By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

Ads for the new movie "Harry Potter and the Global Marketing Campaign of Doom" contain a little box warning of "some creature violence." Is that violence by a creature or against a creature? TMQ always wonders, when ads say "doctor-tested," whether they mean tested by doctors or tested on doctors. But let's focus on the warning boxes. Ratings to caution parents about which movies are appropriate for kids (answer: hardly any) are one thing. The disclosure boxes have become absurd.

Recent boxes for "Goldmember," "Serving Sara" and the Dana Carvey vehicle "Master of Disguise" warned of "crude humor." The disclosure should have cautioned, "bad humor." TMQ has examined hundreds of movie disclaimers, and not seen one warning of "sophisticated humor."

Warning boxes for "About a Boy" and the current "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" cautioned of "thematic elements." As best as TMQ can determine, this means the movie is about a subject, rather than just being random sight gags, breasts and explosions. Apparently at this point Hollywood feels it must issue warnings when a movie has a subject. Some moviegoers, or more likely some studio executives, consider this notion disturbing.

What about sex disclaimers? Ads for the movie "Resident Evil" warned of "brief sexuality." We'll all been on that date! Posters for "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood" cautioned of "brief sensuality." Maybe that's the best you can expect when Ashley Judd plays the babe. Ads for "The Importance of Being Earnest" warned of "mild sensuality." Every high-school drama society in world history has performed that play, which is hardly known for being risqué. But what is "mild" sensuality anyway? Couldn't it be a woman sipping tea?


 

As for skin, ads for the Jennifer Lopez movie "Enough" noted "some sensuality," which apparently means, "prepare to be disappointed." "Enough" was supposed to be a serious flick, but nevertheless J-Lo was on screen for two hours and never disrobed; your only reward was "some sensuality." Meanwhile disclaimers for the Adam Sandler farce "Mr. Deeds" warned of "some rear nudity." We're seeing Adam Sandler's butt instead of J-Lo's? What cruel fate! Let's hope at least that Sandler had a butt double.

Then there are the grab-bag caveats. Disclaimers for "Signs" warned of "frightening moments." The frightening moment came when you realized you had forked over $8 to watch Mel Gibson spend two hours shining a flashlight into corn rows hollering, "Who's out there?" The warning for "Lilo and Stitch" said "mild action." Like your last date! "Runteldat" warned of "pervasive language." They talk all the time in that movie? "The Bourne Identity" warned of "some language." Which language -- Croatian? Xhosa? Ads for "Blue Crush" warned of "teen partying." Oh, so it's a horror movie!

Worst, of course, are disclaimers on Hollywood's big point of hypocrisy -- glorification of violence. Ads for "City by the Sea" cautioned of "some violence." What's the difference between "some" violence and simply "violence?" Ads for "Eight-Legged Freaks" cautioned of "sci-fi violence," which apparently is fine because people get slaughtered, but before that they talk about science! Ads for "Bad Company," "The Scorpion King" and the current "Half Past Dead" warned of "action violence." Is "action" violence somehow a good kind of violence? Hollywood certainly wants us to think so. "Bad Company," "The Scorpion King" and "Half Past Dead" all were marketed to teens, meaning Hollywood thinks violence is an appropriate form of entertainment for kids.

David Arquette
Be warned: "Eight-Legged Freaks" contains David Arquette.

The two most deceptive warnings TMQ has seen were on "Spider-Man" and "Swimfan." The "Spider-Man" disclaimer cautioned of "stylized violence." Besides how totally awful the movie script was -- not a single memorable movie line and only one creative visual, the upside-down kiss; a typical episode of "Spider-Man" director Sam Raimi's "Xena Warrior Princess" had more clever lines and visual inventiveness than the entire cost-no-object "Spider-Man" movie -- what is "stylized" violence? Is that some kind of violence that doesn't really count? This was a PG-13 kids' movie that depicted dozens of people being murdered, many screaming in terror as they were slaughtered, and also depicted an old lady being tortured. But that's OK because it was "stylized."

Hollywood now has sunk so low that it thinks dozens of people being murdered is an appropriate form of entertainment in a movie targeted at kids. Go back and watch the first Christopher Reeves "Superman" flick from 1979: lots of action and numerous bad guys, but only two people depicted as killed, and those were off-camera. By 2002, depicting dozens of helpless people being slaughtered is considered so standard in a kids' movie that no critic TMQ saw complained about this in "Spider-Man."

What adults want to see is their own business and must always remain unrestricted under the First Amendment. But psychological studies conclusively show that children's minds are harmed by exposure to images of violence, and especially to depiction of violence as a form of fun. See this study published in Science, the technical journal of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, and endorsed by a broad coalition of medical professional societies, led by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Despite the fact research shows that children who watch depictions of violence are more likely to become violent, Hollywood keeps making kid-marketed movies more violent. And remember, Hollywood's dreck is shipped all around the world, indoctrinating developing-nation kids into thinking violently about the United States.

Jesse Bradford, Erika Christensen
"Swimfan" dramatizes the emotional pain of teen love and infatuation ... and a homicidal psycho chick.

Finally, "Swimfan," a PG-13 movie marketed to kids, warned only of "disturbing images." The movie depicts the murders of several teenagers. Parents trying to decide whether young teens should see "Swim Fan" were actively deceived by its producers and by the spineless, toadying Motion Picture Association of America, which exists to place a stamp of approval on glamorization of violence -- and that's setting aside that Hollywood now thinks depictions of teenagers being murdered is an appropriate form of entertainment in a movie target-marketed at children.

In NFL news, many TMQ readers have written in to protest this column's running complaint that the big blitz on long yardage situations is a low-percentage tactic. TMQ doesn't like most big-blitzes on the grounds that because the typical pro pass attempt yields 5.9 yards (2001 whole-season figure), the odds favor a stop in long-yardage situations anyway, whereas the big blitz is often burned. A typical comment, from reader Dan Keating of Malden, Mass.: "You posit that as the average pass play nets 5.9 yards, a blitz is unnecessary in long yardage situations. However, one cannot discuss the results of an average passing play without accounting for the effect that blitzes have on that average."

That is to say, is it blitzing that drives down the average gain on NFL pass attempts? Many readers seem to think so. But in TMQ's experience, the effect is the opposite. So many big-blitzes result in big gains that, if NFL teams blitzed less, the average per pass attempt might be lower. To TMQ's knowledge, no stat currently exists that enables sports nuts to determine comparative blitz/straight defense results. But when the playoffs roll around, and TMQ obsessively watches and rewatches every snap of every game, I promise to chart the blitz/straight defense difference and resolve the controversy.

Michael Vick
Michael Vick continues to amaze TMQ.

Sweet Play No. 1 & No. 2: Lots of players now are trying to stretch the ball into the end zone as they fly out of bounds, but TMQ had never seen it done with such perfect body control as on Michael Vick's 7-yard touchdown run against New Orleans. Vick was flying flat-parallel to the ground, one hand holding the ball across the invisible plane and the other held opposite for counterbalance. And lots of quarterbacks try to snap the pass off a short wrist motion, usually to woe. TMQ had never seen a wrist-snapped pass done so well, or fly so far, as on Vick's scrambling 74-yard touchdown throw to Trevor Gaylor.

Sweet Play No. 3 & No. 4: Trailing by seven, City of Tampa faced fourth-and-goal on the Carolina 1. The Bucs came out heavy with no one split, showing power-run; Keyshawn Johnson, who is not known for his blocking, lined up as a slot-back right. During the play-fake, Johnson came across the formation behind the line of scrimmage, then took the flare pass for the touchdown. Panthers defenders totally lost track of Johnson as he scampered behind the line. Also at the goal line, the Mouflons got a touchdown from tight end Ernie Conwell on the end-around; Bears defenders lost track of Conwell because he was moving behind the line.

Sweet Play No. 5: Trailing by seven in the second quarter, the Ravens faced fourth-and-inches at the Marine Mammals' 28. Miami came out in an overstack, packed tight on the line; Baltimore play-faked and threw deep to Travis Taylor for six. Two things made this play work. First, Jeff Blake "crouch" faked, bending over the ball so it was hard for the defense to see he had kept it. Second, Taylor convincingly brush-blocked a Mammals defender, who then ignored him when he turned on the jets. The Ravens lost, but this play was sweet.

The rareness of the crouch-fake drives TMQ crazy because it's an effective move. Few offensive coordinators coach quarterbacks to crouch-fake, because when this move is seen from the box upstairs -- which is where most offensive coordinators sit -- it's totally obvious the QB is keeping the ball. But from the field level, which is all that matters, crouch-fakes are very confusing to the front seven. Offensive coordinators should spend less time in the box and more time lining up with the defense in practice to experience what defenders see.

Tim Dwight
Tim Dwight makes one of his three catches on the Bolts' game-tying drive.

Hidden Play of the Day: Often the essential moments in a game are invisible in the box score, as they are the plays that sustain or stop drives. Trailing 17-10 with 1:56 remaining in regulation, the Bolts faced fourth-and-three on the Squared Sevens' 15. Drew Brees was nearly sacked, spun away from his pursuer, stumbled, regained his balance and threw to Tim Dwight for a 7-yard gain and the first down. San Diego went on to tie and then beat San Francisco in overtime; this piddling 7-yard gain was the biggest play in the NFL on Sunday.

Non-Fraidy-Cat Play No. 1: Score tied at 10 early in the fourth, New Orleans faced fourth-and-one at its 43. Did the Saints play it safe and punt? Attempt a high-percentage quarterback sneak? They came out in a five-wide shotgun, not even bothering to show run; 57-yard touchdown pass to Joe Horn. New Orleans went on to lose, but certainly not for lack of daring.

Non-Fraidy-Cat Play No. 2: Trailing by seven, the Giants faced fourth-and-10 at the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons' 32, in bad weather that made a field-goal attempt dicey. Did they punt, as several timorous NFL teams have done in this situation this season? Completion for the first down, field goal on the drive and the football gods would smile on Jersey/A.

Non-Fraidy-Cat Play No. 3: Trailing by seven, San Francisco faced fourth-and-four at the San Diego 32. Did the Squared Sevens punt, as several timorous NFL teams have done in this situation this season? Pass to Terrell Owens for the touchdown.

Best Shovels: The Eagles, Lions and Raiders all used, to good result, a variation of the shovel pass in which an offside lineman pulls and leads the play off-tackle. Normally, the shovel pass goes straight up the middle. The sideways, offside-pull shovel seemed to run through the league on Sunday like a computer virus.

Michael Bennett
It took a Harvard education to spring Michael Bennett on his 62-yard run against the Packers.

Best Block: The clinching down of Minnesota's victory against Green Bay was a 62-yard run by Michael Bennett with 4:20 remaining. On the play, Vikings center Matt Birk pulled right and threw a fabulous block that sealed the entire right-side pursuit. Birk is from Harvard. What's he doing in the NFL ... couldn't get into med school?

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 1: Trailing 17-14, the Bengals had the Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.1) facing second-and-13. Since the average NFL pass attempt yields 5.9 yards -- anyway, it's a blitz! Touchdown pass to Dennis Northcutt and the Oranges never look back.

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 2: Trailing 14-13 early in the fourth quarter of a surprisingly tense game, the Bears all-out blitzed alien "Marc Bulger" of the Mouflons, six gentlemen including a cornerback crossing the line. Thirty-two-yard completion to Isaac Bruce, who ran straight to the spot the corner vacated; St. Louis gets a touchdown on the series and the rest is silence for Chicago.

Yes, blitzing sometimes works. Among successes this week, the Titans got the Steelers off the field with a third-and-six blitz with the score Tennessee 21, Pittsburgh 7 in the third. After that, the Steelers did not threaten again until the last-second onside kick.

Coaches Should Be Cold: It was 42 degrees with a frisky breeze before kickoff in Nashville, Tenn., and Flaming Thumbtacks coach Jeff Fisher overheard a couple of his southern-born players grousing about the temperature. Fisher responded by coming out for warmups wearing a short-sleeved golf shirt and no jacket. After trotting around for some time in this undress, he asked the team if anyone planned to complain about feeling cold. The football gods smiled, and the Titans were rewarded.

'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All: Though Buffalo running back Travis Henry had an excellent outing with 24 carries for 126 yards, the Bills threw on a critical third-and-inches; incompletion, punt. Reaching first-and-goal at the Kansas City 5, the Bills threw three straight times, all incompletions, then settled for the field goal. They lost by one point.

Best Bumps: Officially, only corners play bump-and-run, but smart receivers know that if they deliberately slam into their cover man in the first 5 yards where defensive contact is legal, they're not going to get called for it. On both of Terrell Owens' touchdown receptions Sunday, Owens began the pattern by deliberately slamming into the DB in front of him, knocking the gentleman off-balance.

Charlie Garner
Charlie Garner catches the Pats defense napping.

Where Was the Defense? Facing third-and-15 from the New England 16, Oakland threw a screen pass to Charlie Garner, who made it to the Pats' 2; the Raiders went for it on the fourth-and-one, scored a touchdown to take their first lead and never looked back. Where was the defense? The closer a team gets to the end zone, the harder each yard becomes because defenders have steadily less territory to protect. There's no way a screen pass from the 16 should result in a runner scampering to the 2; defenders should be too packed-in for that.

Defense that was there: the Raiders varied fronts as much as TMQ has ever seen. On one sequence, Oakland showed a nine-man front on the first New England snap, a three-man front on the second and a false blitz on the third.

Where Was the Defender's Brain? TMQ loves skinny Marvin Harrison, who became the fastest receiver to 600 catches, partly on the basis of a 31-yard touchdown reception against the down-in-the-cellar-with-the-rutabagas Cowboys. Dallas might have had better luck on the play if they had assigned someone to cover Harrison. As the skinny star ran down the field, no Cowboy made any attempt to stay with him. The closest 'Boy, safety Tony Dixon, ignored Harrison loping by because Dixon was busy making the high-school mistake of "looking into the backfield" trying to guess what the quarterback would do.

Susy
Mama-mia! Susy, the proud mother of a 17-month-old girl.

Cheerleader of the Week: Today's cheer-babe theme is hot mammas who are hot and actually are mommas. The TMQ ESPN.com Cheerleader of the Week is Susy of the high-aesthetic-appeal Dolphins' squad. According to her team bio, Susy was born in Honduras and moved to the United States at age 11. Today she owns a women's clothing store and has -- in addition, apparently, to abs of tungsten -- a 17-month-old daughter. Given that Susy has departed the dating market, TMQ feels somewhat restrained in making the customary salacious comment. The photo to the right should speak for itself, however. And see another hot-mom cheerleader below.

Stat of the Week: Stretching back to the point last season when they were 13-3, the Bears are on a 2-9 run.

Stat of the Week No. 2: Owing to penalties, Buffalo staged a drive on which it gained 101 offensive yards but scored just three points.

Stat of the Week No. 3: In the first half of the Raiders-Patriots game, there were 43 passing plays and 20 runs. The football gods winced.

Stat of the Week No. 4: Dobby the Elf (Steve Spurrier) has called 355 passes and 250 runs for the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons, whose offense is ranked 26th in the league.

Stat of the Week No. 5: In close road losses, Buffalo and New Orleans combined for 29 penalties for 272 yards.

Stat of the Week No. 6: Rich Gannon is on a pace to throw for an NFL-record 5,112 yards. And if he doesn't, the mark looks safe, as Drew Bledsoe has slipped to be on pace for 4,843 yards. (The season record, held by Dan Marino, is 5,084 yards.) History's first reader-contributed stat haiku:

Fifty-one hundred
and twelve if Gannon maintains
three-nineteen a game!
-- C. Dodd Harris IV, Louisville, Ky.

Stat of the Week No. 7: St. Louis passed for 327 yards and ran for 61 yards. The football gods winced.

Miss Cleo
The mon is keeping Miss Cleo down.

I See -- Wait -- You Will Wear an Orange Jumpsuit! The Federal Trade Commission shut down the Psychic Readers Network and ordered "nationally acclaimed psychic" Miss Cleo, its president, to relinquish $500 million in credit-card billings that regulators said were acquired through deception. What TMQ wants to know is ... why didn't Miss Cleo see this coming?

During the Reagan Administration, Nancy Reagan occasionally consulted an astrologer. At one point Nancy called a press conference to introduce her astrologer to the media, to show that she was a perfectly normal person. The press conference was canceled because the astrologer had to rush back to California owing to the sudden death of her mother. No one, to my knowledge, asked, Why didn't she see this coming?

This Week's San Diego Babes Item: As many readers, including Andrew Holland of Washington, D.C., wrote in to note, for the second consecutive Tuesday, TMQ links to the San Diego Charger Girls' swimsuit photos, and especially to a bikini pose of the scrumptious Sarah Reichert, crashed the entire Bolts official website. For the second week running, ESPN.com had to remove the links for a few hours, at the request of Chargers' officials, so that techno-persons could reinitialize the team server.

Apparently, the websites of the Eagles, Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons and Ravens, to which TMQ also linked cheerleader shots last week, also operated intermittently throughout the afternoon, owing to high usage. To think that a few years ago, at the height of web mania, the ability to cause tens of thousands of people to click on the same thing simultaneously would have made me rich beyond the dreams of avarice! Now it makes me -- say, Page 2 management, where is that bag of ESPN Zone tokens you promised for my kids?

Chargers cheerleaders
The naughty but nice Chargers Girls get in the retro spirit.

Many readers protested that the item about the Chargers cheerleaders appearance in 1960s throwback duds, described by reader Pam Holmberg as "retro sexy," was not accompanied by the essential illustrative photograph. Follows is the complaint in haiku.

Bolts cheer-babes throwback
"look old-fashioned but naughty."
And yet, no photo?
-- David Glicker, Kyle, Texas

The Revenge of the Chicks! TMQ has been getting an awful lot of mail on the cheesecake-beefcake issue; now even female readers are obsessing on this subject. Jenn Wallace and Jennifer Nelson lament in haiku that while women in cheer-babe shots are always in various stages of undress, all cheer-studs TMQ has been able to find are photographed fully clothed. As Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Jimmy Carter once noted, "Life is unfair."

Susan Bullard of St. Francisville, La., gripes of last week's featured cheer-stud, the fully clothed James S. of the Ravens, "While a hamster-owning male cheerleader may constitute beefcake for your nontraditional male audience, it just doesn't do it for me." Nan Kennelly, long-suffering Official Wife of TMQ, clicked on the link to James S. hoping for a skin photo, only to discover more proof of the unfairness of life. She also found that the Ravens' website was slow, and then her computer crashed. Could it be that the female lust for beefcake equals male interest in the opposite phenomenon? NFL teams, start posting photos of your players without shirts!

The cheer-stud James S. --
clothed, not shirtless and flexing?
This hardly fairness.
-- Jennifer Nelson, Atlanta

Cheer dudes have no beef.
Bring forth sweaty quarterbacks
in tighty-whities!
-- Jenn Wallace, Cleveland

Oldest TV show?
"Guiding Light," not MNF.
Keep beefcake coming!
-- Jennifer Dobbs, Amherst, Mass.

Long legs and Lycra,
Wide receivers wear few pads,
Beefcake fully clothed.
-- Deborah Sullivan, Philadelphia

Male cheer-studs are great,
but I would prefer players.
Show us some skin, please!
-- Tamara Walters, Boston

Note to Traditional Males: The mail suggests that traditional male (and for that matter, nontraditional female) readers are panicking over last week's beefcake. Don't. First, a tactical retreat was always inevitable. Second, by throwing in the occasional handsome man or revenge-of-the-chicks item, TMQ hopes to create a diversion from what really matters, pinup shots. If the column looks admirably open-minded regarding the concerns of female and nontraditional male readers, then who could object to balancing it off with photos of scantily clad mega-babes? That's just diversity! I've got a plan, trust me on this one.

Steve Christie
Kick me, I'm Canadian: Steve Christie coolly ices the Niners.

Frostback of the Week: Bolts kicker Steve Christie is 21-for-24 lifetime on kicks to tie or win in the final two minutes or overtime. Cold, cold blood runs in this Canadian's veins, eh?

Don't Ask What the Brain X-Ray Showed: During the MNF game, Melissa Stark reported from the sideline that X-rays of Marc Bulger's hand "were negative." The X-rays showed nothing? But then, alien physiology may not show up on film. More evidence that "Marc Bulger" is an n-dimensional tesseract construct organism from Kurt Warner's homeworld.

What TMQ Wants to Know Is, How Loud Was the Big Bang? Recently researchers from the University of Rochester slammed together two atoms of gold -- two individual atoms -- at nearly the speed of light, creating a "quark gluon plasma" thousands of times hotter than the sun and believed to be similar to the proto-matter that existed in the eon immediately after the Big Bang. The scientists declared that they had, for an instant, created a "little Big Bang."

Set aside here the issue of whether your tax dollars are best spent to slam atoms of gold together at nearly the speed of light. (The experiment was conducted at Brookhaven National Laboratory, a federal facility, which Wednesday will be host of a seminar titled "The Kaon B Parameter Using Overlap Fermions." Hurry, there's still time to sign up!) Set aside also whether the atoms will be fined by the NFL for an illegal hadron-to-hadron hit. (Har har, physics pun.) TMQ's question is whether we really want to re-create the conditions of the Big Bang. What if we set off another one?


 

When Manhattan Project scientists were preparing to detonate the first atomic bomb, some worried that its unprecedented temperature would ignite the atmosphere and turn the Earth into a star. (A desperate race to prevent a runaway nuclear test from turning the Earth into a star was the plot the pleasingly goofy sci-fi novel "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," later made into an excruciating TV series; the book is out of print, though you can still buy the show's theme music.) Dr. Doom himself, Edward Teller, made his initial reputation by calculations that proved an atomic detonation would not cause the atmosphere to fuse.

When researchers began building complex atom-smashers such as the one at Brookhaven, there was some concern among scientists that they could create a bizarre "template" particle to which all other particles in the universe would bind, crushing the cosmos out of existence. Sir Martin Rees, the British astronomer, once penned a hilarious account of serving on a committee that was tasked to discuss whether physics professors and their geeky postdocs could inadvertently destroy the entire universe.

Comes now the University of Rochester to make a miniature Big Bang. Are we really sure we want to tamper with this effect? And did the experiment cause an actual Big Bang, creating a new universe somewhere else? A universe to which the University of Rochester would be God!

In other universe news, TMQ was lying in a field at 5 a.m. this morning with Mara Rose, Official Daughter of TMQ, as we watched the Leonid meteor shower. This got me to thinking that the universe is really, really big, and I am really, really small, and I could really, really use a cup of coffee. For more big thoughts, see the cover of the new issue of Wired, an article about science-and-religion trends by an author with animal magnetism and smoking jacket with color-coordinated cravat. TMQ reader Cesar Corcoles of Barcelona, Spain, has already e-mailed me about this article, which has only been out a couple of days! The world is getting almost spooky-global.

I Guaranteed a Bengals Item! Trailing by seven late in the fourth, Cincinnati twice was stuffed on goal-to-go from the Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.1) 1-yard line, just as the Bengals had been stuffed from the 1 in the same situation against the Flaming Thumbtacks. All three stuffed plays were Corey Dillon off-tackle right. Note to Bengals braintrust: Maybe we have established that this play does not work in this situation.

We're All Professionals Here: Having just fallen behind 19-14, Detroit prepared to oppose Jersey/B's two-point attempt in the third. No Lion lined up across from Jets wide-out Laveranues Coles, who simply turned around and made history's easiest catch for the deuce.

Hey, Snyder Is Perfectly Consistent -- He Makes the Same Mistake Over and Over: Dobby the Elf, the fourth Persons head coach in four years of the reign of Lord Voldemort, has just announced his fourth starting quarterback change of the season. That will make it nine starting quarterback changes in four years of the reign of Lord Voldemort. The Persons are also on their fourth defensive coordinator and fourth general manager during Voldemort's reign. TMQ continues to wonder, with Dan Snyder exhibiting zero grasp of such basic management principles as consistency, how did this guy get rich?

Ashley Scott
Hurry to see Ashley Scott because her "Birds of Prey" might soon be "Nevermore."

Reader Haiku: Submit your verse at the Reader Animadversion link below. Brandon Trissler puns on the "sinking Shoop" of John Shoop, offensive coordinator of the low-low voltage Bears. David Cassell's supposes that Boeing engineers named their fighter prototype the Bird of Prey thinking neither of the Romulans nor Dickens' novel "Our Mutual Friend," but of the current television show. TMQ's advice would be to watch this show while you can, which won't be long; Cassell adds, mind focused on what really matters, that this creates a cheap, flimsy excuse for the ESPN.com art department to append a photo of the "Birds of Prey" star babe Ashley Scott. Jason Kaczor proposes, à la Poe, son of Baltimore and reason for the Ravens name, that this team receive the TMQ cognomen Nevermores.

Heather Workman speculates that the Lions are perennial losers in part because they are one of the few NFL clubs that employs no buff cheerleaders. But Heather, the Packers don't either and this does not seem to hold them back. Though maybe it's strictly practical, since where would you find mega-babes in Green Bay, Wis.?

Finally, reader Paul C. of Boston laments that although, according to their team bios, nearly all NFL cheerleaders are college students, he has never observed any woman so alluring at his school. TMQ hears you, Paul C. The explanation is the Tuesday Morning Quarterback Iron Law of Parties. The Iron Law of Parties holds that whenever you are arriving at a party, good-looking babes are just leaving, while whenever you are leaving a party, good-looking babes are just arriving. Female and nontraditional male readers may adjust the Iron Law of Parties to reflect their preferences, but I assure you the principle will remain the same. As pertains to college, Paul C., just as you were arriving, all the hot-looking women were graduating. As soon as you graduate, more will arrive.

Washington scuttled,
Bears swallowed by undertow:
rats flee sinking Shoop
-- Brandon Trissler, Iowa City

Salary-cap woes
may mean no more Super Bowls;
Hence, the Nevermores.
-- Jason Kaczor, Syracuse, N.Y.

Spurrier must learn:
Run the ball or N.F.L.
stands for Not For Long.
-- Shecky Lovejoy, Los Angeles

Lions: no cheesecake,
just movies on 8 Mile Road
Winning seasons scarce.
-- Heather Workman, Ann Arbor, Mich.

TMQ laments
close, but low-scoring affairs
as Sominex games

Wake up, TMQ.
Low scoring games aren't snoozers:
outcome uncertain!
-- Matt Jacobs, Pittsburgh

Klingons? Dickens? No!
Boeing geeks watch the TV.
They want Ashley Scott.
-- David Cassell, Corvallis, Ore.

All hot cheerleaders
said to go to a college.
I ask, why not mine?
-- Paul C., Boston

Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Challenged Note: It's always nice to see those Raider Nation guys at Not Bankrupt Yet Coliseum are mainstreaming and able to attend sports events and that stuff. But the frightening outfits they wear are mainly made of tin foil. Do Raiders fans seriously think opposing teams are afraid of tin foil?

TMQ Thought for the Day: When did sit-ups become "abs?"

Hidden Indicator: Five teams -- Buffalo, Green Bay, Oakland, New Orleans and the Seattle Blue Men Group -- had more penalty yards than rushing yards. 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: Tiffin 47, Quincy 44. Located "on State Route 53 in Tiffin," this school advertises itself as "one of the least expensive private colleges in Ohio." TMQ is all for that! Formerly a commuter school, in 1981 Tiffin began building dormitories, and since has doubled its enrollment. One of Tiffin's faculty members just published a book called "Operation Lusty," which, unfortunately, has nothing to do with what you're thinking.

Bonus Obscure Score: Hartwick 68, Saint Lawrence 7. Located on Pine Lake in New York's Catskill Mountains, Hartwick boasts "almost 1.25 computers for every student." The school encourages students to invent their own majors and quotes one professor as saying, "I have seen students at Hartwick take charge of their own education, it is a wondrous thing." But if you've taken charge of your own education, why do you need to pay Hartwick a $26,215 tuition?

Double Bonus Obscure Score: Shepherd 60, Concord 14. Located in Shepherdstown, W.Va., Shepherd is expanding, owing to West Virginia's Sen. Robert Byrd's long-serving, long-winded knowledge of precisely where every body is buried on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Shepherd just completed a $9.5 million Robert C. Byrd Science and Technology Center; it is conservatively estimated that two-thirds of public structures in West Virginia are named The Robert C. Byrd Something or Other. Every time TMQ is in Western Virginia, he thinks, "This state is so beautiful, plus it was on the right side of the Civil War, and it gets so much federal money thanks to Byrd, why is West Virginia still poor?" (Second-lowest per capita income in the country.) Occasionally TMQ wonders, "Maybe West Virginia stays poor because it gets so much federal money." But you're not supposed to think that.

JuCo Stat of the Week: Geary Davenport threw for 781 yards and nine touchdowns as College of Marin lost to Solano Community College by a final of 72-69.

New York Times Final-Score Score. The Paper of Guesses returns to its habitual 0-16 in its triumphant attempt to predict an exact final score, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to 1-679 since TMQ began tracking.

Sam Adams
We should be so lucky to be insulted like Sam Adams.

It's An Insult! Sam Adams, who last February said he was insulted when his employers, the Nevermores, offered him $6 million actual for this season, ended up signing with the Raiders for $2 million actual for the season. He sure showed them.

Claiming "it's an insult!" about your team's tender, then ending up somewhere else earning less, is becoming an NFL standard. In winter of 2001, for example, San Diego offered incumbent kicker John Carney a contract that would have paid him $1.2 million for the season. He rejected the offer, calling it an insult. Carney ended up signing with New Orleans for the league minimum of $477,000.

Last winter Jeremiah Trotter cried, "It's an insult!" when his Eagles offered a deal that would have paid him $5.5 million for 2002 and left him an unrestricted free agent in 2003, able to get what the market may bear. Instead he signed with the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons for just $1.5 million this season 2002 and the promise of a $6 million payday next season. Perhaps you'll recall that when Elvis Grbac signed with the Ravens in 2001, he took much of his money as a promise of a $6 million bonus the following winter, then was cut and never got a penny. Considering that the Persons are already over the salary cap for the 2003 season, Trotter is unlikely to see all his promised dough. TMQ bets he'll end up considerably behind what he would have realized from the "insulting" Eagles offer.

WorldCom-Like Financial Acumen: The greatest "it's an insult!" moment came last winter when Michael Strahan not only rejected but angrily rejected a Giants' offer that would have paid him a $10 million bonus for his signature plus a second $7 million bonus in 2003. The total, with salaries, would have been $20.5 million over the coming two years -- two years being the only portion of an NFL contract with any chance of being actual. Strahan denounced the deal as a trick, asserting that, Grbac-style, the Giants would waive him to avoid making the second payment.

But wait; Strahan was already under contract for 2002. What the Giants wanted was to extend his commitment, plus toss the sal-cap damage into future years. If Jersey/A planned to release Strahan in the winter of 2003, it would be insane to give him what would amount to the $2.65 million gift (the $10 million bonus plus $650,000 salary, minus the $8 million called for in his existing agreement), since he had to play for the Giants in 2002 regardless, while the prorated penalties for the enormous bonus would molder the team's books beginning the instant Strahan were waived. In cap terms, the Giants' original offer made sense only if the team intended to carry out the promise and wire the second payment to Strahan's offshore account. The Grbac situation -- he was a free agent whom the Ravens were trying to lure -- was different.

Eventually Strahan signed a fictional "seven-year, $46 million" contract likely to pay him less than the deal he rejected as an insult. Strahan ends up with $11.4 million right away -- only fractionally more than the first year of the $10.65 million "it's an insult" offer -- plus the promise of huge salaries beginning in 2003. Even if Strahan actually receives the promised 2003 huge salary, he will end up with $20.4 million over the first two years, a tad less than the "it's an insult" deal. But because the agreement Strahan finally signed is almost all salary, rather than bonus, the leverage has shifted to the Giants. Owing to most of the money being salary, the cap penalty for waiving Strahan in 2004 will only be about $4.5 million -- very manageable -- versus a killer $13 million penalty that would have been looming over the Giants in 2004 under the original bonus-heavy "it's an insult" proposal. Thus Strahan rejected a deal that would have imposed significant restrictions on Jersey/A, in return for a deal the Giants can walk away from the instant Strahan loses his value.

Catherine Bell
We're honoring our contract by showing you Catherine Bell.

How much chance is there that Strahan actually will receive the promised huge future salaries, considering that by 2004 he will be a 12-year vet whose knees require 3-in-1 Oil before kickoff to prevent creaking? About as much chance as that football fan and hot-tomato actress Catherine Bell will invite TMQ to a late-night session of candlelit attempts to predict exact final scores. (Note to ESPN.com art department -- have just created flimsy excuse for a cheesecake photo of Bell.) By 2004 at the latest, Strahan will be told to take a pay cut or be waived. The salary-heavy nature of the deal might even create enough cap leverage to force Strahan to take a pay cut in 2003, turning the contract into a complete fiasco that pays him substantially less than the "it's an insult" deal.

Strahan declared victory about his contract, claiming he showed them. Strahan's agent declared victory, claiming to be a super-brilliant genius who forced Jersey/A to its knees. TMQ is giving 10-to-1 odds that Strahan ends up with fewer dineros than the it's-an-insult proposal would have provided.

Leisurely living note: After being handed a mega bonus, many players celebrate by taking the remainder of the season off.

Through 10 games Strahan has eight sacks, putting him just barely ahead in this year's sack race of the legendary Jeff Posey. And as reader Vernon Harmon of Rohnert Park, Calif., points out, on Donovan McNabb's touchdown run against Jersey/A earlier this year, Strahan started the play trailing McNabb by a yard and then just gave up -- coming to all-stop and simply watching as 10 other guys tried frantically to run down McNabb. Did the coach yank Strahan from the game and scream at him, or, better, send him to the showers? Far as TMQ could tell, no one said a thing to the overpaid, underperforming Strahan. But don't be surprised during the offseason if the Giants use plays like this to tell Strahan it's pay cut or the waiver wire, turning his rejection of the first offer into a debacle.

New York Times Correction of the Week: "A front-page article yesterday about trading in the stock market on Tuesday misstated the gain of the Dow Jones industrial average in the four days ended April 22, 1933. It was 15.31 percent, not 13.28 percent."

The super-responsible accuracy-obsessed New York Times moves quickly to correct any inadvertent misperception about hundredths of a percentage point in 1933! Yet the super-responsible New York Times continues to devote an entire page each week during NFL season to exact final score predictions that are 1-679 since TMQ began tracking.

Reader Animadversion: Regarding not-shy Eagles cheer-babe Kelly T., whom TMQ could link to but not show for thong-based reasons -- several readers have proposed that a Kelly T. link become a permanent feature of this column -- her Penn State classmate Kevin Grant writes, "Kelly played on my intramural co-ed flag football team in college, and we won the whole thing that year!" He haikuizes,

Kelly T. and I,
flag football teammates at State.
Wish she'd tackled me.
-- Kevin Grant, Sayre, Pa.

Mary
Mary, a social worker and hot mom, knocks the Cowboys down a couple more notches.

Reader Jim Houser of Austin, Texas, who reports that he just purchased the Eagles cheerleaders lingerie calendar, writes to bemoan, "As a Cowboy fan, I must admit jealously, now they have us beat at the sidelines too." Dallas-lovers, time to face the sad truth: The Cowboys' cheerleaders, who started it all, aesthetically have slipped to a second-echelon unit, staring at the brake lights of the Dolphins, Eagles, Raiders and Broncos squads. Want more proof? Here's another pose from the Eagles' lingerie calendar, of Mary, a social worker and another hot mom, in her case with a 2-year-old son.

Mike Holman, a chemist from New York, objected to TMQ declaring that if the 25th anniversary is silver and the 50th gold, then the 500th game of Monday Night Football represented MNF's Gadolinium Anniversary because gadolinium sits below silver and gold on the Periodic Table of Elements. Holman notes that various versions of the Periodic Table move the rare elements around; in addition to gadolinium, europium and dysprosium are sometimes located beneath silver and gold. Unununium, an artificial element first made in 1994 by particle accelerators, really ought to be beneath gold on the Periodic Table, Holman maintains, because the atomic number of gold is 32 higher than of silver, and the atomic number of unununium is 32 higher than gold. Consumer tip: If someone tries to sell you jewelry made of 24-carat unununium, the product might be bogus, as this element has a half-life of 1.5 milliseconds.

Greg Lange of Houston, locale of NASA's Johnson Space Center, management center for human space flight -- that's why, when you are an astronaut who has a problem, you call Houston -- reports of TMQ's item on the space-cowboy term Max Q that, "Max Q is also the name of the all-astronaut band here at the Johnson Space Center. Membership changes as astronauts come and go. Max Q plays rock oldies, mostly, and they play publicly only on request, usually at NASA-sponsored events in Houston and at NASA employee picnics." Greg, how about having flight controllers call out, "Max-TMQ!"

Readers from Canada and Mexico have taunted Tuesday Morning Quarterback with the infuriating fact that, while the overwhelming majority of Americans have no access to NFL Sunday Ticket -- it is available exclusively via the satellite service DirecTV, which is in only 10 percent of U.S. homes and which huge numbers of Americans cannot receive owing to technical limitations -- anyone in Canada and Mexico can receive Sunday Ticket on regular cable, at lower cost than in the United States. Comes now reader Jesus Ortiz of Mexico City to point out that Mexican patrons of DirecTV get the entire enchilada of movies, programming and Sunday Ticket for just 789 pesos, less than Sunday Ticket alone costs in the United States. In effect, NFL Sunday Ticket is free in Mexico, while in the United States, millions cannot get it at any price. Sunday Ticket is also effectively free in Panama, reports reader Alex Samos of Panama City. Only the NFL could come up with a master plan in which viewer's choice for its games is for all intents and purposes forbidden to most Americans, but subsidized in Canada and free in Mexico and Panama. A reader haikuizes,

Perot was correct.
Not about jobs, but rather
our Sunday Ticket.
-- Jim Thomas, Washington, D.C.

Got a comment or a deeply felt grievance? Register it here.

Last Week's Challenge: Last week, TMQ asked readers for cool-sounding NASA or fly-boy phrases that could be applied to football or, even, to real life.


 

Joe Lindsey of Boulder, Colo., was among many, many readers who proposed that "Negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full," the key phrase in "Top Gun" (you have to have seen the movie), sounds like a great audible. But TMQ sympathizes with another reader who warns in haiku,

Accurate fly-boy
phrases? Ignore anything
from "Top Gun" movie
-- Jared McLain, Mesa, Ariz.

Mike Clark of Philadelphia proposed the fly-boy phrase for speeding up, "Put the spurs to her." I will not even attempt a TMQ-class joke on that. Kathryn Kelchner of San Luis Obispo, Calif., proposed the engineers' description of how a jet engine works: "Suck, squeeze, burn, blow." I will not even attempt a TMQ-class joke on that.

Engineer Geof Morris of Huntsville, Ala., site of a major NASA facility, proposed, "You are go for OMS burn," the signal flight controllers send to the space shuttle for the engine firing that kicks the spacecraft into its final orbit. Atlanta coaches, Morris suggests, could radio the phrase, "You are go for OMS burn" to Michael Vick's helmet, signaling him to take off running.

TMQ his ownself suggests the phrase "into the burn," which is how NASA flight controllers call rocket-firing duration, as in, "We are now 45 seconds into the burn." People could exclaim this was sipping a Jack Daniels.

Louisville resident Jim Hanson, who describes himself as an Army Special Forces member -- media types are coached to be cautious of such claims because the Army, as a matter of policy, will neither confirm nor deny who is in Special Forces -- nominated the fly-boy term "on my six," which means your enemy is directly behind you.

Kerry Smith of Groton, Mass., suggests "dead bug." Aerial stunt teams such as the Blue Angels call, "Dead bug!" when planes are to fly upside-down, or "inverted." Smith suggests, "Picture the Dead Bug Defense. All defenders end up on their backs with arms and legs in the air as the ballcarrier sails by." Hmmm, isn't that what Seattle is running this year? And a reader notes in haiku,

Dead bugs with striped hats:
Bengals flying inverted
since mid-'91.
-- Edwin Hill, Evansville, Ind.


 

A reader from North Pole, Alaska -- an actual place, here is its current weather -- suggests two haiku apropos of the many interceptions and fumbles dispensed this season by Daunte Culpepper:

Yell, "Twelve o'clock high!"
Defensive players look up,
Culpepper pick coming.

Yell, "Six o'clock low!"
Defensive players hit turf,
Find Daunte's fumble.
-- Shawn Staker, North Pole, Alaska

Rik Kyser of Toledo, Ohio, suggests "going joker," which means being low on fuel. As in, "Let's turn back, I'm going joker." Kyser notes, "Going joker" seems a wholly appropriate euphemism for being drafted by the Bengals.

Mark Petty of Woodbridge, Va., suggests "auger in," which means to crash nose-down into the ground, and "dead-stick," which means flying without power. The Bengals annually auger in by mid-October, Petty notes, while "the Dolphins go pretty much dead stick after every November."

Jessica Schneider of Washington, D.C., suggests "SA" or "situational awareness," which means paying attention to what's going on around you. Dobby the Elf, coach of her hometown Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons, might be accused of "bad SA."

Matt Alfano of San Jose, Calif., notes that Navy pilots must "call the ball" to verify they have sighted the optical lens system that guides a carrier approach. "This could easily apply to Keyshawn Johnson, Terrell Owens and Randy Moss, to name a few," Alfano says.

And the winner of the Challenge is Joshua Carey of Candor, N.Y., one of many, many, many readers -- I had to pick one at random -- who proposed that the motto of the NFL's expansion Texans ought to be: "Houston, we have a problem."

This Week's Challenge: What warning labels would you place on movies, football games, politicians or mega-babes or ultra-hunks? Propose yours here. Cleverness and originality will probably be rewarded, though not necessarily, as 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.




Gregg_Easterbrook
Gregg
Easterbrook
TUESDAY MORNING QB