. 1 rushing offense: Trailing by 11 early in the fourth, Pittsburgh faced third and two; the call was pitch right to Amos Zereoue, and he was hit in the backfield by three Saints defenders for a loss. Pittsburgh is predictable in running the pitch right on third-and-two. This same action failed for the Steelers at the same down and distance in last year's AFC championship game.
Illiteracy epidemic plagues reading of defense: Trailing 10-0, the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.0) faced third-and-one on their 29 late in the first half. Lining up in a jumbo set, had the Browns looked they would have seen Baltimore in a nine-man overstack against the run -- a very inviting situation to audible to a play fake. Instead Tim Couch stuck with the called run. No gain, punt, Ravens make it 13-0 at the half and the rest is catch-up ball.
Worst hair tonic: Saints players dumped a bucket of ice cubes over Jim Haslett's head as the New Orleans-Pittsburgh game wound down, scattering ice across the playing surface and hurting their coach; would you care to be hit by a bucket of ice cubes? More important, New Orleans players did this when there was still a minute on the clock and the Saints ahead only by a field goal. The football gods are not amused by premature celebration; New Orleans ought to fear their wrath.
Mike Brown play of the week: Thirty-five-yard fumble return to the Green Bay 4, setting up the first Chicago touchdown.
Stats of the week: On Kansas City's last-minute winning drive against Jersey/B, waiver-wire gentleman Priest Holmes gained 72 of the 78 yards.
Stats of the week No. 2: Buffalo recorded 479 yards of offense and 29 first downs, and lost by 17 points.
Stats of the week No. 3: At 3-2 the Chiefs are last in their division while the Ravens, at 2-2, lead theirs.
Stats of the week No. 4: Drew Bledsoe is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,638 yards. And if he doesn't, Rich Gannon is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,420 yards. (The season record, held by Dan Marino, is 5,084 yards.)
Stats of the week No. 5: It has been 12 years since the Bengals won a road game against a team with a winning record.
Stats of the week No. 6: In the third quarter against Oakland, Bledsoe set a Buffalo franchise record with his 173rd consecutive pass without an interception. He proceeded to throw three interceptions in his remaining 26 attempts.
Stats of the week No. 7: In their last two outings, the Raiders have scored 101 points.
Stats of the week No. 8: Nine teams recorded at least 400 yards of offense, and three of them lost.
Stats of the week No. 9: The Rams and Steelers, Super Bowl favorites of most touts, are a combined 1-8 and 1-10 stretching back to the end of last season.
Cheerleader of the Week: Stereotypes usually have some basis in fact, and one cheesecake stereotype -- that beaches are good for babe-ness -- is factually supported by the cheerleading squads of the beach-centric Dolphins and Buccaneers. Case in point, this week's TMQ ESPN.com Cheerleader of the Week, Angel Haywood of City of Tampa.
According to her team bio, Haywood just graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in biology, and is now a pre-med student. TMQ can hear hundreds of guys saying, "Examine me!" Haywood's bio also says she has broken eight bones in her relatively short life -- hence, perhaps, the interest in medicine. Her "most embarrassing moment" was "losing my skirt on a stage while performing for the Operation Desert Storm troops." That must have been a very popular performance. Although since Desert Storm was 11 years ago, how old was she when this happened? Haywood also says her favorite vacation spot would be "any island." Greenland is an island.
Check this ultra-serious description of the history and operation of the Bucs cheerleaders' squad, including the warning, "Many women do not realize the time commitment, hard work, dedication, and regulations involved in being a Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleader." Arrrggggghh ... one of the regulations is, "No sucking up to ESPN.com columnists."
Most complicated incomplete pass in NFL history: Trailing 21-7 in the second, Chicago faced fourth-and-four at the Green Bay 36. First the field goal kicker trotted out, then raced off. Then the Bears' kicking unit lined up in a high-school gadget-play formation with four guys on one side of the field and seven guys on the other side, the center split on the four-guy side and at the end of the formation making him eligible. (There's no rule that says the center has to be in the center; the snap can come from anyone on the line of scrimmage.) Then one back went in motion from the four-guy split toward the seven-guy group. Then reserve center Patrick Mannelly snapped to receiver Marty Booker, who started to run toward the sideline. Then Booker flipped a lateral to linebacker Brian Urlacher. Then Urlacher threw a pass to Mannelly, who had run a short out. Then Mannelly dropped the pass.
OK, so the result of all this trickeration was a linebacker throwing to a center, not exactly a percentage pass. Two notes. First, in the typical high-school gadget, the point of the trick alignment is to draw defenders over toward the skinny part of the formation where the ball is; then, usually, the play ends up being a screen pass to someone standing behind all the blockers on the heavy side. Chicago cleverly simulated this by sending the man in motion toward the heavy area, hoping to make defenders think "it's that high-school play!" But the Packers didn't fall for it, and covered Mannelly. Why didn't they fall for it? Because the ball was on the 36, and there were only four yards to go for the first -- this is the kind of down, distance and field position where teams often eschew the field goal and go for the first down. Had the play been called closer in, it might have worked. (Part of the fun of sportswriting is using the word "eschew.")
Official nickname change: TMQ, who has been calling Dan Snyder the "Owner/Menace to Western Civilization" for a year, feels it is time for a name change, if only because Western civilization seems determined to undo itself with or without Snyder's aid. His new nickname: Lord Voldemort.
Sinister, scheming, power-mad -- just like Lord Voldemort. Loves to fire people -- just like Lord Voldemort. (OK, Lord Voldemort loves to kill people, but it's the same premise; Snyder takes pleasure in firing those faithful to him, Lord Voldemort takes pleasure in otherwise disposing of those faithful to him.) And that can't be Snyder's real body, can it? He must be capable of taking over other forms -- just like Lord Voldemort. As the world braces for release of the next Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Global Marketing Campaign of Doom," Dan Snyder will become Lord Voldemort to TMQ.
Official name change from "Browns" to "Tootsie Rolls" still under consideration: Trailing 10-0, the Cleveland Browns (Release 2.0) stopped a Ravens third-down play on their 6 with 43 seconds remaining in the first half. A field goal attempt was sure to follow. The Browns had all three time outs. But rather than call time so that after the figgie and kickoff they'd have about 35 seconds and two time outs with which to try for a score, Cleveland was content to watch the clock tick down till Baltimore called time with just seconds left and completed its figgie on the final snap of the half. Browns coach Butch Davis seemed to think a 13-0 halftime deficit was just fine.
Why coaches should be cold: Later this season as the weather changes, TMQ will proclaim one of his immutable laws of football: Cold Coach = Victory.
In any cold-weather game in which one sideline dresses in heavy K2 survival gear and balaclavas while the other wears varsity jackets and shrugs at the cold, the team with the overdressed coaches invariably meets defeat. Monday night in Champaign, Ill., kickoff temperature was 46 degrees, according to the official gamebook. Forty-six degrees? Maybe a sweater. Yet several coaches on the Chicago sideline sported heavy North Face-style ski parkas, and one wore gloves. Packers coaches wore windbreakers and several assistants were in shorts. If you'd tried to don gloves on the Green Bay sideline you would have been instructed to return to the team bus. Needless to say, the team with the cold coaches jogged up the tunnel victorious.
Death by return: Buffalo has given up five return touchdowns in five games -- two kick runbacks, two fumble runs and an interception run -- while scoring only one return touchdown itself. Nothing is more disheartening than to work, work, work for field position and then suddenly see some skinny gentleman sprinting untouched the length of the gridiron to enter your house. The Bills have significantly outgained opponents on offense but been crunched by easy return touchdowns; without them, Buffalo might be 3-2 or even 4-1 rather than 2-3.
Fun factoid: on average, the typical NFL team gives up a return touchdown every eighth game. Thus, Buffalo has allowed 2½ seasons' worth of return TDs in just five outings.
The "46" creates big plays, all right, but they are big plays for ... Returns are not the only Western New York problem. Despite playing the reckless "46" defense that gives up big plays but is supposed to compensate by getting multiple sacks and monster turnovers, in five games Buffalo has yet to record an interception -- the only team in the league without a pick -- and is tied with Cincinnati for last in the NFL in takeaways. Subtracting for return scores, the Buffalo defense is surrendering 29 points per game and stands 26th statistically; before tastefully named coach Gregg Williams tossed out the Bills' old conservative defensive scheme and installed the "46" promising huge turnover totals, Buffalo had finished first overall on defense (1999) and third overall (2000). Williams will brook no comment that just because his defensive philosophy has consistently been a fiasco, this means there's something wrong. He seems to think that on the rare occasion his defense registers a big play, he should be lauded as a defensive genius, but when the norm is that the defense gives up big play after big play as it did against the Raiders, that's because the players are not executing properly.
Against the Raiders, the Bills defense engaged in wild shoot-the-gap gambles on almost every down; the net was one sack and no takeaways, while Oakland completed 10 gains of 20 or more yards. Raiders gentlemen repeatedly looped past defenders who were making reckless gambles rather than keeping their men in front of them. From the JV level on, defenders are taught, "Keep your man in front of you." If Williams somehow thinks this law of football does not apply to him, he might watch a few seconds of his own team's game film.
Tennessee, which finished first overall defensively in 2000 playing the "46," continues to show that year's performance was blind luck. Last season the Flaming Thumbtacks were 25th overall in defense, and this year they are 27th, plus surrendering 32 points per game. On Sunday, Flaming Thumbtacks defenders repeatedly took reckless gambles for big plays they never made, while no Titan was anywhere near Kevin Lockett when he caught a touchdown pass, and no Titan anywhere near Stephan Davis when Lockett threw him a touchdown pass. Ay caramba.
The "46" is a gambling-based system, and gamblers occasionally benefit from good fortune, as Tennessee did in 2000. Most of the time when you gamble, the house wins. All NFL defensive coordinators know the theory of the "46." There is a reason hardly anybody plays this instant-fiasco scheme.
Forget the Titans: In January 2001 Tennessee had just finished with the league's best record, had the top-rated defense and a power running game, was everyone's favorite for the Super Bowl crown and was at home in the playoffs versus Baltimore. That day the Flaming Thumbtacks thoroughly outperformed the Ravens, the eventual champs, but lost on kicking-game blunders. Since the start of the Ravens-Titans playoff contest, Tennessee has gone 8-14, culminating in Sunday's pounding in Nashville by the underwhelming Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons.
Maybe the problem is simply that Tennessee's terrific 2000 performance resulted from blind luck with the "46," and you can't count on blind luck to continue. Since 2000, Tennessee has been getting what you should expect from the "46," namely big play after big play by opposing teams. Yea, verily, the Titans hath lost favor with the football gods.
A hang-up in contract talks is McKinnie's demand that the Vikings throw him the tackle-eligible on 40 percent of offensive plays: The only unsigned NFL draftee, Minnesota first-round pick left tackle Bryant McKinnie, last week ridiculed Lewis Kelly, the man now playing LT for the Vikes, saying the team was losing because it could only run to the right. (That is, away from Kelly.) McKinnie further declared that if he had been in the lineup, the Vikings would have won at least two of their first four games.
This gentleman will fit in very nicely in Minnesota! Maybe he can room with Randy Moss.
Can they perform Lasik on the brain? Peter Warrick is finally wearing contact lenses, but ability to see has not helped him think. Against the Colts he attempted to field a punt standing on his own 6, surrounded by cover men; muff, Indianapolis recovery leading to an easy Horsies touchdown. Never shag a punt inside your own 10.
Grade inflation comes to bowls: This year there will be a record-setting 28 Division I-A bowl games. Since the NCAA Division I-A has 117 members, sending 56 of them to bowl games means that 47.9 percent are above average. Math departments, contact the NCAA please!
To replace Seder, Dallas signed kicker Ross Hashana: Dallas lost to the Giants partly owing to a fake field goal attempt that fizzed out, ending in loss of yardage. The football gods chortled -- because during training camp the 'Boys waived placekicker Tim Seder, one of the best fake-kick men ever. The short, scrawny Seder has two career touchdown runs on fake field goal attempts, and scored both by taking a handoff from the holder and running straight up the middle.
TMQ has long maintained that teams should fake kicks more often. There is a strong correlation between executing a successful fake kick and winning an NFL game, hence one of TMQ's immutable laws of football, Fake Kick = Victory. But don't tempt fate by cutting the guy who knows how to do it! TMQ hopes another NFL squad offers gainful employment to Tim Seder, a two-touchdown man where most kickers end their careers without ever running, blocking, throwing or catching.
This week's Star Trek Complaint: So there's a Romulan mine attached to the hull of the Enterprise, and Archer and Reed go out in space suits to defuse it; Reed gets hurt and has to talk Archer through the delicate procedure. How does Reed have the slightest idea how to defuse an alien mine? He announces that he's "had training" in fuses, but how would that help him with alien devices -- let alone teach him the elaborate sequence required to neutralize the Romulan mine, an elaborate sequence Reed mysteriously seems to know by heart. To top it off, we are told that at this point neither Earth nor Vulcan has ever had any contact with the Romulans. And yet Reed knows exactly how to defuse Romulan ordnance.
Next, what is Archer doing out on the hull in the first place? Seven-year-old Spenser, Official Youngest Child of TMQ, when watching this episode shook his head and said, "The captain wouldn't do that. If he got killed the ship would have no leader. The captain would never be the one who does that." Yet on "Enterprise," like all the Star Trek serials, the captain is constantly assigning himself the most dangerous task or going on extraneous missions far from the ship.
Next, an earlier Star Trek Complaint noted that while time travel is taken for granted in the new serial, which supposedly happens a century before the Captain Kirk episodes, in the Captain Kirk episodes time travel was depicted as a stunning discovery. Similarly the Captain Kirk episodes, and then the Captain Picard and Captain Janeway episodes that followed, depicted the Romulan-Klingon cloaking device as a huge technological mystery the Federation had been unable to solve. But now on "Enterprise," in episodes that happen 100 years before Kirk and 200 years before Picard, Archer has a beam that counteracts cloaking devices! Are we to believe the Federation later forgot about this vital acquisition?
Finally in all Star Trek serials, when a Klingon or Romulan ship cloaks, you can see through it. A device that foils sensors might be one thing, but how could you see through a solid metallic starship? Are we to believe the cloaking device makes the metal of the ship transparent?
Stop me before I blitz again! Game tied 15-15 in the fourth, Kansas City had Jersey/B facing third-and-12 on the Chiefs' 27. Since the average NFL passing attempt yields 5.9 yards, all the Chiefs had to do was play straight defense and the odds favored a stop. Instead, it's a blitz! Kansas City sent six, big-blitzing on third-and-long being predictable, predictable, predictable. Chad Pennington hit Santana Moss for a 27-yard touchdown against single coverage.
Stop me before I blitz again No. 2: Leading 13-0, New Orleans had Pittsburgh facing third-and-six on the Saints' 30. If the Saints play straight coverage, chances are they force a long field goal attempt. Instead it's a blitz, six gentlemen cross the line; Steelers complete the pass for the first and score a touchdown on the next play.
Stop me before I blitz again No. 3: On the first New Orleans snap after it became 13-7 owing to the touchdown the Saints surrendered by big-blitzing, the Steelers big-blitzed six. Jerome Pathon single-covered, 64-yard gain to the Pittsburgh 1, New Orleans touchdown on the next play.
In the sequel, Geena Davis will play a criminal mastermind: The apparently cringe-worthy new flick "Knockaround Guys" features Seth Green as a tough guy. Seth Green, who has spent his acting career playing nerds and dweebs (he was Dr. Evil's sniveling son) grows some stubble, tries to look mean and walk twisted around sideways as though this will make him a tough guy. Seth Green playing a tough guy is like Dame Judi Dench playing a bombshell.
Quote of the week: "If people want to jump off our bandwagon, I understand"
-- Tackle Willie Anderson of 0-5 Bengals.
Willie, in order for anyone to jump off the Bengals bandwagon, they would first have to be on it.
Reader haiku: Got one? Propose it here. The haiku from the seer-like Russ of West Orange, N.J., was received last week, before it was known that the Bucs offense would score 13 at Atlanta (the 20-point Tampa final being aided by a defensive score).
Bonus Obscure Score
appears every article.
Why call it bonus?
-- Mat Thomas, Dallas
Each Tuesday "Morning"
Quarterback appears after
noon -- a misnomer?
-- Ryan Booth, Baton Rouge, La.
Dungy to Gruden
was supposed to bring offense.
Bucs still score thirteen
-- Russ, West Orange, N.J.
while also entertaining;
Tuesday Morn QB.
-- John Cococcza, Staten Island, N.Y.
Rams are oh-and-five.
Warner's hurt, can things get worse?
Just play the Niners.
-- Matt Kenerly, Haywood, Calif.
TMQ true man,
confessed to watch Meg Ryan.
Hint: "Wife made me watch."
-- Steve, West Lafayette, Ind.
Oh Kordell Stewart,
inept as a quarterback.
Line up at wide out!
-- Reggie, Birmingham, Ala.
God help Stuart Scott
If T.J. Houshmandzadeh
ever makes highlights.
-- Chris, Chicago
Not just female fans --
TMQ gay mafia
-- Jeff Warren, Harrisburg, Pa.
Ray Lewis scary
LB, but we always knew
he could execute.
-- Lisa Smith, Montclair, Va.
You are cold, Lisa, cold. I hope Johnnie Cochran is your lawyer.
On the Tuesday "morning" issue, Page 2 has always said that it posts they day's new page at "noonish Eastern." That's still morning in five of our great nation's six time zones! And as for Jeff Warren's demand, Jeff, I am already struggling with double-X requests for chiseled mega-hunk beefcake rather than buff mega-babe cheesecake. I'm trying to open my mind on this one, really I am. But female readers/gay mafia -- you've got the players to look at!
Isn't bling-bling slang for bada-bing? The media world is atwitter over CNN's ridiculous new corporate policy of inserting hip-hop terms such as "flava" into newscasts on Headline News. AOL Time Warner top management must be livin' the down life!
The policy is especially ridiculous because the CNN Headline News audience consists primary of senior citizens. Who else has the time to sit around monitoring the latest West Nile bite reports? Why else are all the ads on Headline News for prescription drugs whose purpose the ad never mentions?
And worth every penny: Kerry Collins of Jersey/A lost a fumble near his goal line, setting up a Dallas touchdown. Last season Collins set an all-time record with 23 fumbles, then in the offseason signed a contract that pays him $6.4 million in 2002. That's $278,000 per fumble!
Our long national nightmare is over: The Yankees were eliminated from the MLB playoffs.
Yo Murphy should be consulted: Yesterday was cellist Yo Yo Ma's birthday. TMQ plans to learn cello just so he can take the stage name Yo Yo Mama! (Hey, I could get that on CNN Headline News.)
Great moments in management: Last season the Jets finished 19th in total defense, and came on late defensively. Nevertheless the Jersey/B braintrust decided to clean house, evicting numerous veterans and using the cap space to bring in five new starters. Now the Jets are 31st overall in defense and Sunday could not hold a fourth-quarter lead at home, allowing Kansas City to fly the length of the field in just 2:14 for the winning touchdown with 27 seconds remaining.
Hidden indicator: In the weeks since they played the Bills, the Bears, Broncos, Jets and Vikings have gone a combined 1-8. 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: Mary 39, South Dakota Tech 7. One woman defeated an entire team! Located in Bismarck, N.D., the University of Mary, "America's Leadership University," boasts an unusual 4-4-1 format: not a defensive scheme but two four-month semesters followed by an "optional Mary term" during which students may either take courses or, apparently, just hang out in the dorms on Mom's and Dad's dime. At the school's Harold Schafer Leadership Center, you can become an all-caps "Certified Schafer Leader." TMQ was not able to figure out from the University of Mary website who Harold Schafer is, or for that matter which Mary is being honored. Anybody know?
Bonus obscure score: Mississippi Valley State University 52, Paul Quinn 16. Well of course an entire team would beat one guy! Located near Dallas, Paul Quinn College is an affiliate of the AME Church and has a 63 percent female student body, which may explain something about the above score. The school urges students to attend the nearby 10th District AME Church, which calls itself the "Talented Tenth," a great play on words if you know African American political history. TMQ was not able to figure out from the school's website who Paul Quinn was. Anybody know?
Double bonus obscure score: Saint Norbert 60, Illinois College 9. Would a saint run up the score?
Triple bonus obscure score: Frostburg State 48, Oberlin 14. Oberlin, whom reader Todd Lang of Phoenix asserts is "the worst college football team of all time," is on a 7-116 run. A bastion of excruciating PC -- this fall's courses include "Gender, Nature & Culture," which will "focus on ecosocial context, which explores the intersections of gender, race, class, sexual orientation and ecological setting/history" -- Oberlin "has a heck of a time recruiting in-state guys to play," Lang reports.
At Oberlin the women are tougher than the men -- considerably more ill-tempered, anyway -- so perhaps recruiting emphasis should change. If an Oberlin coach told an all-female squad of the opposing team, "You see that player No. 72? He once made an inappropriate remark about the intersections of gender, race and class in Peruvian rainforest development issues!" the guy would be battered into pieces within moments.
Quadruple bonus obscure score: (This is what happens when readers send in haiku complaining about TMQ bonus coverage.) It was the Attack of the Concordias! Concordia of Saint Paul 63, Minnesota-Morris 0. Concordia of Nebraska 14, Midland Lutheran 0. Concordia Moorhead 40, Hamline 7. And they showed no mercy to each other -- Concordia of Wisconsin 64, Concordia of Illinois 3. The 10 schools of the Lutheran-affiliated Concordia University Education Network confusingly do not include Concordia-Moorhead.
TMQ Obscure College Game of the Year ramp-up: Indiana of Pennsylvania continued its winning ways, defeating Clarion 28-14, but California of Pennsylvania suffered its first defeat, falling to Slippery Rock 41-6. Since their nickname is the Vulcans, presumably the California of Pennsylvania squad showed no emotions during the defeat. The two mini-giants continued 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. You'll want to arrive at this game in style (in "flava" to CNN), so arrange your limo services now!
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 0-594 since TMQ began tracking.
Reader animadversion. Many readers objected to the word "rout" appearing as "route" numerous times in last week's column. I plead the Microsoft Word spell checker, which failed to undue my mistake! One reader haikuized,
Rout is not spelled with
an "e." Please, never take Bill
Gates' Word for it.
-- Mike of Washington
And no e-mails on "undue" please, that was supposed to be a spelling joke.
Several readers added, apropos the Bubba Franks touchdown pass, that Ken Dilger, then with the Colts, also is a tight end who has thrown a touchdown pass -- last December, against Jersey/B. Many readers objected to my snide remark that tight end Frank Wycheck once threw a touchdown pass called the Music City Miracle. Readers earnestly lectured me that a lateral on a kick return is not scored as a touchdown pass. My point was that it wasn't a lateral! Wycheck was standing behind the 25 when he released the ball, and Kevin Dyson was a yard in front of the 25 when he received the touchdown pass. Ah well. Reasonable people may disagree, although as the late Mike Royko liked to say, "I may be wrong, but I doubt it." Here, in reasonable disagreement, a haiku:
play, while well-thrown, was no pass;
-- Chris Forbis, Houston
Many readers exercised their First Amendment rights to check out the numerous hot swimsuit photos at the Miss Universe web site, and protested that I had missed gawk-worthy contenders. Leslie Koorhan of Standhope, N.J., strongly recommends Miss Germany -- both her swimsuit shot and her "national costume" photo, in which she appears in a bikini made of grapes. TMQ has been to Germany on a few occasions, and does not recall glimpsing any mega-babes in such Dionysian attire; maybe you have to know the right clubs. Other readers recommended for aesthetic reasons Miss Netherlands and Miss Ireland, whose "national costume" shot, a naughty leprachuan number. Gawk by going here then clicking "delegates," the nation of your choosing, then "photos" then "swimsuit" or "national costume."
Richard Coo of Rockville, Md., wrote to protest that TMQ was wrong to say Wofford College performs "at a high school stadium." Rather, Coo reported, "The stadium that Wofford College plays in is two-thirds owned by the college. Spartanburg School District Seven owns the other third. Both schools play there." The shared stadium, where Coo has attended games, is modern, "nice, clean, has a luxury box level and a nice press box and seats 12,000 with standing-room capacity of 15,000." A high-school stadium with a luxury box! What do they serve, tuna subs and 3.2 beer? Also, Coo reports, "The high school sells out more games than Wofford."
Regarding the items on Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, an alum haikuized,
football is not our best game.
Hand me my slide rule!
-- Andy Miller, Dearborn, Mich.
Reader Bill Marra of Pittsburgh wrote to note that his brother-in-law graduated from Indiana of Pennsylvania and now teaches at California of Pennsylvania. A man after TMQ's heart! Let's hope he will attend the incredible Tuesday Morning Quarterback Obscure College Game of the Year, California of Pennsylvania at Indiana of Pennsylvania on Oct. 19. Book your party rooms and kegs now!
Reader James Delle reported he recently left a job at Franklin & Marshall to work at Kutztown University. Another man after TMQ's heart. He adds that Franklin & Marshall, whose teams are officially the Diplomats, are known to everyone as "the Dips."
Reader Jeffrey Puma of Sacramento, Calif., noted that in his interview with ESPN last week, Randy Moss declared he "had tried to turn his life around 360 degrees." Turn 360 degrees and you remain facing in the same direction! At least Moss was being honest.
Reader Chris Palma of Pleasant Gap, Pa., ("Cradle of Obscure Colleges") noted the garbled typo in last week's column, referring to years as "turns of revolutions of the sun." Earth's orbit, not the sun's revolutions, determine the years. And the sun is not moving across the sky, it only looks that way! Palma cryptically added that this correction is essential because he "knows at least two Ph.D. astronomers who read TMQ." No doubt when they need a break from scanning for the approach of more starcruisers from Kurt Warner's homeworld.
On the running question of the state of Vulcan technological development in the 23rd century, reader Rick Margulies of Philadelphia points out that in the giant amoeba episode of the original Captain Kirk serials, Spock telepathically hears the screams of the crew of a Vulcan starship that had once been swallowed by the creature. This appears to contradict TMQ's claim that in the Kirk episodes the Vulcans are "an insular, technologically modest people." Well, maybe it was a modest starship! (And if Vulcans have no emotions, why did they scream?) Patty Henshaw of Seattle contends that it is not necessarily a contradiction for the Vulcans to have been a major spacefaring power in the 22nd century of the Captain Archer episodes, then "insular" and "modest" in Kirk's 23rd century. "If you replace Vulcans with Britons and spacefaring with seafaring, that's pretty much the decline of the British Empire," Henshaw writes.
Finally, Jeff Pasquale of Mississauga, Ontario, notes of the recent episode in which the Vulcan mega-babe T'Pol plays her own great-grandmother stranded in a 1950s small U.S. town, "Why did she change into Earth clothes behind a backlit white sheet? Isn't modesty an emotion? Wouldn't lust on the part of her companion, if he saw her naked form, also be an emotion?" Jeff, she changed behind a backlit sheet so that producers could add a gratuitous naked silhouette shot. That's the most you can get onto network television, and we should express gratitude for it.
Got a comment or a deeply felt grievance? Register it here.
TMQ Challenge Last week's Challenge was to liken an NFL player to a character from Shakespeare.
Many, many readers locked in on Randy Moss. Megan Flanagan of Chicago likened Moss to Malvolio in "Twelfth Night," noting, "He's got the same overblown sense of self-importance that leads to a rather uncomfortable comic relief." Some likened him to Hamlet, Steve from Phoenix proposing Moss would ask, "to give effort or not to give effort/that is the question." Steve Gozdecki, also of Chicago, placed into Moss' mouth the Hamlet line, "What an ass I am!"
Heather New of Lockhart, Texas, proposed that the recently retired Tony Siragusa would be Falstaff, while Dan Snyder would speak Richard III's line, "Now is the winter of our discontent." But Heather, with Snyder, it's also the spring, summer and autumn of his discontent. Tell me when this guy isn't in a childish rage about something?
Gerrit Ayers of Tacoma, Wash., proposed that Mike Martz would be Macbeth and haunted by London Fletcher as Banquo, the ghost of last year's better defense.
Morris Richardson of Melbourne, Fla., proposed that Rob Johnson would be Hamlet -- endlessly unable to make up his mind who to throw to, then ending up sacked.
Rob Wold of Antioch, Ill., proposed that Ticonderoga-class DTs Ted Washington and Keith Traylor of the Bears be Rosencranz and Gildenstern since "They always show up together on the field, they always leave the field together and you're never quite sure which is which."
Jim Brown of Ithaca, N.Y., proposed that Duante Culpepper begins to resemble Timon of Athens: "Angered and demoralized by the selfishness and egotism of his teammates, it's only a matter of time before he shuns Minnesota and runs off to live in a cave."
Jeremy Sullivan of College Park, Md., proposed in haiku:
"A Winter's Tale" stage
direction: Exit, pursued
by an Urlacher.
-- Jeremy Sullivan
Cort Laflin of Wichita, Kan., proposed that the French army at Agincourt in Henry V could convincingly be played by the St. Louis Rams.
The winner of this week's Challenge is Sam Donnelley of Wasilla, Alaska, who compared Steve Spurrier to Othello: "The conquering general Othello (Spurrier) is duped by devious aristocrat Iago (Daniel Snyder) into betraying his true love Desdemona (Florida Gators), causing his own eventual (career) suicide."
This Week's Challenge Now that TMQ has decreed that Dan Snyder be known as the Lord Voldemort of the NFL, what to call this selfsame Spurrier?
TMQ wants to know which Potter character reminds you of Spurrier. Is it Draco Malfoy? Bartimeus Crouch? Dr. Cornelius Fudge? Professor Severus Snape? (Two Ss there, just like Steve Spurrier.) Or someone else? Submit your view and clever reasoning here. Be sure to include your e-mail address in the unlikely event your submission is chosen, and 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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