By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

"We had him as a first-rounder." That seemed to be this year's leading draft clichÉ. Numerous teams claimed that players they took in the lower rounds were expected to go as No. 1s. Jacksonville said this about second-round corner Rashaen Mathis. The Lions said it about second-round linebacker Boss Bailey, Minnesota said it about second-round linebacker E. J. Henderson, the Jets said it about second-round linebacker Victor Hobson. Buffalo claimed this about second-round defensive end Chris Kelsay. Baltimore said third-round halfback Musa Smith could have been a first-rounder, the Bengals said third-round receiver Kelley Washington could have gone in the first. The "Washington" brass had the brass to contend that its second-round pick, receiver Taylor Jacobs, and its third-round selection, guard Derrick Dockery, both should have been first-round choices.

There are 32 picks in the first round and, as best TMQ could tell from the comments of personnel directors and draftniks, at least 50 players should have been first-round choices.

They can't all be above average! When NFL team officials say the guy they picked in the second should have gone in the first, what they are doing is praising themselves. They're claiming to be smarter than everybody else. The majority of NFL general managers can't be smarter than other general managers - unless everyone is above average.

In this respect the NFL draft has become like Harvard, where 49 percent of students receive As and only six percent get Cs or lower. In 2000, 91 percent of Harvard seniors graduated with some kind of academic distinction. Everybody isn't merely above-average at Harvard -- everybody is far above average!

The formal grading policy for Harvard's Kennedy School of Government actually recommends that an astonishing 95 percent of students receive at least a full B; the meaning of full B is "above average." Harvard professor Harvey Mansfield staged a quiet campaign against grade inflation and then gave in, declaring he would issue two evaluations of each student: an inflated official grade sent to the Registrar and the actual, usually lower grade shown to the student. So, Professor Mansfield: will you be teaching the History of Lost Causes next fall?

Maybe the NFL should adopt Mansfield's plan, officially announcing every college candidate as a first-round draft choice and then only privately telling players what round they really went in. That way Arizona could have seven first-round drafts picks annually! Not that it would do the Cardinals the slightest bit of good.

In the spirit of Harvard University (official motto: We're Raising Tuition As Fast As We Can), Tuesday Morning Quarterback presents its draft grades, plus distinctions.

Harvard commencement
Harvard president Lawrence Summers prepares to hand out diplomas to the NFL.

ARIZONA CARDINALS: A
ATLANTA FALCONS: A
BALTIMORE RAVENS: A+
BUFFALO BILLS: A, dean's list
CAROLINA PANTHERS: A-
CHICAGO BEARS: A
CINCINNATI BENGALS: A, summa cum laude
CLEVELAND BROWNS: A
DALLAS COWBOYS: A, White House fellowship
DENVER BRONCOS: A
DETRIOT LIONS: A, with distinction
GREEN BAY PACKERS: A-
HOUSTON TEXANS: A
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: A
JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS: A, magna cum laude
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS: A
MIAMI DOLPHINS: A-
MINNESOTA VIKINGS: A, valedictorian
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS: A, honoris causa
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS: A, honoris jambalaya
NEW YORK GIANTS: A
NEW YORK JETS: A+
OAKLAND RAIDERS: A, Elias Sports Bureau Fellowship
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES: A-
PITTSBURGH STEELERS: A+, doctrini praseanti commendavisset inter Moderatores Secundae Classis Primae Divisionis locum obtinuit
ST. LOUIS RAMS: A, cum laude
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS: A+, salutatorian
SAN FRANCISCO FORTY NINERS: A
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS: A
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS: A-
TENNESSEE TITANS: A, National Merit Finalist
WASHINGTON R*DSK*NS: A*
* Each preseason, TMQ explains its system of team bynames; this column will not use the term R*dsk*ns, except to describe potatoes.

In other NFL news, the United Nations Security Council revealed that it never held the planned final vote on Iraq because the Minnesota Vikings were unable to get their card to the Secretary General on time. Election officials in Palm Beach County, Fla., announced they had just received hundreds of absentee ballots that would have swung the 2000 presidential decision to Al Gore, but which were not mailed from Minnesota until a few days ago.

Vikings draft
"Hold on, dude. I'll be with you right after this Jerry Garcia solo."

What is it with the Vikings? In the 2002 draft they were a laughingstock for passing on a pick, and a player they wanted, because they could not get the card 100 feet from their desk to the league podium before the clock expired. This year the Vikes passed on two picks, voiding a trade they wanted to make, owing to inability to hand in a piece of paper before a very widely known deadline. When Vikings coaches watch "Sixty Minutes," it must take them an hour and a half.

Draft Bust = Normal Outcome : All draft week we heard about how unlikely it is for first-round quarterbacks to succeed, considering that recent Super Bowls have been won by a ninth-round pick (Brad Johnson), a sixth-rounder (Tom Brady) and an undrafted free agent (Kurt Warner). To TMQ, this analysis is a classic instance of taking a short-term statistical hiccup and mistaking it for a long-term trend. Ten of the last 20 Super Bowls have been won by quarterbacks who were first-round selections; six were won by quarterbacks chosen No. 1 overall; 22 of the last 40 starting Super Bowl quarterbacks were first-round picks. That doesn't sound so bad to me.

All week we also heard how unlikely it is for high-draft running backs to succeed, with the big stat being that of the last 10 highest-picked running backs only two, Marshall Faulk and Jamal Lewis, have played on a Super Bowl winner. We also heard about how first-round safeties flop, how low-round guards are as likely to be good as high-round guards, how great receivers and defensive ends tend to lurk in the middle rounds rather than at the draft heights, and so on. Absorbing all this, TMQ wondered why any NFL team bothers to draft at all.

In this regard it's important to note that since everybody can't be above average, the typical NFL draftee would be expected to bust. There are 704 starting jobs on NFL rosters, with typical turnover of maybe 15 percent annually league-wide (taking into account starters who jump to new teams, but continue starting). That means around 100 starting job openings each season, and 262 draft choices in 2003. The typical draftee might be expected never to become a starter.

In turn, using the Pro Bowl as a gauge of the elite players in the league, there are 84 slots in Hawaii each year, and about a third go to players who have not made the Pro Bowl previously. That means that each season, somewhere around 25 gentlemen arrive at the status of elite player. With 262 draftees annually, only a handful can be expected to become elite players. Consider the 1997 draft class, whose six-year veteran members are now at the peaks of their careers. Fourteen players of the 240 drafted in 1997 have made the Pro Bowl -- six percent. Ninety-four percent of draftees that year turned out not to be elite performers. This is probably a typical result.

Draftniks should also bear in mind that since only one of 32 teams (three percent) wins each year's Super Bowl, performance at the big dance is not the right judge for draft success. The first goal of the rational NFL general manager is not to prevail in the Super Bowl, since this is statistically improbable even for good teams. The first goal of the rational NFL general manager should be to field a competitive squad that has a reasonable chance of qualifying for the playoffs, something accomplished by 12 of 32 teams (38 percent). Competitive teams sell out their stadiums, make Monday Night Football and exhibit other indicators of marketplace success.

Whether teams stay winning and competitive, which is the rational NFL general manager's first goal, represents a much better indicator of draft success than whether they win the Super Bowl. By this measure, it's obvious who drafts best -- Miami, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, New England, Green Bay, Philadelphia and Dallas. Those are the teams with the most playoff appearances in the past decade, the teams that have consistently been in contention.

The Real Cancun
There's nothing that says "Hey, mom & dad!" quite like winning a wet t-shirt contest.

That's Okay Laura, Since We Only Want to Look at You, Not Read About You: At the cutting edge of cheesecake technology, producers have finally figured out how to do a reality show in which the women get to take off their shirts: namely, the movie "The Real Cancun." TMQ won't rush out to see this flick, but might watch someday on video with the sound off. A quick check of mega-babe content shows that Nicole likes to gawk at Dolphin Jason Taylor in his tight pants, and under "wildest thing I've ever done," lists, "stripped at a club." Professionally or spur-of-the-moment? Competing babe Laura allows that she likes to go onstage at rock concerts and flash the crowd. In a refreshing bit of honesty, asked her favorite book, Laura answers, "I don't really read."

Female and non-traditional male readers might want to gawk at Fletch, who appears to have used classified Pentagon technology to remove every hair from his chest and torso, and who lists his favorite book as the Bible.

Mel Hair Watch: Here is the chemical formula of the stuff Mel Kiper had in his hair on draft day:

Fe2+0.3Mg0.1Mg3Al1.5Fe3+0.5Al4.6Si3.8B0.6 O18(OH)4

Actually, TMQ suspects the compound in Mel's hair was unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine (CH3NNH2), more commonly known as rocket fuel.

Read This Item in 46.74 Seconds: Last year TMQ did a column on the absurdity of draft-day fixation on hundredths of a second. Beyond the fact that standard error means stopwatch clicks cannot possibly be accurate to hundredths of a second -- even tenths of seconds are too brief for human senses to register -- there is the fact that supposing the measurements were flawless, hundredths of a second have no statistical significance. Suppose two gentlemen, one with a 4.38 time and one with a 4.45 time, held a 40-yard dash. Draftniks would call this difference incredibly significant. Yet Gentleman A would arrive at the finish line 14 inches sooner than Gentleman B. That might determine the outcome of an Olympic sprint event, but is not going to turn the tide of a football game.

This year's hundredths controversy swirled around defensive end Terrell Suggs. This absurd sports article actually debates whether Suggs ran a 4.79 or a 4.80, not mentioning that the former is one-fifth of one percent faster than the latter. It's seven yards to the quarterback. Assuming perfect accuracy to the hundredths place, a defensive end who runs a 4.79 will transverse those seven yards half an inch sooner than a 4.8 player. This John Clayton article declares football types deeply worried that Suggs ran a 4.87 rather than the 4.7 scouts hoped to see. The latter speed is three percent faster than the former. Assuming perfect accuracy, a defensive end who runs a 4.7 will traverse the seven yards to the quarterback eight inches sooner than a 4.87 player. This simply can't matter anywhere near as much as ability, motivation, conditioning and so on.

Is fixation on spurious hundredths measurements a phenomenon of contemporary over-analysis? According to this Greg Garber article, a quarter of a century ago when the Steelers were trying to decide whether to draft Lynn Swann, they changed their mind in his favor when extra testing dropped his 40 speed from 4.65 to 4.58. The latter is one percent faster than the former.

Johnathan Sullivan
"This will only hurt when you think."

Mr. Sullivan, We're Just Going to Tighten These Screws a Little More Until You Smile When You Say, "I'd Love to Ram into a Brick Wall, Coach.": Many news organizations ran the amusing AP photo of Saints draft choice Jonathan Sullivan, dressed in a business suit, trying on a New Orleans helmet as a trainer tightened a fitting screw. This is only the beginning, Jon. Soon they will insert the metal plates into your prefrontal cortex and tighten the screws whenever you question the coaches.

Bad Atlanta Trade of the Year: Last year's TMQ draft postmortem explained how, in a series of deals, the Falcons managed to exchange a third-round draft pick for three seventh-round picks, among the most boneheaded transactions in sports annals.

What was Atlanta up to this year? The Falcons traded their No. 1 for Peerless Price, who may be a welcome sight in the Georgia Dome -- or may, in the tradition of athletes who have just signed a monster contract, celebrate by taking the season off. But bear in mind that Atlanta was expected to take Price in the second round of the 1999 draft. Coming off their Super Bowl appearance, the Falcons traded their 2000 No. 1 pick for a 1999 second-rounder, with Price still on the board. Everyone assumed he would be Atlanta's pick, and was the reason for the trade. Instead Dan Reeves selected Reggie Kelly -- known to TMQ as the Reggie Kelly -- a little known tight end. Price was tabbed a Buffalo a couple picks later.

Kelly went on to have a journeyman career, Atlanta releasing him; the Reggie Kelly is now with Cincinnati, where he will never be heard from again. Now Atlanta has corrected its mistake and traded for Price. But this means the Falcons, in effect, surrendered two first-round draft picks for Peerless Price. Alternatively, they wouldn't give a No. 2 for him, but would give a No. 1.

Luckily for Me, the Brookings Institution Doesn't Test for Steroids: Last week's Page 2 header for the Tuesday Morning Quarterback draft preview declared that TMQ "couldn't do even one rep of 225." Ahem! That night at the Official Gymnasium of TMQ, I did eight reps at 225. On the advice of my agent, however, I declined to run at the combine.

New York Times Correction of the Year.: "A front-page article yesterday about the creation of atoms made of antimatter referred incorrectly to antiprotons, which are components of antimatter. They carry a negative charge, not a positive one."

Page one of the New York Times inaccurately described the electrical charge of particles of a type of matter not found in our solar system! Oh, the horror. There must have been rending of garments and gnashing of teeth on 43rd Street.

It is good to see that this august newspaper is so concerned with accuracy that it immediately corrects a mistake regarding the subatomic properties of antimatter in other parts of the galaxy. Yet the accuracy-obsessed New York Times continues to devote an entire page each week during NFL season to exact final score predictions that, in TMQ's observation, have been right once and wrong 833 times. Yes to the many readers who have asked -- the New York Times Final-Score Score item will return next fall.

Jennifer Aniston
If Jen was holding a product right now, is that really what you'd be looking at?

Your Trademark Here!:TMQ was amused by this Washington Post article reporting that not only are television shows now selling product placements -- remember when Ozzie and Harriett had bottles labeled SODA on the kitchen table because it was thought crass to promote a specific product? -- but that product symbols are being digitally superimposed onto old shows which have gone to syndication. When the first-season "Friends" episode first aired, Jennifer Anniston wasn't raising a Pepsi, just a generic can. Now when you see the same episode in rerun, she's raising a Diet Pepsi Fusion Blue with Compote of Ginseng.

Then came this article explaining that "American Idol" and other first-run shows are selling internal product placements to Coke, Subway, Reebok and& ConAgra. But ConAgra is an agribusiness firm. Is the goal to make viewers of "American Idol" want to rush out and buy several tons of atrazine?

At any rate, such gross commercial exploitation is shocking. (Eat fresh at Subway.) Have people no standards? (PlayStation2, incredibly realistic!) The integrity of the entertainment media will be ruined by blatant sell-outs. (The all-new Honda Accord, at dealers today.) Won't people see through such shameless flackery? (Contact Tuesday Morning Quarterback Enterprises for effective cost-per-thousand product placements in this column; guaranteed placements near swimsuit photos available at extra charge.)

Monica's Previous Reality Show -- "Who Wants to Be Impeached?"--- Had a Much Longer Run Than Viewers Would Have Preferred: Monica Lewinsky is now hosting a reality show, and had the nerve to tell reporters at the introductory press conferences that she was worried about protecting her privacy. Um, if privacy is your concern, reality TV is not the ideal Step One. But then there's a long- running show-biz tradition of celebrities seeking publicity via counterfeit complaints about privacy. A classic of this came in 1999, when Nicole Kidman was on the cover of Newsweek for an agent-placed (and, perhaps, agent-written) article in which she complained that all she really wanted in life was privacy. What was she doing at the time? Performing nude in a play in London.

Monica Lewinsky
If you want privacy, try not to well ... attract attention with the leader of the free world.

Check Monica's bio statement for the new show and note that it says nothing about White House internships but does tell of what Monica has been doing with herself lately, "designing an exclusive collection of handbags." Check her exclusive handbags. Also from the publicity photo, it seems that Monica has been spending considerable time at the gym. At last TMQ understands what Clinton saw in her.

Actual Draft Analysis: "What's the point of all these trades?" asked Grant, the 13-year-old Official Child of TMQ, looking at the long list of seemingly arbitrary position shuffles. Fifty-nine picks changed hands, 14 changing hands more than once. Many transactions seemed trivial: the Broncos traded the 120th pick to New England for the 128th and 157th selections, the Jets traded the 153rd and 189th picks to Kansas City for the 150th and 200th selections. My favorite was choice No. 236, which started with Cleveland, went to San Diego and then to Dallas before finally winding up with Detroit. (Brandon Drumm, fullback, Colorado.) A late seventh-round pick traded three times!

Considering that all NFL draft selections are essentially lottery tickets -- no one has any way of being sure who will turn out good -- all the trading looked to TMQ a little like picking numbers in a you-pick lotto. Maybe, perhaps, someone on the Jets draft staff believes that even numbers are lucky.

Are the general managers trading just to give themselves something to do? Jimmy Johnson seemed to follow that tactic when he ran Dallas drafts, the 'Boys sometimes trading up and down simultaneously. Maybe Johnson got a commission on each trade generated, like a stock broker. What chance is there that the 120th selection will prove better than the 128th pick? Roughly one in two, Tuesday Morning Quarterback scientifically estimates.

Perhaps teams think that announcing trades will placate sportswriters and fans by making them seem "active" on draft weekend. New England, which came into the weekend with a league-best 13 choices, including two first-rounders, was expected to make a big splash. Instead the Patriots oddly decided to bank their draft surplus until next season, giving up a first-round and other picks this year in order to stockpile extra first-, second- and fourth-round choices in 2004.

Having oddly passed on a 2003 splash, the New England braintrust seemed to feel it had to appear to have been busy executing canny transactions. So the Pats engaged in multiple minor deals to move up or down a few slots in various rounds. Summing this one club's minor trades, New England gave up the 41st, 50th, 128th, 154th, 157th and 225th picks for the 36th, 45th, 117th and 120th, 164th, 201st and 243rd selections. That's plenty active, but does it accomplish anything? Only if Bethel Johnson of Texas A&M, taken at 45, turns out to be better than Bruce Nelson of Iowa, taken at 50 and a draft leapfrog the Pats accomplished with one of these swaps. Chance that Bethel Johnson will be better than Bruce Nelson? One in two, Tuesday Morning Quarterback scientifically estimates.

Several seeming trade-for-the-sake-of-action transactions were particularly puzzling. Houston traded its third-round pick, number 83 overall, to Oakland for the Raider's second-rounder next season. So far so good, since by standard "discounting to present value" in draft trades, to get a pick in any round this year you must offer a pick one round higher the following year. But Houston's third-rounder this season was high in the round at the 82nd slot. Oakland, coming off a Super Bowl appearance, is likely to be drafting near the bottom of the second round in 2004, meaning the pick Houston will get is likely to be only a tiny bit higher than the pick it traded. Where's the point in that?

David Carr
Hold on, David. Help should be coming in about three to six years.

Hard on making this puzzling deal, the Texans traded their fifth-round choice for the Indianapolis Colts' fourth-round choice next year. Again this fits standard draft trade logic, until position in the rounds is taken into account. Houston's fifth-rounder was slot 138, at the top of the fifth; the Colts, being a playoff team, are likely to draft late in the fourth next season. So again the Texans delay a choice by one year, in return for what's likely to be only slight improvement of slotting.

Houston is currently the third-worst team in the league. What's it doing banking draft choices, as if it were a Super Bowl contender with a stacked roster? Was there really no one in the third or fifth rounds who might have helped the Texans' woebegone offensive line? (Prior to the seventh and usually meaningless round, Houston took only one blocker. The Texans must not have seen that clever ESPN commercial where David Carr faces a defense protected by no linemen.)

But It Was 2 A.M. Sharp: Buried in the Barret Robbins coverage, TMQ noted this: the Raiders had a 2 A.M. curfew during Super Bowl week. Two A.M.! No wonder the team's entire offensive line played like it was hung over.

Many teams work, work, work all season to make the Super Bowl, then blow it by hanging out in clubs the nights before. TMQ suspects that if you charted it out, you'd find that the team with the earliest curfew always wins the Super Bowl. Someone in Las Vegas should look into this as a predictor.

As Soon as They Get to the WNBA, However, All the Bad Habits Will Start: Congratulations to the women's college basketball champs, the University of Connecticut. At this point many women's college games are better-played than NBA contests, since the women are actually running plays and engaging in coordinated tactics, not just endlessly repeating the grab, gun, clang sequence that now dominates the professional ranks. The UConn-University of Tennessee women's championship was more graceful, artistic, simply better played than most of the first-round NBA matchups. The collegiate women even shot better than many guaranteed-contract NBA types.

Watching the Lady Huskies advance to their second straight title, TMQ couldn't help but notice that this women's team performs accompanied by scantily clad babe cheerleaders. Shouldn't the women's team have shirtless hunk cheerleaders? Maybe the Connecticut women's team has cheer-babes in order to help dispel the standard whisper against female athletes, the one involving nontraditional preferences. But wait, wouldn't scantily clad babe cheerleaders appeal equally to &

UConn women
The UConn women score one for gender equity.

On the Men's Side, the Bad Habits Have Already Started: According to the new Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, established by Richard Lapchick, who for years has doggedly counted up sports-and-race statistics, of African American basketball scholarship athletes enrolled from 1992 to 1996, NCAA men's basketball champion Syracuse University did not graduate a single one. (Syracuse says that some recent athletes have indeed graduated; current NCAA statistics stop at 1996 enrollments.) Kansas, the Orangemen's opponent in the men's championship, graduated two-thirds of its African-American basketball scholarship athletes during the same period. This proves a big school can have a top program and still educate players, almost all of whom will need their degrees because they'll never take the floor in the NBA.

Syracuse's tournament win was played as a feel-good story -- plucky school gets first title, lovable grandfatherly coach finally on top. Syracuse's tournament win actually should have been played as an embarrassment for college basketball -- school that badly lags in graduating basketball athletes beats school that plays by the rules and treats athletes as students. The grandfatherly Jim Boeheim? If he were really grandfatherly, he'd be taking care of his charges by getting them educations, rather than feeding them a phony dream of NBA play then abandoning them the instant they cease being useful.

Last year's men's basketball champion, the University of Maryland, graduated 19 percent of its basketball scholarship holders in the last decade before the title win. Now a second straight NCAA men's basketball champion has been one that shrugs at education. What message will other NCAA men's coaches take away? Shrug at education.

Mel Kiper Watch: TMQ continues to believe that one of the great moments in the development of ESPN came when the network lost its collective mind and put Mel Kiper on the air. Prior to that moment, now 20 years ago, draft mania was the silent secret of American males. Since Mel came out, draft obsession has become respectable, while ESPN itself has increasingly taken on Kiper's entertaining obsessive-compulsive sports worldview. Fans should be thankful. Don't worry about thanking Kiper personally; the football gods have already thanked him, by allowing him to make a living obsessing about the NFL draft. Only in America!

To fully appreciate Mel's nutty genius you've got to see his multiple mock drafts; this requires you to sign up for ESPN Insider, which you should do. Every year Kiper issues four to seven mock drafts, containing so many mutually contradictory outcomes that Mel is assured of getting at least a few right by random chance. In his four mock first rounds this year for Insider, Kiper had the Niners taking Jerome McDougal, Chris Kelsay, Dwayne White or Kyle Boller; they actually took Kwame Harris. Kiper had Kyle Boller going 29th overall, or 26th, or rocketing up to 10th, or falling out of the first round altogether; he went 19th. With their two first-round picks, Kiper had the Raiders tabbing a total of six different players; none of the six was one Oakland actually drafted. Kiper had Jonathan Sullivan going to New England, "Washington," Seattle or Chicago; he went to New Orleans. And so on.

Of course, all mock drafts from all sources were similarly wide of the mark. TMQ believes mock drafts exist primarily to make weather forecasts seem reliable by comparison. But part of Kiper's zany eminence is that he can put together mock draft after mock draft, knowing almost everything in all of them will be wrong, yet retain full enthusiasm. Plus, millions want to read them, even knowing in advance that almost everything is wrong! Only in America.

Steve Nash
Steve should worry more about the oil in his hair than the motivation of the U.S.

Canada Is America's #2 Oil Supplier. What, Steve, Might Have Been Canada's Hidden Oil Interest in Its Seemingly Principled Desire to Keep Iraq in Chains?: SARS, obviously, is a serious matter, yet TMQ cannot help wondering if its outbreak in Canada represents the football gods punishing our frosty neighbor to the north for constant sniping against United States policy in Iraq. Widespread anti-American sniping raised the question of why Canada -- which fought so bravely at Vimy Ridge, at Dieppe, at Normandy and in Vietnam -- now favors dictatorship and advocates the appeasement of tyranny. Isn't that overstatement the mirror image of the overstatements Canadians have been making against the United States regarding Iraq?

In sports, Steve Nash of the Dallas Mavericks, a Canadian, declared his opposition to American Iraq policy and explained, "I think it has much more to do with oil or some sort of distraction." Attention INS -- have you carefully reviewed this gentleman's green card? Nash of course should say what he thinks, but then must live with the reaction; boos, in his case. Bear in mind the First Amendment mantra that speech is free, but not without cost.

TMQ would like to point out that the war-for-oil analysis of Iraq is improbable. Even before the assault, the United States was freely buying Iraqi petroleum, about $10 billion a year's worth. The war, by White House estimates, will cost at least $75 billion and perhaps more, depending on reconstruction costs and the length of occupation. Historically, it has always proven much cheaper to purchase commodities than to seize them; the United States could simply buy many years' worth of Iraqi oil for less than the cost of the assault. Whatever else the war on Iraq might have been, it surely wasn't to seize a commodity currently in global oversupply anyway.

Phone Stunt #1: Jax was drafting after Minnesota, and wanted Byron Leftwich; the Jaguars feared the Vikes would trade their pick to another team pursuing this quarterback. Jacksonville knew that Minnesota fumbled its 2002 first-round selection by failing to register its card in time, allowing the team following the Vikes that year to race to the podium with a pick.

So when the Vikings got on the clock, Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio called Minnesota management and began a long, rambling discussion of a possible trade. By accounts, Del Rio hemmed and hawed. He made vague offers but didn't get specific. Possibly he talked about the weather and the latest episode of "CSI: Beef Inspectors." Del Rio kept talking, talking. Baltimore was on the other line offering a hard deal for the Minnesota pick, and Vikes management did not have the simple common sense to hang up on the Jax bluff. Suddenly, Minnesota's time had expired without any trade being filed with the league; immediately a Jacksonville gentleman sprinted to the podium with the card, naming Leftwich, that Jags staff had already filled out on the assumption that the Vikings would fumble their time allotment for the second consecutive year.

Phone Stunt #2: ESPN camera crews were shadowing Willis McGahee, most controversial potential high pick. By accounts his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, watched the red light to see when the ESPN camera came on. Whenever it did, he rapidly handed McGahee a cell phone to press to his hear; Rosenhaus wanted to give NFL teams keeping one eye on ESPN the idea that McGahee was fielding lots of calls from clubs expecting to select him. Apparently, McGahee only pretended to talk, as there was no one on the other end of the line. Unless McGahee heard Jack Del Rio saying, "So then I met this cute chick at the sports bar and she was, like, 'You're a coach?' and I'm, like, 'ohmigod,' and she's like& Vikings, are you still there?"

Laura
Looks like Laura has decided to stick with her trademark Bloody Mary.

Wacky Food of the Week: Recently TMQ dined at the ultra-trendy Blue Star in Colorado Springs, Colo., where the menu included:

  • BBQ salmon with split pea stew and pickled vegetable slaw
  • Pork loin with warm purple Peruvian fingerling potato salad and apple-carrot ginger jus
  • Molten center foie gras risotto cake with asparagus cream
  • The Blue Star had a vast list of $200 bottles of wine -- they were all on sale at 50 percent off, but that still made them $100 bottles of wine -- and $12 specialty martinis, yet no blueberry-almond martini. When will the world catch on to the Official Drink of TMQ?

    Halfway Home: A blueberry almond martini -- served by Laura from "Real Cancun" -- is certainly what TMQ needs now on the realization that, with the draft in the books, the next NFL season is halfway to Opening Night. Ye gods! Watch for the column to resume in early August.

    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.




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