Page 2 columnist
Nan Kennelly, the Official Wife of TMQ and a U.S. diplomat, recently traveled from Aspen, Colo., to Oxford, England, -- her actual itinerary! -- to attend a conference at which the Home Office, one of Britain's main government agencies, gave those at the table mementos. The memento was a small clock inscribed with the Home Office slogan: "Building a Safe, Just and Tolerant Society."A government agency with a slogan? And how come British government agencies have slogans but not American ones? What is Washington doing about the slogan gap? Ever the patriot, TMQ has taken it upon himself to write slogans for U.S. government agencies.
Department of State: Signing Fine Treaties Since 1789
Department of Defense: You're Always in Our Crosshairs
Congress: World's Only 535-Ring Circus
NASA: Nowhere to Go But Up
Department of Energy: The People Who Brought You Enron
United States Treasury: All Deficit Figures Certified by Arthur Andersen
Department of Agriculture: Grow Less, Earn More! See Extension Agent for Details
Corps of Engineers: The Difficult We Do for Billions, the Impossible Requires Cost Overruns
Supreme Court: Unaccountable, Out of Touch and on IV
White House interns program: Must Be 18+; Submit Swimsuit Photo With Application
Department of Interior: Come On Baby Light Our Fires
Farm Credit Administration: Admit It, You've Never Heard of Us
Security and Exchange Commission: Ignoring Stock Fraud Wherever It Doesn't Occur
FBI: Safest Place in the World Is Directly Under Our Nose
Internal Revenue Service: Reaching Into Your Wallet Since 1913. Bonus IRS motto for Spanish-speakers! Su Dinero Es Nuestro Dinero
Department of Justice: See You In Court
Environmental Protection Agency: Don't Worry, Most of That Stuff Is Biodegradable
Department of Education: A Mind Am A Terrycloth Thing to Waist
Federal Aviation Administration: Our Master Plan for Airline Recovery - Even Smaller Seats
Department of Commerce: Bet You Can't Name Our Secretary
CIA: Sorry, We Can't Tell You Our Motto, But If We Could, Then You Would Understand Why You Are Actually Better Off Not Knowing It
Social Security Administration: Trust Us, We're Accountants
Department of Veterans Affairs: Old Soldiers Never Die, They Just Lobby for More Funding
Department of Transportation: The People Who Brought You Amtrak
Department of Housing and Urban Development: It's Been Years Since Our Last Scandal
Department of Labor: Working to Make America More Expensive
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms: Please Don't Drink, Smoke and Shoot at the Same Time
Department of Health and Human Services: Only Government Department Whose Personnel Are Officially "Human"
And the overall U.S. government motto, replacing E pluribus unim, would now be, De Gubernaculo Venimus et Adservirevos Volumus. This means, of course, We're From the Government and We're Here to Help You. (TMQ thanks to book critic and super-translator Ruth Franklin for the Latin.)
In football news, having scanned the horizon for alternatives, the NFL took the most anti-consumer, anti-fan action possible by extending the DirecTV monopoly on Sunday Ticket for at least another three years, rather than allowing Sunday Ticket to be shown on cable where anyone could subscribe. DirecTV is terrific if you can get it, but the overwhelming majority of Americans can't or don't; only 10 percent of U.S. households receive DirecTV, meaning only 10 percent can access Sunday Ticket. Huge numbers of U.S. households cannot receive the DirecTV satellite signal for technical reasons, regardless of willingness to pay. Now the exclusive Sunday Ticket sweetheart deal for the favored few who get satellite will stay in effect at least until the 2006 season.
Sunday Ticket, for those who don't know, allows the favored few to pay $179 per year to watch any NFL game, rather than be stuck with the woofer matchups chosen by local network affiliates. TMQ has given up trying to figure out why the NFL is so determined to raise its middle finger to average fans by restricting access to Sunday Ticket to the favored few who get satellite television. TMQ has also given up trying to figure out why the NFL allows Sunday Ticket to be shown on cable in Canada and Mexico, so that anyone in these nations can watch any NFL game, but denies this same opportunity to the 90 percent of U.S. households in which reside the taxpayers who pay the taxes that build the stadiums that make NFL profits possible.
What still frosts TMQ is: Why hasn't Congress done something about this? Congress has shown intense interest in other sports-viewing access questions, such as baseball broadcast rules. Now pro football, by far the nation's most popular sport, has made a decision that is calculated to shaft 90 percent of Americans, and Congress shrugs. Who, TMQ wonders, has paid off whom?
Slo-Mo Touchdown: Against the 'Boys, defensive end Kenny Holmes of Jersey/A took 16 seconds to traverse the 50 yards from his fumble recovery to the house, making this one of the slowest touchdowns in NFL history.
Oh Ye Mortals, Trifle Not with the Football Gods: Terrell Owens made a magnificent play by catching a post and dragging Packer Mike McKenzie 20 yards for a 45-yard touchdown. But Owens then grabbed pom-poms from a Squared Sevens cheerleader and did a pom-pom dance in the end zone. He did this even though his team was still behind. An ego dance on a last-second game-winning catch, sure; an ego dance with an entire quarter remaining and your team behind? The football gods exacted prompt vengeance on San Francisco.
Jake Reed Play of the Day: Two weeks ago Reed caught a pass in the end zone while being hit by four defenders simultaneously; Sunday, he caught a touchdown while being hit simultaneously by a mere two.
Persistence of the Week: Reaching the Boy Scouts' 10 yard line, trailing by seven with less than a minute remaining, Minnesota threw at Randy Moss on four of five snaps before connecting for the touchdown that set up the win. Why try to force the ball to Moss even more than usual? For one thing, earlier in the half he'd caught a 33-yard touchdown pass when New Orleans covered him with a linebacker -- and it wasn't even a blitz. The Vikings seemed confident that "Suspended for Life Till Next Season" Saints DB Dale Carter had little interest in covering Moss, and the last-second touchdown proved them right.
Best Non-Fraidy-Cat Play: After Moss' catch, Minnesota trailed by one with 5 seconds in regulation: a singleton forces overtime, a deuce wins and a missed deuce means a very long plane ride home to the Land of Lakes. Vikes coach Mike Tice rolled the dice, and though all eyes focused on Daunte Culpepper's fumble-and-rebound-run for two and the win, the guts of this play was a fabulous pull block by Minnesota guard Corbin Lacina -- graduate of obscure Augustana of South Dakota -- who paved Culpepper's road. NFL coaches almost never try for two in this situation, preferring to avoid criticism by going to OT. The dynamic is that if you take one, go to overtime and lose, the media will blame the players, but if you try for two and the win and fail, the media will blame the coach.
Playing for the win was the right call, since Minnesota is going nowhere after the holidays. TMQ was especially impressed because in his first game as Vikings coach, last January against the Ravens, Tice made one of the leading buck-buck-brawwwckkkkk decisions of all time, punting on fourth-and-short from midfield with 2 minutes to go and trailing by nine.
Worst Backward Sprint: Trailing Miami 17-3, Oakland faced third-and-five on the Marine Mammals' 10. Rich Gannon sprinted backwards 10 yards before being sacked; the Long Johns had to settle for the field goal. Memo to Gannon, David Carr, Drew Bledsoe and others who have recently responded to proximity to the goal line by sprinting backwards -- the point is to go across that imaginary plane.
Check Your Shoes, You May Be Out of Them: Clinton Portis of Denver began his 66-yard touchdown against Kansas City by faking Chiefs' DB Shaunard Harts almost inside-out at midfield. Later, as Portis was slowed by other defenders, Harts caught him a second time at the Kansas City 5. Portis faked him out once more, lunging across to score.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 1: Trailing San Francisco 6-3 in the third, Green Bay faced second-and-12 at the Squared Sevens' 42. Since the average NFL pass attempt yields 5.9 yards -- anyway, it's a blitz! Six gentlemen cross the line. Twenty-two-yard completion to Terry Glenn, the Packers score a touchdown on the drive and never look back.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 2: Game tied early in the fourth, Detroit had City of Tampa facing second-and-12. Since the average NFL pass attempt -- anyway, it's a blitz! Six gentlemen cross the line. Thirty-yard completion to Keyshawn Johnson and the mo permanently swings the Bucs' way.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 3: Leading by a point, the Moo Cows had the Nevermores facing second-and-11. Six gentlemen cross the line, 26-yard completion to Travis Taylor for the touchdown and Baltimore never looks back.
Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! No. 4: Trailing the Bengals by a point in the third, the Jaguars -- first NFL team to attempt to make it through the season without a placekicker -- went for it on fourth-and-four from the Cincinnati 26. Needless to say, it's a blitz! Jimmy Smith, the best Jax receiver, was single-covered and caught the touchdown that decided the game.
Wasn't Mungro a Giant Moth that Attacked Godzilla? Here are the results of Indianapolis possessions in the first half against the Cleveland Oranges (Release 2.1): punt, interception, punt, punt, fumble. Here are the results of Indianapolis possessions in the second half: touchdown, punt, touchdown, touchdown, touchdown, punt. What halftime adjustment did Tony Dungy make? Mainly, he replaced Edgerrin James with the legendary James Mungro. No, TMQ can't explain it either.
Caution, This Only Works Against Arizona: Leading 17-7 with 7 seconds remaining in the half, the Mouflons had the ball on the Cardinals' 3 with no timeouts. Kick the field goal! Or totally surprise them and run. If it's a pass, well then, obviously, the only type of pass you could possibly contemplate is a quick fade to the end zone corner that leaves a tick left on the clock if incomplete. Arizona lined up to defend the corner fade, and St. Louis ran a roll-out with "Mark Bulger" sprinting right and Tory Holt running a Z-in on the right (a Zed-in for you Canadians); Holt was uncovered for the touchdown. Apparently it never crossed the minds of Arizona coaches that the Mouflons might simply call a regular play.
Mega-Babe Professionalism Though kickoff temperature was 42 degrees, the lingerie-loving Eagles' cheerleaders came out in miniskirts. Needless to say, the football gods rewarded their team with victory.
Best Deliberate Foul Trailing by three in the early fourth, the Lightning Bolts big-blitzed Buffalo on third and long. Eric Moulds was singled on safety Rodney Harrison and sped past him for what looked like a sure six; as the ball approached, Harrison wrapped his arms around Moulds, giving up the interference penalty to prevent the touchdown. It was a savvy move -- when the receiver is rocketing past you and the ball is on target, better a flag than a touchdown.
Buffalo did not score on the drive, but a game plan based on grabbing open receivers may backfire. San Diego blitzed an inordinate amount, and though the stat-sheet shows Drew Bledsoe with a season-low 107 yards, four times Bolts' defenders deliberately interfered to stop touchdowns on blitzes. The result was 86 yards in interference mark-offs -- in effect, passing yardage.
Cheerleader of the Week: Eric Perez of Sparks, Nevada, numbers among many readers who have nominated Amy of the Rams. Eric, your wish is my command, Amy is TMQ ESPN Cheerleader of the Week. According to her team bio, Amy is a theater major at St. Louis University and a sports commentator on "Midwest Sports Report." Also, she has trouble making up her mind, listing her favorite food as "steak/pasta/chicken." TMQ would list his favorite type of cheerleader as "blonde/brunette/redhead."
Regrettably, the Rams post no samples of their cheerleaders' swimsuit calendar on the web. You can buy it here, and since the calendar promises a pose of every Rams cheer-babe, Amy will be in there somewhere.
Terrifying cheerleader news: Trent Lott was a college cheerleader. For humanitarian reasons, TMQ will not show a Trent Lott beefcake shot.
Worst Niners Incompletion No. 1: Trailing by six, the Squared Sevens had first down at the Green Bay 14 with 37 seconds remaining. Jeff Garcia rolled right and had a clear lane to run to about the Packers' 5, then step out; at the last minute he pulled up and threw incomplete to Tai Streets at about the same place he would have gotten. The ethos of the quarterback -- enforced by sports pundits and bobblehead comments -- is that passing yards somehow count more than scramble yards. Though the gentleman in question scrambles effectively, in this instance you could almost see Garcia mentally calculating that it is more impressive to throw for the deciding gain than to run for it. Oh, how the Niners would later wish he had run.
Best Ignoring of the Quarterback's Ethos: Although Steve McNair came into the NFL with a reputation for being pass-wacky, he has learned well that running yards count exactly the same as throwing yards. Game scoreless in the second at Formerly Named for a Mob Firm Coliseum, the Titans faced third-and-eight at the Patriots' 11. Eddie George had been stuffed on the two previous plays, so it's got to be a pass, right? McNair ran the shotgun draw for a touchdown. The guts of this play was a fabulous pull block by Flaming Thumbtacks right tackle Fred Miller, who paved McNair's road. Tom Brady would later run 10 yards for a touchdown on a similar play on a similar down-and-distance. Memo to Jeff Garcia: come to terms with yourself. You like to run. That's OK. Just run.
Worst Niners Incompletion No. 2: On San Francisco's last gasp, fourth-and-seven at the Green Bay 11, Garcia forced the ball to Eric Johnson, who was quadruple covered. The previous week against Dallas, Johnson had been triple-covered on the last-gasp play, which succeeded when Garcia threw elsewhere. TMQ does not understand why NFL defenses are choking up on the legendary Eric Johnson on the final play of games. But Jeff, if the man you are looking at is defended by four, what should your instinct tell you about other receivers?
Worst Raiders Incompletion: The last-minute Patrick Surtain interception that sealed Oakland's fate was a beauty catch -- and also thrown into double coverage. Rich Gannon, if the man you are looking at is defended by two, what should your instinct tell you about other receivers?
Overpaid Gentlemen Low-Light: His knees down, Eagles linebacker Carlos Emmons recovered a fumble. Numerous nearby highly overpaid gentlemen of the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons had only to touch Emmons -- they didn't even have to get his flag -- and the play would end. None could be bothered, turning to chat amiably amongst themselves whilst Emmons got up and ran 44 yards to the house, breaking open the game.
Leap of Faith: His team trailing by seven with a minute left, Wayne Chrebet of Jersey/B made a nice catch and got as far as the Chicago 15 -- where he tried to leap over four defenders, fumbling and ending the game. No one in world history has ever leapt over four defenders, and no one ever will. What a dumb play.
Countervailing fun Bears play: on the Jets' 2, Chicago showed the full-house backfield. Touchdown.
Where Was the Defense? In the same game that Marvin Harrison set the all-time record for most receptions in a season, his Lucky Charms had the ball on the Cleveland 3, the Oranges leading 23-14. Harrison ran a quick down-and-in and no one covered the man with the most catches in a season in NFL history. Touchdown.
'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All No. 1: Now trailing by five, the Oranges reached the Indy 10-yard line with 1:23 left. That's ample time for the Oranges to call anything in the playbook, including any run. What did Cleveland coaches call? Four straight passing plays, three from the shotgun, drive peters out on the 5. For the final two snaps the Colts even had a dime defense on the field -- only three linemen, begging Cleveland to power-run against skinny gentlemen. (See American Ballet Theater item below.) Instead incompletion, incompletion.
'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All No. 2: The defending champion Patriots have just scored to make it a game at Tennessee 14, New England 7 in the third, and their fired-up defense quickly gets the ball back. It's first-and-10 on the New England 11, a nice drive would totally alter the mo. The Patriots have passed on their four previous first downs, and on seven first downs overall in the game to that point, so it's not exactly like a pass on first down is going to come as a huge surprise at this point. Plus the Pats are at their own 11. Nevertheless New England goes empty backfield, rinky-dinky junk pass intercepted and returned for a touchdown. Instead of the night getting really interesting, TMQ writes the words "game over" on his notebook.
All-passing offenses sometimes work early in the season, as Oakland and New England have shown this year; they usually wheeze out late in the season, as Oakland and New England showed Sunday. When money time comes, you simply must be able to run the ball. At this point Oakland and New England aren't even trying to run the ball -- they combined for a pathetic 25 rushing attempts, though the Oakland-Miami game was close all the way and the Titans-Patriots game was close till the fourth quarter.
Stats of the Week: In its last two outings, the Pittsburgh defense has surrendered a total of 178 yards and 14 first downs.
Stats of the Week No. 2: Kansas City, the league's highest-scoring team, is in last place in its division.
Stats of the Week No. 3: Kansas City lost despite compiling 494 yards of offense and being plus-two on turnovers.
Stats of the Week No. 4: In addition to out-rushing the defending champion Patriots 238 yards to 56 yards, Tennessee ran 72 offensive plays to just 44 for New England.
Stats of the Week No. 5: From the point in the early fourth, with his charges trailing by three, that Doug Flutie entered a bad-weather-conditions game in Buffalo, until the game's conclusion, the run-oriented Bolts called 12 passing plays and one run against the league's 31st-ranked rushing defense.
Stats of the Week No. 6: The Arizona (CAUTION: MAY CONTAIN FOOTBALL-LIKE SUBSTANCE) Cardinals have given up a punt-return touchdown in three consecutive games.
Stats of the Week No. 7: In the Pittsburgh-Carolina contest, officials' decisions were challenged by coaches on three consecutive plays.
Stats of the Week No. 8: Rich Gannon is on a pace barely to miss the NFL record by throwing for 5,039 yards The season record, held by Dan Marino, is 5,084 yards.
Don't Try to Take It Back for a Refund: You may be pleased to know that to the Internal Revenue Service -- Reaching Into Your Wallet Since 1913 -- you are not the taxpayer but "the customer;" see this IRS manual. But isn't being a "customer" a matter of free choice? Aren't customers supposed to get something in return for their money?
But Catherine, I'd Wash and Hot-Wax My Honda Accord: TMQ's banker recently advised me to switch to electronic bill-pay. She enthused, "If you go online you can actually watch the money disappear from your account." Whoopee. That's like saying, "You can actually watch Catherine Bell put her clothes back on."
Here's a tidbit to justify re-using last week's Catherine Bell cheesecake photo, requested again by many readers; her publicist is named Emily Lust. Note to ESPN.com art department: Want to append a balancing beefcake photo of Bell's "JAG" costar? Sir, permission granted sir!
Disturbing Catherine Bell tidbit; reader Phil Keidel of Philadelphia reports that she will pose for Playboy, but will not take it off, take it all off. Catherine, please don't take this personally, but we're not interested in you for your mind. (If you actually are interested in Catherine Bell for her mind, read her online journal.) Keidel laments in haiku,
Catherine Bell's Playboy
shoot to leave her fully clothed.
Why would I buy that?
-- Phil Keidel, Philadelphia
Because There Were No Cars Then, Ancient Homo Hablis Did It in the Back Seat of a Mastodon: Researchers battling the obesity epidemic are tinkering with compounds that stimulate something called the melanocortin-4 receptor in the brain. Activating this receptor causes a feeling of satiation, reducing the desire to eat; see the fascinating new book The Hungry Gene by TMQ's Atlantic Monthly colleague Ellen Ruppel Shell. Complication: stimulating the melanocortin-4 receptor also is sexually arousing. Women whose melanocortin-4 receptor has been activated may find themselves with a strong nonfood craving, while men may experience prolonged erections.
Evolutionary psychologists will surely pronounce that satiation and being in the mood must be connected because in prehistory, hominids that reproduced when well-nourished, and thus energetic, were more likely to pass along the DNA. But TMQ thinks this means that even eons ago, people went on dinner dates! A couple of blushing Homo hablis would gnaw on mammoth flanks, make dewy eyes at each other and then get busy. Gradually, desire for sex after a meal entered the human genetic heritage. Probably even back then the guy was expected to pay for dinner -- life is so unfair.
By the Hammer of Grabthar, He was Avenged! Brian Mitchell of Philadelphia passed Walter Payton to become No. 2 gainer of yards in NFL history, and did so while playing against the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons. The Persons' malevolent owner, Lord Voldemort, waived Mitchell three years ago, declaring him washed up.
Quote of the Week: After these selfsame Eagles had used the Persons for target practice, assuring a losing record for the first and perhaps last season of Dobby the Elf (Steve Spurrier), Dobby declaimed of the Eagles, "Maybe we're not quite as good as they are, especially in the way we play."
Best Play Against American Ballet Theater: In the first half on Monday Night, the Patriots sent out seven defensive backs -- what TMQ calls the American Ballet Theater Defense -- on passing downs. The Flaming Thumbtacks responded by handing up the middle to rarely carries fullback Robert Holcombe, who at one point ran for 39 yards when the Pats went American Ballet Theater though it was only third-and-two.
Surprisingly often NFL teams, most of which bring dozens of assorted assistants and guys with binoculars to games, don't respond when the opposition uses unexpected alignments. They don't even seem to figure out what happened until looking at game film the next day. For instance on Sunday in Buffalo, San Diego was bringing its safeties up to the line to stop the run on every first down through the first three quarters. The Bills never responded by throwing a post pattern or a tight end buttonhook to exploit the area the safeties were vacating: rather, Buffalo endlessly threw outs and deep fades, what it had planned to do, ignoring what the defense was offering. Tennessee, in contrast, saw that the Patriots had a lightweight defense on the field and immediately responded by running against the skinny guys. New England, in turn, took until the early fourth quarter to respond by abandoning the American Ballet Theater Defense, and by that point the Thumbtacks were dominating by rushing.
For female and nontraditional male readers: ABT principal dancer Vladimir Malakhov.
But Is It Cheddar Soup? Green Bay, smallest city in the NFL, ran away with the Campbell's "Click for Cans" charity soup-donation contest. Packers fans also appear to have stuffed the Pro Bowl ballot box. Little short on things to do in Green Bay, eh?
Al Gore Got Most Votes at QB, But the Supreme Court Ordered That George Bush Start: Fan voting for the Pro Bowl just closed. If you went to the NFL's fan Pro Bowl ballot site, you were offered an "express" ballot to vote on quarterbacks, running backs and receivers only. Still more insidious discrimination against linemen -- life is so unfair!
On the Plus Side, Palestinian Negotiators Have Dropped Claims to the Bar of Judah: Tired of diet boosters that contain nothing but compressed sawdust? Worried about stimulating your melanocortin-4 receptor? (Ladies, that guy in the next cubicle might start to look good.) TMQ suggests the Bible Bar, a "highly effective appetite regulator based on the seven foods from the Book of Deuteronomy; wheat, barley, honey, olive oil, figs, pomegranates and grapes."
The Bible Bar provides "the highest level of biblical nutrition," using those provisions God told the Hebrews they would find in the Promised Land. House of David foods, located in Orlando, Fla., also offers Bible Granola based on the same seven nutrients, plus a Bar of Judah and Sacred Nectar, "containing three of God's most precious substances -- royal jelly, pollen and honey."
Didn't Work for Tommy Hilfiger, Either New Orleans wore its third uniform look of the year. The football gods, outraged, exacted vengeance.
Segway: the SUV of the Sidewalk Amazon.com has exclusive marketing rights to the first production run of the Segway rolling metal broomstick. For a nonrefundable deposit of $495, Amazon will grant you a place in line to spend $4,950 on a Segway; preposterously, if you write an essay on why you love Segways, Amazon might deliver one by Christmas. Requiring customers to write an essay for permission to spend $4,950! Of course, colleges require customers to write an essay for permission to spend $125,000.
TMQ, who recently inspected a Segway in Aspen, Colo. -- I waved as Nan departed on her ultra-glamorous itinerary -- predicts these devices will be a, what's the word, oh yeah, fiasco. Why? They will become the SUVs of the sidewalk.
Everyone who walks will intensely hate Segways. The manufacturer has already persuaded 32 states to certify these monstrosities for use on sidewalks; without that permission, no one would buy one. But the Segway is 200 pounds of metal with a 200-pound rider atop moving 12 mph, velocity of someone who runs track in the 100-meter event. This means a pedestrian struck by a Segway will be hit by 400 pounds moving at sprinter speed. Being struck by a Segway roaring down the sidewalk will be significantly worse than being popped by an NFL linebacker at maximum warp. The things will simply be dangerous.
Segways are also likely to be driven in a selfish manner. They will clog downtown sidewalks, depriving space to regular pedestrians; and sidewalks in downtown New York, Boston and, especially, London are already so crowded you practically have to walk at the curb. People atop Segways will feel that, as the SUVs of the sidewalk, everyone else should jump out of their way. Riders will barrel along on these monstrosities, terrorizing pedestrians, injuring people without accountability, expecting women and children to lunge aside. One of the few quasi-civilized experiences left in big-city downtowns -- walking along, enjoying the day, checking out babes/hunks and looking in shop windows -- could become a nerve-wracking exasperation.
Probably the Segway will be a bust, considering the thing is expensive and hopelessly impractical: where do you put it when you're not riding it? Are you going to carry a 200-pound object in the elevator up to the office with you? Alternatively, Segway's manufacturer may be driven out of business once liability suits begin rolling. Segways are going to cause harm when used as intended, which is a formula to warm the tort lawyer's heart.
But if somehow Segways do catch on, their main effect on society will be to make strolling so unpleasant and risky that people who presently use the subway (TMQ, for example) will resort to driving in order to be off the sidewalks and safe from Segways. Which means the enviro-green marketing of this contraption is a total fiction. Discouraging people from walking in order to get them to ride a dangerous $5,000 hulk of metal that consumes energy! How very Earth-friendly.
Local Affiliate Outrage of the Week: As if to insure that lawmakers understood the National Football League was raising its finger to them with the Sunday Ticket monopoly decision, what game was shown in the 1 p.m. ET AFC slot in the nation's capital? Surely it must have been Oakland at Miami, the USA Today five-star game and consensus marquee contest of the day. Of course not. Rather than Oakland at Miami, the nation's capital saw the excruciating Baltimore at Houston matchup. Ye gods.
But Who Paid Shipping and Handling? Now that Ricky Williams has passed 1,500 yards and the Marine Mammals owe the Boy Scouts a No. 1 pick in April, the Saints and Dolphins have combined to surrender for Williams four first-round choices (including the second overall), two third-round picks, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth and a seventh.
Hi, This Is UPS Calling to Say That We Don't Have Your Phone Number: Last week TMQ received a notice from United Parcel Service, announcing a package for me that it could not deliver owing to INCOMPLETE ADDRESS and asking me to call with my complete address. How did I receive the notice? By mail. The notice was sent to my house, using my complete address.
TMQ's Christmas List Maybe the UPS package contains the next item on my Christmas list, from the Expressions catalog, item number #22003A, an Oprah Winfrey pillow on which is sewn the motto, "Surround Yourself With Only People Who Are Going To Lift You Higher." Doesn't this mean that if a friend or relative is having problems, you should immediately ditch that person? And don't they have a copy editor for pillows?
Scrooge Wannabe of the Week Five years ago, zillionaire Ted Turner was heaped with praise when he announced he would give $1 billion to the United Nations by the end of the year 2002. Since then, in addition to systematically fleecing the shareholders of AOL-Time-Warner-General-Motors or whatever it's now called, Turner has bragged, bragged, bragged on what a great guy he is because of his incredible generosity.
Well, it's now the end of the year 2002, and has the $1 billion been given? No.
Turner has so far donated $500 million, half his pledge, less than 15 percent of his net worth when he made the commitment and far less than the great philanthropists of the past, such as John D. Rockefellers and Andrew Carnegie, once gave compared to their net worth.
Inexplicably, Turner was once again heaped with praise last week when he announced he would keep his promise and give the balance. Rich man lauded for saying he will keep a promise! Is it that unusual for a rich man to keep a promise? But read the fine print -- what Turner actually said is that he intends to give the additional $500 million, though now adding he won't get around to it for a decade. Turner's current net worth, according to Forbes, is $2.2 billion. This means he could keep his word, give the $500 million immediately and remain filthy rich, instead of endlessly welshing. But why should Turner actually hand over the money when the media strokes and lauds him as if he's handed it over? He gets the praise as if he'd done something noble, while he keeps the whole bundle for himself like a run-of-the-mill grasping rich guy, cackling as he counts his gold and the poor starve.
TMQ Sees All, Knows All: Maybe the reason for the Mouflons' decline is a breakdown of the space-time portal that channels synchronic rays from Kurt Warner's homeworld, but the football gods are an equal possibility. The other day, TMQ was looking at columns from 2001 and noted that I wrote on Oct. 23, "Leading by 24 late in the third against the Jets, the Rams onside kicked. The football gods will be not amused by such poor sportsmanship. Watch for woe to befall St. Louis." The Mouflons went on to lose last year's Super Bowl on the final play, and this year are 6-8. Oh ye mortals, trifle not with the football gods!
TMQ Readers See All, Know All: In last week's column, TMQ pointed out that Rich Gannon was getting sacked surprisingly little for his excess dropbacks. The Marine Mammals must be TMQ readers, for they focused on pass rush and sacked Gannon five times, including a disheartening sack on two of the Long Johns' first three snaps, which set the tone for a Miami triumph. More important, last week's column contained this prescient reader haiku:
With Mammals defense
playing Gannon week fifteen,
Dan's record is safe.
-- David Campomizzi, Toronto
And so it was, Gannon held to 204 yards passing and now needing to average 338 yards for the remaining two games to best Marino.
How did Miami do it? Pressure on the passer was important, though the Dolphins, perennially high-ranked on defense in part because they don't blitz much, did not blitz much. The secret was that rather than playing a soft zone and trying to tackle Raiders' receivers after the catch, Miami defensive backs jammed the Raiders at the line and played tight coverage, risking the long pass in order to frustrate Oakland's usual drip-drip-drip advance.
Equally important, Mammals DBs were told to lock their eyes on the waists of receivers and simply stay with them, never to turn around and look toward the backfield trying to guess the play. Well-coached DBs focus on the waist of their man -- never the chest, head or eyes -- because it is impossible to fake with your waist. (Note: Jennifer Lopez excepted.) The tactic worked well. Which makes TMQ wonder, Why don't all defensive coordinators coach DBs to look only at their men and never peer into the backfield?
On the Plus Side, In Previous Centuries, Use of the Word "Tokay" Might Have Plunged All Europe Into War: In finalizing its decision to admit several former Soviet Union nations, the European Union had to make these last-minute concessions: Hungary was granted the exclusive right to describe wine as Tokay, and Slovenia won sole use of the word Lipizanner.
His HMO Denied the Claim: The Bills' injury report for the weekend included this entry: "QUESTIONABLE: LB DOMINIQUE STEVENSON (HEAD)." Hey, every NFL player needs to have his head examined!
Publishers Should Waive Clintons to Save Cap Space: The $20.5 million bonus Donovan McNabb reeled in this summer not only set an NFL mark but exceeded the combined $18 million advances Bill and Hillary Clinton received for the sure-to-be-content-free books they are "writing." At least McNabb is doing something to earn his dineros. The gentleman won't, like Bill, keep telling publisher Alfred A. Knopf that he's too busy giving highly paid speeches to "write" anything, which is particularly galling considering that Clinton will actually write nothing, merely supervise his ghosts. (Writing not only requires talent but is also work, which is why celebrities are never caught doing it.) Clinton's role in the "writing" of his book will be to skim through the manuscript deleting anything remotely honest that might inadvertently have been included. Even for this relaxing task, he says he's too busy.
In her corner, Hillary will surely claim to have "written" her effort, just as she claimed to have written "It Takes a Village," whose actual author was a ghost named Barbara Feinman. How do we know this? Because at one point Simon & Schuster, the publisher, accidentally sent out a press release announcing Feinman as actual author. Hillary threw a fit and insisted the finished book make no acknowledgment of the existence of Feinman, who later had to threaten litigation just to get paid. That Hillary's actions in this matter were small, self-important, vain, selfish, egotistical, dishonest and abusive of her power somehow failed to register. Though surely Hollywood types who funded her Senate run were pleased to learn that Hillary is small, self-important, vain, selfish, egotistical, dishonest and abuses her power. "She's one of us!" they must have exclaimed in Bel Air.
Today, Hillary's official U.S. Senate biography states, "In 1997, she wrote the best-selling book 'It Takes a Village.' " This is an outright lie. Wouldn't it be a nice gesture if official Senate biographies did not contain lies? What does it say about a U.S. senator that she blithely lies for her own ego gratification? At least Trent Lott admits how despicable he is.
Of Course to Danes, Buffalo Is Warm: Last weekend TMQ His Ownself traveled to Buffalo to visit relatives and take in the Bolts-at-Bills contest. The dinky-plane commuter flight I took from Washington to Buffalo on Soon to Be Bankrupt Too Airways, the commuter affiliate of United, was listed as a codeshare with Scandinavian Airlines. It turns out that in travel agent computers there is an official Copenhagen to Buffalo flight -- SK925/SK8979. Now, TMQ could understand why there would be a Buffalo to Copenhagen flight, tall blondes being a prime reason. But the other way around? Apparently Danes planning a holiday go to travel agents and ask for someplace cold and desolate, with good beer.
Pentagon Requests $375 Million for Sheep Poetry Encryption: English taxpayers are forking over £2,000 (about $3,000) for this essential project in which words are spray-painted on the backs of sheep; the sheep then mill around, randomly forming "spontaneous poetry." Now, if you think that sheep standing next to each other with spray paint on their backs spelling out a phrase such as "bring Friday river" constitutes poetry, you should travel to the United Kingdom and apply for tax subsidies. Sponsors were nonplussed to discover, however, that when the words from an entire Tuesday Morning Quarterback column were spray-painted onto the backs of a large flock of sheep, they immediately formed themselves into a line that read, "Stop me before I blitz again."
Reached at His Oakland Office, Al Davis Told The Times That, to His Knowledge, He Has Many, Many Personal Enemies: "In an interview last week, Mr. Beschloss said that, to his knowledge, he has no personal enemies."
-- The New York Times on the fact that Simon & Schuster, publisher of Hillary and also of pop historian Michael Beschloss, circulated a letter asking publications not to assign his books for review to any of numerous listed "personal enemies."
TMQ Insider Exclusive! I always wear a red jersey when writing, so the editors know not to hit me. Remember, this is a Tuesday Morning Quarterback exclusive.
Running items department
Obscure College Score of the Week: Grand Valley State 31, Valdosta State 24 (Division II championship). Curt Anes, the dominant quarterback in college football this season and totally ignored by Heisman voters, threw for three touchdowns as his team realized the so-rare undefeated season. Valdosta, located in Georgia, should not be confused with Vidalia onions, also from Georgia. The greeting message from Valdosta's president appears to claim that the campus covers 31 percent of the state; apparently the English curriculum is not Valdosta's strength.
Bonus Obscure Score: Mount Union 57, John Carroll 19 (Division III semifinal). Located in "an attractive suburb of Cleveland" -- school officials seem to fear that potential customers will assume Cleveland suburbs are unattractive -- John Carroll would like alums, or anyone, to leave it all their worldly possessions by creating something called a "flip unitrust." Isn't that what Enron used? The flip unitrust "allows you to make an irrevocable gift to us," the school's website helpfully explains. How thoughtful of John Carroll to allow this. TMQ also accepts irrevocable gifts!
Double Bonus Obscure Score: Western Kentucky 31, Georgia Southern 28 (Division I-AA semifinals). Georgia Southern's incredible 18-page Identification Standards Guide asserts that Georgia Southern and Georgia Southern University are trademarks to be mentioned only under lawyer-controlled circumstances and that "the abbreviation GSU must never be used." The guide goes into page after page of detail about all the instances when the university's colors, designs and eagle symbols must not be reproduced or cited by anyone. Hey GSU trustees -- if your goal is to prevent the national media from mentioning your school, the plan is working perfectly.
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 1-743 since TMQ began tracking.
Reader Animadversion. Reader Dave Paye of Scarborough, Maine, notes that Eurotel, the Czech Republic's answer to WorldCom, has cheerleaders. Seriously, Eurotel, the Czech Republic and Slovakia are home to some of the world's great beauties -- this is the best you can do?
On the subject of beauty, many readers have asked for Philadelphia cheer-babe Karyn Ziemiecki, whose calendar pose is sufficiently tasteful and classy I'm not sure it belongs in TMQ. Reader Bob Wojack of Laurel, Md., proposed that Ziemiecki should get TMQ's nod because she is an eighth-grade algebra teacher. How come no teacher TMQ ever had looked remotely like this? You can buy the Eagles cheer-babes lingerie calendar -- as, one suspects, have many eighth-grade boys at Holicong Middle School -- here.
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This Week's Challenge: Last week's Challenge was to name the true outstanding collegiate player at any position in any division -- that is, the gentleman who really should win what TMQ calls the Heisman Trophy for the Division I-A Quarterback or Running Back Who Receives Most Publicity. This Challenge provoked a record-setting 190 pages of replies, single-spaced.
Bob Janowick of Carbondale, Ill., nominated Muhammed Abdulqaadir, who in just six games rushed for 1,331 yards -- a 222 yard per game average -- for Southern Illinois, a Division I-AA team that the big football-factory schools schedule for easy wins. This means Abdulqaadir got his yards against top defenses; Janowick says to look out for him next year as a full-time starter.
John M. of Plainsboro, N.J., nominated linebacker Gary Brackett of woeful Rutgers, a walk-on who suffered through a 7-38 four-year career. In true existentialist style, Brackett never stopped hustling even when it was obviously hopeless, twice winning the school's MVP award.
Matt Glassman of Kent, Ohio, proposed Ohio State safety Mike Doss, whose helmet had Buckeyes in every available space even before the Michigan game.
Ian Dundas of Billings, Mont., nominated Travis Slater of Rocky Mountain College, an NAIA school. Slater played linebacker, safety and returned kicks; many consider him the best defensive player in the history of the NAIA Frontier Conference.
Ty West of Tuscaloosa, Ala., suggested Alabama punter Lane Bearden, who "ran for a touchdown against Oklahoma and converted two onside kicks. He tore his ACL attempting a fake punt against Arkansas, and came back two weeks later, and punted the rest of the season. In the Auburn game, he made a special teams tackle, with a torn ACL for crying out loud. He receives the loudest cheers at home game introductions."
Matt Goldich of New York nominated Chas Gessner of Brown, who tied Jerry Rice's collegiate record with 24 receptions in a single game.
Matt Harada of Fullerton, Calif., suggested Boise State quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie, who plays on the school's distinctive blue turf and averaged 12.3 yards per pass attempt this season. In haiku,
Dinwiddie is good.
His average throw? First down.
Long live the Smurf Turf!
-- Matt Harada, Fullerton, Calif.
Thomas Morgan of Wichita Falls, Texas, nominated Robert Mathias of Alabama A&M, a 227-pound defensive end who anchored a unit that led its conference in total defense, rushing defense and scoring defense.
And the Challenge winner is Ramzey Rizik of Unionville, Ontario, sole entrant in 190 pages single-spaced to nominate an offensive lineman -- center Brett Romberg of Miami. There has been only one loss in the three seasons Romberg has been blocking for assorted Hurricane glory boys, and that's not because they are clearing their own paths. He blocks well and makes the line calls to near-perfection. Romberg is also dominant despite non-steroid-bulked near-human dimensions of 6-3, 297 pounds.
TMQ was glad to see this nomination, as Romberg gets TMQ's own nod. He is the best lineman on one of the best college teams ever, and would have been TMQ's choice if the Heisman really were, as it claims, the award for "the outstanding collegiate player." Of course, because he is an offensive lineman, Romberg was not even considered.
This Week's Challenge The Department of Homeland Security has come into existence. It needs a slogan! Propose yours here.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 book, "The Here and Now" here ... and now.