By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

The doldrums are actual places, equatorial sections of the oceans where wind is rare, seas are flat and sailing ships of yore dreaded to find themselves becalmed. The doldrums are also where football fans currently reside. It's been months -- long, agonizing months -- since the last NFL game. The draft is past; the unsightly new uniforms have been unveiled; the minicamps are about as exciting as watching Halle Berry putting her clothes back on. Football faithful are toughing it out, waiting for the NFL to resume, and it's still another three months until opening night.

Well, Tuesday Morning Quarterback hears you. And this is what you can do about the situation: nothing.

In the spirit of solidarity with football fans becalmed in the doldrums, TMQ will offer a couple of bonus June columns. I'll employ every cheap trick in the book to shoehorn in football references, rationalizations for cheesecake photos and nonsequitors. In the latter spirit, since the new fall TV lineups just came out, here is TMQ's exclusive advance look at the fall TV lineups for the year 2004:

"CSI: Beef Inspectors": The sell-by date on the ground chuck -- how can you be sure it's genuine? Matt Damon and Famke Janssen star as tough, hard-hitting USDA inspectors who know which end of the microscope to look through. "Somebody murdered the beef on your plate. They bring the killers to justice" -- TV Guide.

"Law & Order: Postage Meter Unit": Does that envelope really weigh less than an ounce? In the United States Postal Service, there are the inspectors who check the return addresses and the letter carriers who deliver the catalogs. This is their story.

"Joe Loser": Twenty great-looking, smart, charming women compete to win the affection of a totally unreliable, insufferably egotistical skirt-chasing two-timing liar. "A realistic portrayal of the New York City dating scene" -- Time magazine.

"The Real Baghdad": Cameras follow young Iraqi men and women as they experience the joys and traumas of coming-of-age in the ancient city -- power outages, looting, public stonings, discovering unexploded ordnance. First episode: Akmed wants to kiss Riza at the food riot, but knows her 45 brothers and cousins would disembowel him. "Reality TV meets globalization meets the Rumsfeld Doctrine" -- Foreign Policy magazine. Viewer warning: regrettably, all participants must be fully clothed.

"Stalin: The Teen Years" (Miniseries): That snub at the Workers' Revolutionary Struggle High School dance, the relentless comments when he couldn't grow a mustache -- what were the traumatic events which turned Josef Stalin from a sensitive, caring teen into someone who causally murdered 30 million countrymen? Part One: "The Teasing."

"Merlin of Winnetka": Zany, madcap adventures ensue as Merlin the wizard is accidentally hurled forward in time and rents a room with a zany, madcap modern blended family. "It's zany, madcap fun" -- Family Circle magazine. James Garner voice-overs the thoughts of Schnarful the dog.

Sports Illustrated 2003
We don't need to tell you -- swimsuit television is good television.

"Top Thong": Ten mega-babes compete to see who will grace the cover of the next Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Critics praise the lengthy slo-mo close-ups of halter-top adjustment. "Watch it with the sound off" -- Tuesday Morning Quarterback.

"Shirtless and Brainless": For-women beefcake show centers on the photography editor of a men's fashion magazine, who spends all day surrounded by vacuous ultra-hunk male models. In the premiere, she agonizes about whether it is ethical to promise a male model a magazine cover in return for sex. In the season finale, she realizes they're all gay anyway. From a television treatment by Joan Didion.

"Night Fry Cook": A Nobel Prize-winning medical researcher who was unjustly disgraced by a sinister corporate CEO takes a job in the back room of a dingy diner and becomes involved in solving the dozens of shocking crimes that commonly occur in plain view of a fry cook. Robert DeNiro, with Susan Sarandon as the waitress who's seen it all.

"Earth Angels": Lovely, warmhearted guardian angels appear in people's lives and use supernatural power to solve crises involving birthday parties, unfair bosses and lost cats -- though stand by doing nothing as thousands die pointlessly in the Middle East.

"Law & Order: County Recreation Department": In the American county rec-department system, there are the groundskeepers who mow the fields and the part-time officials who call the fouls. This is their story. With regular cameos by Rebecca Romjin-Stamos as a sex-bombshell volleyball coach.

"Typecast!": A mysterious stranger starts a Los Angeles detective agency staffed by unemployed actors who can't get work because they allowed themselves to be typecast. Starring William Shatner, Lynda Carter, Mark Hamill and introducing Sarah Michelle Geller.

"Kneeling Their Way to the Top": Interlocking "thread" stories of the provocative escapades of several gorgeous, hip young interns who will trade anything for success at a publicity-crazed New York publishing firm. Pushes the envelop of network taste as the uninhibited heroines freely discusses their adventures with rope burns, blindfolds and other fine points of modern romance. "Makes Sex and the City seem like Jane Austen" -- People magazine. Sponsored by Manolo Blahnik.

"365": You've seen him save his brainless daughter over and over again. You've seen a reality in which Keifer Sutherland is the sole person in the entire world capable of doing anything correctly. But you've only seen him for 24 hours. Using advanced miniature camera technology, Sutherland will now let reviewers watch him 24-seven, 365 days per year. "Combines Web voyeurism with formula-thriller clichés for a new twist on airtime filler" -- Daily Variety.

"Stryker Impact, P.I.": Producer Aaron Spelling returns to primetime with yet another series about a tough, unorthodox private eye who doesn't play by the rules. Seth Green stars as a Nobel Prize-winning psychoanalyst, disgraced by a sinister corporation, who becomes a karate-master-concert-cellist-babe-magnet detective who lives in an abandoned missile silo, drives a mint condition Stutz Bearcat and has at his disposal unlimited equipment and electronics despite the fact that, if the episodes are any guide, he has never received one single dollar from the clients he selflessly saves.

"My Big Fat Wife": Honest look at everyday family life. A spinoff, My Dull Listless Husband, is in development as a January replacement series.

Venice Beach
When lying on broken glass is the norm in Venice, you're getting voted off.

"Survivor: Venice Beach": The next round of contestants go to the famous roller-blade beach in California where, in order to win, they must get noticed -- and ripped clothes, near nudity, pierced eyelids and munching roasted rats hardly stand out here. First trial: finding a parking place.

"Sixty Minutes Six": It's shocking! You'll be shocked! Shocking! And that's all we have time for tonight.

"The Wiseacres": Zany, madcap sitcom about a typical modern blended family. Mom is a scatterbrained Supreme Court justice, Dad breeds Brazilian parrots, the sultry teenaged daughter goes to school topless and the overweight kid brother frequently breaks expensive items. Seen through the eyes of their kindly next-door-neighbor former Mob hit man who's in the federal Witness Protection Program. "Zany, madcap fun" -- the Los Angeles Times.

"Gloves Off": Public-affairs interview show set in boxing ring. Liberal and conservative guests take swings at one another while screaming their points over a madding crowd. "Makes Bill O'Reilly seem like Miss Clavelle" -- USA Today.

"Gabriel 'n' the Gang": The archangel Gabriel materializes on Earth and goes to live with a zany, madcap blended family. He teaches the children touching lessons about life and occasionally uses the power of God to intervene in their schoolyard crises, though stands by doing nothing as thousands die pointlessly in the Middle East. Starring Whoopi Goldberg as a gender-bender divinity and John Facenda as the Voice of God.

"Jenny Jamieson of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories": Wanting to get in touch with what really matters in life, a highly successful investment banker leaves the rat race and moves her six adopted multi-ethnic children to a yurt near the Arctic Circle. In the premiere, Jenny starts to worry that there's nothing to do.

"Remake!": Big-name guest directors take turns filming remake episodes of classic television. Premiere: M. Night Shyamalan produces an updated episode of "Dan Tanna," guest-starring Toby Maguire and Reese Witherspoon. Second episode: Jane Campion remakes "My Mother the Car." According to AdWeek, "Detroit is hotly competing for the product placement -- will the car (voice-overed by Kathleen Turner) be a Chrysler Pacifica, Porsche Cayenne or Kia Rio Cinco? Smart money says the Kia."

"Just When You'd Had Enough": A beautiful lesbian who suffers from retroactive amnesia falls in love with an ultra-straight obsessive-compulsive unwed single father of cloned test-tube babies whose birth mother wants them back. To make matters worse, everyone's parents interfere! "Zany, madcap action" -- Newsweek. With Jenna Elfman and Jimmy Smits.

Jenna Elfman
Fresh from the back of a milk carton, it's Jenna Elfman's career!

"Stephen King's Taste of Eternity": Several gullible people with personal problems get stuck in a remote place. A lurking, quasi-supernatural presence follows them. Cars won't start. Heavy breathing. Sudden screams. This will be the plot of every episode of this innovative new show. "King fans will love a series that, just the like books, goes on and on and on and on and on and on" -- Chicago Tribune.

"Not Even We Know Who We Are": In addition to incredibly good-looking operatives, an Agency Far, Far More Secret Than The CIA has vast, gleaming high-tech underground facilities staffed by thousands without, apparently, anyone in Washington knowing anything about its budget. In the premiere two-hour television event, Eddie Murphy guest-stars as a super-villain who has vast, gleaming high-tech underground facilities with thousands of henchmen, without any explanation of where his money comes from.

"Waiting for Jerry": The guy who played the assistant manager of the shop that was pretending to sell no-fat frozen yogurt becomes the 458th "Seinfeld" veteran to get his own sitcom. In the premiere, hundreds of "Seinfeld" cast veterans arrive at the shop and complain about the yogurt.

"Something Smells Funny": A dashing young FBI agent goes deep-cover to infiltrate a Mob organization trying to monopolize the trash-hauling business. "Does for garbage what 'The Sopranos' did for New Jersey" -- Parade magazine.

"The Hallways of Topeka": Taking the "West Wing" concept to the state level, this hard-hitting show depicts the politics swirling around Cyrus Pendleton, a small-town veterinarian elected governor of Kansas. In the premier, Cyrus must decide whether to be photographed in public with a Grange official who has a shady past. Then, in a shocking cliffhanger ending, Cyrus is shot, stabbed, poisoned, electrocuted, decapitated, infected with Ebola and defenestrated -- or, is he?

"CSI: DMV": Ving Rhames and Janeane Garofalo play tough, nerves-of-steel agents who track down expired license plates. Parents strongly cautioned: waiting-line language, interracial necking and drivers' tests.

New this fall from ESPN:
"They Swing": Saturday-morning golf show tracks luscious lingerie models in bikinis and sheer teddies as they shine irons and practice their swings on the driving range.

"Scotty, Give Me Warp Five": Sports columnists argue about the day's news, using computer-enhanced devices that cause them to speak at five times normal human speed. "You won't understand a word, but your dogs' ears will certainly perk up" -- Popular Mechanics magazine.

LeBron James
Up next on the Deuce -- people who will sell LeBron's Nikes for a living.

New from ESPN2:
"Robbing the Cradle": The Deuce records a sports first with live broadcasts of the junior-varsity games of prep basketball phenoms.

"Two Cherries": The Deuce airs continuous footage of people throwing their money out the window at slot machines at the Luxor casino resort in Vegas. Color commentary by Bill Bennett.

And new from ESPN Classic:
"Wait Till Last Year": Rebroadcasts of games of some of the worst sports teams ever fielded -- the 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs, this April's Detroit Tigers, any game ever played by the Los Angeles Clippers. Screened and selected by sports experts for sheer awfulness.


No One Has Yet Rented Space on Her Fanny, But Presumably It's Only a Matter of Time: TMQ fails to see why there was such a razzle about Annika Sorenstam playing in the PGA -- and not just because Tuesday Morning Quarterback is on record as favoring Swedish blondes. Though sadly, at 5-foot-6, she is not a tall Swedish blonde, TMQ's epitome.

Of course Sorenstam should have played. Sport is fundamentally a form of entertainment, and was it ever entertaining to see her humiliate those timorous ersatz-macho male golfers! Vijay Singh, first to denounce Sorenstam, has now made the name "Vijay Singh" internationally synonymous with "idiot." Call us back when you stop being afraid of girls, okay, Vijay?

Male professional golfers want to be revered as athletes, despite having someone else carry their bags while dressed in bright green pantaloons. Along comes a female golfer who is a genuine athlete. Instead of saying, "Bring her on," defeating her and ending the controversy like -- what's the word I'm looking for, oh yeah -- like men, Singh and other wimps demanded exemption from competition. (In calling Singh and his ilk wimps, I am endorsing the charitable explanation; they are either wimps or sexists, take your pick.) Watching a 5-6 woman single-handedly beat the bright green pants off an entire ilk during the first round of the Colonial trials was about as entertaining as it gets.

Annika Sorenstam
Vijay didn't have the intestinal fortitude to show up for Anna's show.

Second, Sorenstam deserved to play because any woman who can compete on her own terms should get a shot at any professional sport. As TMQ has previously opined, "If there is ever a women who can play major-college or pro football on her own merit, then of course she must be allowed to do so. Note: TMQ hopes not to meet that woman."

Owing to simple biomechanics of height and strength, it seems unlikely there will be many top female athletes who can compete with the top males, as Sorenstam went on to show when she ran out of gas in the second qualifier. For instance, the University of Connecticut women's basketball team plays higher-quality, more artistic ball than most NBA clubs, but wouldn't stand a chance against one. (Note: Washington Wizards excepted, assuming for the sake of argument that the Wizards meet the definition of "basketball team.") Women's subordinate position in most athletics is dictated by simple biomechanics of the X-Y chromosome. But as women train and practice more, there are sure to be increasing instances of some who can hold their own in coed competition. So bring 'em on. It's entertaining, and it's what is fair.

As for Sorenstam, TMQ was not only impressed by her opening 71 on a 7,080-yard men's course, but also by the three product logos she is now squeezing onto her outfits -- for Mercedes, Calloway and the fashion house Cutter & Buck. Can it be coincidence that two of Sorenstam's three product logos are worn directly over her breasts? That the logos are even the shape and size of a woman's breasts? TMQ scanned the Web unsuccessfully for photos of Vijay Singh wearing product logos on the sexual parts of his anatomy, assuming for the sake of argument that he has any.

Instinct tells TMQ that at this moment, marketing agents are negotiating guaranteed breast-placement deals for Sorenstam. Wonder if corporations must pay extra if they specify left or right?

Note to McNown: the Preferred Career Path Is First Become Success, Then Date Playmate: The recent waiving and, presumably, final career crash-and-burn of former high No. 1 pick quarterback Cade McNown creates a cheap, flimsy excuse to mention 1999 Playboy Playmate of the Year Heather Kozar. McNown was once linked to Kozar by gossip columnists, at a time when he should have been studying game films rather than photo spreads.

Heather Kozar
Let's hope Cade did better than a two-minute drill with Heather.

Note No. 1: This item exists to provide an excuse for the ESPN.com art department to append a Heather Kozar cheesecake photo. Note No. 2: Of all Kozar memorabilia, TMQ wishes most he had not her Playboy foldout but her page from the May/June 1999 Matco Tools calendar. Read Kozar's rags-to-riches story -- how she ascended from buffing SUVs at the Windfall Car Wash in Akron, Ohio, to spread-eagled on the bear rug in the Playboy Mansion -- in her own words here. Best line: "Playboy is an ideal company and family to be a part of." A family, eh? TMQ suspects incest.

Verily, the Football Gods Art Merciless: Instead of Dates with a Centerfold, Akili Smith Got to Dress for the Bengals: Yesterday the Cincinnati Bengals waved goodbye to Akili Smith, third overall pick in the 1999 draft and an even higher, more-hyped quarterback than McNown to crash-and-burn. Smith was 17-41 for 154 yards over the last two seasons, a sizzling 3.7-yards per attempt, and leaves with a career passer rating of 52.8, barely besting Ryan Leaf's career 50. (In the NFL's cryptic formula, if every pass you attempt clangs to the ground incomplete, you still get a rating of 40.) Last season, TMQ wrote of Smith that eventually this gentlemen "will be lucky to be covering punts for the Edmonton Eskimos." Smith seems right on schedule for his Eskimos' debut.

Actually, Smith has some talent. If he'd been taken in the latter rounds, where he deserved to go -- he only quarterbacked one year at Oregon, after all -- he might have been brought along slowly, appreciated by fans and, gradually, developed into a starter. Instead, expectations were exaggerated, fans turned on him and Smith's confidence was lost; quarterbacks who lose their confidence rarely regain it. Rock bottom came late in Smith's sole season as the Bengals' signal-caller. Cincinnati trailed Pittsburgh by 17 in the third. A shotgun snap sailed over Smith's head. This extremely highly paid gentleman chased the rolling rock for a moment, then simply sat down on the field and watched as Steeler Jason Gildon scooped up the ball and ran back for six, ending any Cincy hopes. The home fans booed mercilessly. Smith was effectively finished.

What is especially painful about the Akili Smith fiasco is that in order to nab him, Cincinnati executed the worst non-trade in sports history. The year was 1999. Mike Ditka was coaching New Orleans and dangling his entire draft, plus future high picks, to get in position to select Ricky Williams. Ditka offered Cincinnati three No. 1 picks (two of which turned out to be lottery-level), two No. 3s and a package of late-round choices for Smith. Presented this bonanza, the richest draft-pick package since the Herschel Walker deal, Cincinnati said no, holding the choice and taking Smith. (Ditka ended up trading somewhat less to the Potomac Drainage Basin Indigenous Persons for position to get Williams.) The draft bonanza of the Walker trade, all purists recall, positioned Dallas for its three-peat Super Bowl run. Cincinnati had a chance for a similar windfall and instead took a gentlemen who rarely played.

Of course, had the Bengals acquired all those picks, they only would have blown them.

ESPN Stringers Get Locker-Room Doors Slammed in Their Faces So That TMQ Doesn't Have to Do It: As part of the neutron-star-like collapse in progress at the New York Times ("All the News That Might Be True"), former Times writer Rick Bragg told Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post that many of the paper's correspondents do not deign to conduct their own interviews, rather, "rely on stringers and researchers and interns and clerks and news assistants."

So -- unpaid recent college graduates do the actual newsgathering for the organization that presents itself to the world as the Paper of Record? This large, profitable corporation expects beginners to work for free, in return for no recognition? Publications hire people as "stringers" or glorified freelancers, rather than as employees, to avoid paying them living wages and health-care benefits. Meanwhile the Times editorial page routinely pounds the table about how all Americans should get medical insurance.

Michael Jackson, Rev. Al Sharpton
"Aliens have come to take you back, I just read it in the New York Times."

Perhaps you've played the party game at which one person whispers something in another's ear, and then a second relays and so on until many whispers later, the message bears no relationship to the original. Here is how this game applies to the stringent newsgathering standards of the New York Times:

TIMES STRINGER: Sir, what happened during the hurricane?

INTERVIEW SUBJECT: Me and the misses, we was scared. She ran. I ran.

TIMES STRINGER: (Relaying to intern) He said the missiles are on the way to Iran.

TIMES INTERN: (Relaying to clerk) According to unconfirmed reports, Iran is being attacked by missiles.

TIMES CLERK: (Relaying to news assistant) The New York Times has just confirmed that Iran is attacking the United States with missiles!

TIMES NEWS ASSISTANT: (Relaying to the senior correspondent who pretends to have reported the story) President Bush is at this moment being briefed on the Iranian missile strike.

All leading to this page-one banner headline in the New York Times:

UNITED STATES DECLARES WAR ON IRAN
White House Cites Reports of Missile Attack

Carry Your Yurt in an SUV for Extra Ecological Awareness: An above item mentions yurts. Longing for your own? Check out Pacific Yurts, "featured in Time magazine." Offering yurts with "certified engineering up to 100 PSF snow and 100-mph wind load," the company asserts that "our customers speak of adventure, romance, their sense of freedom and pride." How much romance you could have in an unheated yurt in a 100-mph wind might remain to be seen. When spec-ing your yurt, TMQ recommends the rain diverter and the optional seven-foot height, unless you and everyone is your romantic survivalist fantasies are shorter than the six-foot standard interior.

"American Idol" Plug: Mara Rose, the Official Daughter of TMQ, let out a war whoop when Ruben Studdard won. Later she explained, "Ruben needed to win to get a recording contract, whereas it was obvious Clay Aiken would have a career regardless of whether he won." Since when did 12 year olds start talking like this?

Clay Aiken, Ruben Studdard
There hasn't been a couple this cute since C-3PO and R2-D2.

Atlantic Monthly Plug: And an item above mentions the doldrums -- from where, in the Pacific, a private company is launching the first entirely private large rockets to space. Never heard of this? See TMQ's article in the May Atlantic Monthly.

TMQ Will Have the Dijon Swiss Burger Medium Rare: Ravens No. 1 draft pick Terrell Suggs, who is light for a defensive end, told NFL scouts he was skinny because he couldn't afford extra food at school. This is exactly what skinny No. 1 Bills draft pick Erik Flowers, also a defensive end, said when he came out of the same school, Arizona State University. Flowers was a bust. Let's hope the football gods have not sent a lunch-based omen about Suggs.

Why Flowers and Suggs went hungry isn't clear, since NCAA athletic scholarships typically include the school meal plan, and Arizona State offers numerous options. Here is the ASU dining hall's all-you-want menu from the week Suggs was drafted. A typical day's main-course options included:

Breakfast:
Breakfast burrito
Scrambled eggs and Canadian bacon
Oatmeal

Lunch:
Philly cheese steak
Chicken Caesar salad
Pepperoni or chicken & pesto pizza
Dijon Swiss burger or grilled cheese
Chicken gumbo chowder or beef & vegetable soup
Baked ham & provolone panini

Dinner:
Fried catfish, baked potato, broccoli spears and corn pudding
Beef & broccoli stir fry, sticky rice

Terrell, all this stuff and there was nothing you felt like eating? Wait till you see the Baltimore training table. It's going to be a carefully supervised diet of grilled chicken and steamed fish, veggies, salads and smoothies. You will long for the days of fried catfish and baked panini at the ASU cafeteria in Tempe.

Since "ESPN Game Day" Airs Live from State College and College Station in the Fall, Why Can't TMQ Be Written Live From Backstage at the Luxor Topless Review?: Note regarding the gambling-show joke above: TMQ is opposed to gambling, an industry which feeds on the poor and money-stressed, but certainly favors the Topless Revue at the Luxor mega-casino in Las Vegas. Right now the Luxor is where-it's-at in Vegas, owing to its preposterous faux-Egyptian architecture, its hosting of the Blue Men Group -- not the Seattle NFL franchise, but the act that inspired TMQ's cognomen for same -- and its award-winning Topless Revue, voted Best in Vegas in 2002. And if the Luxor's show is Best in Vegas, does this mean there is an organization that goes around rating topless dance reviews? Where does one apply for that job?

Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders
Just a small sampling of what gets TMQ going.

According to the Luxor, at the Topless Revue "all your fantasies come true in provocative detail." All my fantasies? That would require about 10 extremely open-minded mega-babes, plus assorted chains and leather; the remote-castle setting alone would cost more than Bill Bennett lost. In fact, the staffing requirement for satisfying all TMQ's fantasies would in concept resemble this group photo of the qualifiers for the 2003 Atlanta Falcons cheer-babe squad.

Reader Animadversion: Many readers, including Richard Meneghello of Portland, Oregon, wrote to protest TMQ's item asserting that the Syracuse University men's champion basketball program had not graduated an African-American scholarship athlete "in about a decade," while men's runner-up Kansas University graduated two-thirds of its black athletes in the same period. In fact, "many" is an inadequate adjective for expressing the quantity of reactions TMQ received from Syracuse faithful. And Jayson Blair assured me he had fact-checked that item!

Turns out my statement was partly wrong and partly right. Right in that I accurately quoted a study decrying Syracuse's long-term problem with low graduation rates of scholarship athletes; wrong in that the study stopped with 1996 enrollments, the most recent data reported to the NCAA. From classes enrolling in or after 1997, the Syracuse basketball program has graduated several African-American scholarship holders, including Kueth Duany, who played in the NCAA men's championship game as a graduate student with remaining eligibility, and Etan Thomas, who recently gave a poetry reading. Note to outraged Orange fans who saw the column in its first hour: "about a decade" was corrected mid-afternoon Eastern time. Here is the column as corrected, and the way the majority of ESPN readers saw it.

Defenders of Orange honor point out that the NCAA's graduation-scorecard system does not give the school credit for scholarship players who start off elsewhere, transfer in and earn their mortarboards. A recent example is Ryan Blackwell, who began at Illinois, moved his flag to Syracuse and graduated. Nor does the NCAA give Syracuse credit for players who start in its program and eventually march to "Pomp and Circumstance" elsewhere. These rules apply to all schools, of course, meaning any NCAA program loses a graduation credit when a player transfers in or out. This seems ridiculous, as all that matters from the standpoint of education is that a scholarship player graduates; where he graduates is immaterial. By forbidding all universities credit for the academic success of transfers, the NCAA under-reports the total number of athletic graduations  which seems self-damaging on the part of the NCAA. But then, inflicting self-damage is one of the NCAA's specialties.

White House Officials Rejected Calls for a "Weather Report for Peace," Saying the Forecast Was Cloudy: While diplomats debate the Middle East "road map," TMQ wonders: Why not go high-tech and make it a Map Quest for peace? I couldn't find an online map service that would provide driving directions from Tel Aviv to Rahmalla, though if Ariel Sharon and Mahmoud Abbas would travel that road more often, good things might happen. Best I could find was driving directions to the Intercontinental Hotel in Tel Aviv. Note that no roadblocks are shown. It should just take you a few minutes to get there!

Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders
"Yea! The website is up! Now we can have peace!"

Check the official website of the Palestinian Authority. The PA's maps section displays how the political topography of the region has changed over the years, and even has a diagram of Israeli Defense Force checkpoints. Looking for an all-night argument? The Palestinian Authority facts utility is sure to provide grist, though TMQ found it encouraging to discover a PA press release that included the phrase, "Israeli sources reported." The official IDF site posts fairly candid reporting of its own activities in the occupied territories, which also seems encouraging. Looking for another all-night argument? The IDF report on the battle of the Jenin camp refutes charges of deliberate killing of civilians, while admitting IDF guilt for some deaths. Suggestion to the IDF: Your site is already available in English, French, Hebrew and Russian. Make it available in Arabic.

Never Answered: Why Did the Forces of Evil Want Sunnydale, California?: Since the theme of this column is television, let's wrap up some complaints about "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," which staked itself into dust in two weeks ago.v

Buffy faithful were aghast at the lame series finale -- see Hillary Fray's expression of aghast-ness here. This did not prevent the New York Times ("All The News That Might Be True") from running an editorial lamenting the end of Buffy. TMQ will miss Buffy too -- it could be funny and original -- though by the end of the dreadful final season, was reaching for the wooden stake himself.

One TMQ complaint about the "Buffy" sendoff involves the Hollywood convention of the protagonist being severely injured and then inexplicably fine again. A standard instance: In the first "Beverly Hills Cop" movie, during the climatic battle, Eddie Murphy is shot point-blank and collapses to the ground; viewers are supposed to think they are seeing his death scene. Then, a moment later, Murphy jumps back up, fine. In the movie's denouement that follows the gunfight, he's clowning around. What happened to just being shot at point-blank range?

In Buffy's climatic battle, she is run through with a sword, which enters her back and comes out her stomach. She drops to the ground and viewers are supposed to think they are seeing her death scene. After the commercial, Buffy leaps up and resumes fighting, not even bleeding, to say nothing of hemorrhaging. No explanation whatsoever.

According to the show's conceit, vampire slayers heal faster than regular people. But in previous episodes, this meant Buffy could be injured at night and restored by the following day; in one episode, only supernatural intervention prevented a bad wound from killing her. Now she receives what should have been a fatal blow and is completely recovered in minutes. "Buffy" producers seemed to assume viewers are so incredibly stupid, it takes just one commercial to make them forget that a moment before our heroine was breathing her last.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
You can fool some of the people some of the time, but not TMQ.

Earlier seasons of "Buffy" at least followed the convention of "within the premise" -- that is, cinematic action can be preposterous so long as it honors the prevailing concept of the show or movie. By the "Buffy" finale season, action had become arbitrary. In one episode, for example, auxiliary slayer Faith is arrested by the Sunnydale police. Suddenly they draw guns and announce that they are going to kill her. Faith then snatches drawn guns out of the hands of four men before any of them can shoot -- guns get snatched out of hands a lot on television -- and beats the cops silly with the assistance of Buffy, who appears on the scene. Faith and Buffy banter about their boyfriends, then walk away leaving the four men unconscious. So were these really cops? Why would real cops suddenly turn into remorseless assassins -- especially with witnesses present? (A dozen people see Faith arrested.) If these weren't real cops, why did Buffy leave them to regain consciousness and menace someone else? No explanation whatsoever. Numerous times during the "Buffy" serials, various mystical beings have warned her ominously, "You have no idea what's coming next." Neither, apparently, did the writers.

Toward the end, "Buffy" scripts increasingly relied on the hoariest of all melodrama clichés: Suddenly, someone is there! Bad horror movies (are there good horror movies?) and other formula-plot vehicles rely on some monster or murderer suddenly being within meat-cleaver-swinging distance without having made any noise while approaching, without any way of knowing where the jeopardized party would be or, often, without any hint of how approach was possible on a physical basis.

In the penultimate "Buffy" episode, she seeks paranormal power in an ancient temple of whose existence, we are told, the rightful vampire slayer alone may know. Suddenly the super-villain Caleb jumps out at her in the temple, though we just saw the temple from the outside and it had only one door, which Buffy is blocking. Caleb seems about to kill Buffy, when Angel, her former beau and star of the plodding "Buffy" spinoff "Angel," suddenly jumps out and knocks Caleb down. How did Caleb get in? How did Angel get in? How could the temple have existed undisturbed for 600 years, as viewers were told before the commercial, if it was so vulnerable that any passerby could stroll in? How did Caleb or Angel know where to find a magical temple whose existence could be known only to the rightful vampire slayer? No explanation whatsoever.

And why, within the Buffy concept, was the fate of the universe determined by fist fights? Buffy and her numerous supernatural foes did almost all their fighting with punches, kicks, swords and axes. Dozens of episodes turned on evil beings elaborately plotting to kill Buffy using blades or poison or magical traps. Why didn't they just shoot her? They all knew where she lived, and several of the evil beings were depicted as phenomenally wealthy, so they could have afforded a rifle.

TMQ often expected to hear some backstory about how vampires and demons formed during the Dark Ages and, by curse, could only fight or be fought using weapons that existed then. If there was such a backstory, I missed it. In this show, the devil's offspring have unilaterally disarmed, and to be sporting, the good guys won't use guns either.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer
You wouldn't be afraid of monsters either if you were Mrs. Freddie Prinze Jr.

Another gripe is that "Buffy" characters often acquired supernatural powers, then forgot about them. At the end of the season in which the Big Bad was the cyborg Adam, Buffy became telekinetic, manipulating space-time to counter Adam's advanced technology. Later, Buffy forgot about being telekinetic and never called on this power, even when she seemed about to die. Something similar happened at the end of the season when Buffy's pal Willow was transformed into the Big Bad. (TMQ liked all the navel shots of Willow, but found her mid-series conversion to lesbian unconvincing, since how could Willow be a near-omnipotent super-witch possessing ancient knowledge sufficient to destroy Earth, yet not know her own sexual orientation? Willow's all-girl sex scene just before the series conclusion was pretty hot by TV standards, though.) During the Willow-bad season, at a crucial moment, the reformed demon Anya saved the day by revealing her ability to teleport herself. But then she forgot how to teleport herself. In subsequent plots, Anya was trapped in dangerous circumstances and had no idea how to escape.

Finally, TMQ was left wondering about the physics of "Buffy." Assume, within the premise, that Buffy and her demonic foes possess super-strength. What bothered TMQ is that super-strength was repeatedly depicted as conferring the ability to cause someone to go flying through the air with a punch. Buffy punches a vampire, and he flies backwards 15 feet into a wall. Caleb punches Buffy, and she flies backwards 15 feet through a wall.

Even if you possessed super-strength, could you cause someone to fly 15 feet by punching them? Somehow, TMQ doubts that even a substantial amount of energy, transferred into a person's body by a fist-shaped impact, would propel a person long distances through the air, rather than just break bones and do tissue damage. Can any hard-core science type explain the physics? Submit your incredibly scientifically advanced analysis here.

Next Week The Tuesday Morning Quarterback annual prayer of thanks to the football gods that the NFL has not become the NBA.

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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