By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist

Players' uniforms just keep getting uglier, and I have a solution.

Tennessee lowered the bar a few years back, with its high-school-inspired look. Denver went rollerball. Last year, Buffalo abandoned red, white and blue -- not to put too fine a point on it, but the single most successful color scheme in world history -- for duds featuring 19th Century Rusting Russian Dreadnaught Aft Bulkhead Cynic. Seattle adopted unis that make its men appear to have just fallen into a pot of finger paint. Cleveland went all-orange, Jacksonville went all-black with uniforms that looked like a newspaper printing-press error.

And now this Sunday, the Bengals rolled out all-dark-brown uniforms that result in TMQ calling them the Cincinnati Fudgsicles from here on.

I propose a Uniform Amnesty Program. All teams which have gone out of their way to make their uniforms look worse -- which, at this point, is half the league -- may return to wearing their previous livery, no questions asked!

Bengals
All-brown uniforms? Just the latest mistake for the Bengals.

Slowest Touchdown of the Week: Ticonderoga-class DT Sam Adams returned an interception 37 yards for a Bills touchdown; his run took seven seconds. That's the equivalent of a 7.6 40-yard dash.

Best High-School Play: Game scoreless in the first, Tennessee faced second-and-six on the Long Johns 11. The Titans line up heavy right. On the snap, Steve McNair faked a pitch right, while the line pulled right. Then he sprinted back left and threw for the touchdown to Tyrone Calico, who had dragged from the heavy right side back across the formation. This play is High School Football 101, and the Raiders' defense looked like they'd never seen it.

Best Blocks:Will Shields pulled from right guard and turned the left corner fast enough to clean out two Bolts' defenders, springing Priest Holmes for the 24-yard touchdown run that established the tone in Kansas City's rout of San Diego. And TMQ counted one-thousand one, one-thousand two, one-thousand three, one-thousand four, one-thousand five, one-thousand six, one-thousand seven as Tommy Maddox waited for Plaxico Burress to get open deep for a 47-yard go-route completion in the second quarter.

Drive of the Week: Houston, last year's last-ranked offense, staged a 14-play, 76-yard, fourth-quarter drive for the field goal that made it Dolphins 20, Texans 18, and set the stage for Houston's late heroics. On the drive, the Texans converted three third-and-longs.

TMQ MEETS THE EAGLES CHEER-BABES!

Say it ain't so! It's so! TMQ hung out with the Philadelphia Eagles' cheerleaders during the Monday Night Football opener. You won't want to miss his report on meeting the cheer-babes up close.

'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All, No. 1: As TMQ has bemoaned, the Marine Mammals' 2002 season went down in flames when, needing to kill the clock and holding a three-point lead in the closing moments against New England with a series of Ricky Williams slams up the middle, Miami went incompletion, incompletion, incompletion. Leading Houston by two with 4:47 left, Miami had first down on its 31. Slam Williams up the middle to grind the clock? No. Pass, pass -- the second one intercepted to set up Houston's win. A reader laments in haiku,

Fiedler or Griese?
Neither leads to Super Bowl:
hand ball to Ricky

-- Brian Carraway

Stat of the Week: Stretching back to last season, the Eagles have lost two consecutive games to Tampa Bay, both in Philadelphia.

Stat of the Week, No. 2: Stretching back to last season, Jersey/A has fumbled 12 times in its last two home games.

Stat of the Week, No. 3: Stretching back to last season, both teams combined have fumbled 19 times in the last two games at Giants Stadium.

Stat of the Week, No. 4: Stretching back to last season, the Dolphins have lost three consecutive games on last-second field goals.

Stat of the Week, No. 5: Stretching back to last season, the Packers have lost three consecutive games and been outscored 109-49.

Stat of the Week, No. 6: Denver, Detroit and Seattle won by a combined 55 points, despite being outgained by a combined 268 yards.

Stat of the Week, No. 7: The Bears had more turnovers and punts (13) than first downs (8).

Kris Brown
The Dolphins passed on giving the ball to Ricky, leading to this game-winning FG by Houston's Kris Brown.

Next, Police Officers Will Receive Tactical Boxers: New York City has begun issuing its police officers cargo pants, whose pockets come in handy for all the clips, cuffs and other stuff a cop must carry. But the NYPD won't call them cargoes: They are "patrol tactical pants."

Stop Me Before I Blitz Again! When you block a blitz, good things happen; when TMQ sees a blitz picked up, he looks up because a big play is coming. Trailing 7-3, Atlanta faced second-and-long on its own 22. Dallas blitzed six, including a safety. Atlanta blockers picked up all six. Doug Johnson threw for 35 yards to Brian Finneran, who was singled; Finneran made a perfect catch looking back into the sun and just as he had crossed the infamous Stonehenge Line caused by the half-roof at Texas Stadium. The play began the turning of the tide for a Falcons' victory. And Atlanta's tactics were sharp. Assuming that all Dallas eyes would be on the debut of speed merchant Peerless Price, the Falcons threw deep several times to Finneran, who was always single-covered.

After Release, Many Return to a Life of Going Up and Down: The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which runs the subway system of the nation's capital, has announced an "elevator rehabilitation program." Don't you hate it when elevators go bad?

Worst Crowd Response: At opening night for their long-awaited new field, Philadelphia fans booed long, loud and hard against their own team. The booing started just four minutes into the game! Philadelphia lined up to receive a punt, and Lito Sheppard went back, replacing the departed crowd favorite Brian Mitchell. The stadium rocked with boos. Booing your own team in a brand-new stadium with the game scoreless against the defending Super Bowl champs! When it was Bucs 3, Eagles 0 at halftime, the crowd booed lustily -- booing your team trailing the Super Bowl champ by a field goal! Philadelphia fans, please get a grip.

Where Was the Defense? With eight seconds left in the first half, Jacksonville had the ball on the Carolina 33, leading 7-0. Jax was out of time-outs and it was third-and-eight, meaning the Jags couldn't throw a short pass, then spike the ball for a field goal attempt. So where, oh where, oh where, is the pass going to go? Maybe to the end zone! Yet the safeties allowed Jaguars receiver Matthew Hatchette to get behind them for the touchdown as the half expired; not a single one of the 11 Carolina defenders was in the end zone.

Wesley Clark
Would America really elect a president named Wesley?

Though Several of the Democratic Contenders Are Pretty Obviously 4-F: Backers of a presidential run by retired General Wesley Clark are touting a poll that appears to show him leading all 2004 contenders, including George W. Bush. Fine print: It's a "blind bio" poll, meaning respondents are read only people's resumes, not told their names. Those who hope he'll run have a website, DraftWesleyClark.com. But wait, now it's an all-volunteer military. Wouldn't he have to enlist?

'Tis Better to Have Rushed and Lost Than Never to Have Rushed at All, No. 2: Tampa 3, Philadelphia 0, with three minutes left in the first half. The Eagles faced third-and-1. Earlier on a third-and-1, they had gone three-wide and passed, incomplete, but been saved by a penalty. On this down, again they went three-wide and tried to pass, but Donovan McNabb was sacked to end the drive. Neither pass was an attempt for a home run, just everybody on short dodge routes. Ye gods.

Eagles-Bucs sidelight. Three times in the game, Warren Sapp came in for Tampa as an extra tight end on third-and-short. With a few minutes left and Tampa leading 10-0, Sapp came in on second-and-long. What the hey? TMQ knew it had to be a pass to Sapp, complete for a first down. Sapp trotted off, gesticulating; the purpose of this play seemed to be to raise the Bucs' collective middle finger to the Eagles. Yes, the inability to beat Philadelphia cost Tony Dungy his Tampa job, and now Philadelphia can't beat Tampa. But kicking them when they're down is never cool. The football gods will exactly a vengeance on Tampa for this play.

Plus, When We Finally See the Woman, She's Fully Clothed: Last year, TMQ did an item on how the air shafts of spaceships in sci-fi movies are always preposterously large -- big enough for people to crawl around in, when real-world air shafts are rarely more than a few inches across.

Comes now Budweiser, running a commercial in which a guy in an apartment hears, through the air vent, the sultry come-hither voice of the woman next door. She's saying, "you've been bad -- you'll have to be punished -- get down on your knees and beg." The guy assumes some hot dominatrix session is in progress, so what does he do? Crawls through the air shaft, which is large enough to host a Grand Prix rally, and then crashes into her apartment, where he finds her talking to a dog. Is there any apartment building anywhere in the world where the air shafts between flats are large enough to crawl through?

Tom Brady
AP
We're running this photo just to tick off Raiders fans.

Football Gods Repay Raiders: During the Oakland-New England Snow Bowl, Tom Brady fumbled and everyone knew it. But the zebras apparently called it right based on the obscure "tuck rule." Here is an excerpt from the league's January 2002 formal statement explaining the rule:

"Citing Rule 3, Section 21, Article 2 of the NFL rulebook, [Chief of officials] Mike Pereira noted that whenever the quarterback moves his arm forward to pass and the ball ends up coming out, it is a forward pass and not a fumble."

Comes now the Sunday night Raiders-Flaming Thumbtacks game. Steve McNair starts his arm forward, tries to pull the ball back, is hit before he can tuck it; referee Ron Blum's call is fumble and Oakland ball. Blum explains, "The tuck rule does not apply because the quarterback had the ball under control." But wait, in the league's 2002 Snow Bowl statement, fans were told, "Whenever the quarterback moves his arm forward to pass and the ball ends up coming out, it is a forward pass and not a fumble." McNair moved his arm forward to pass and the ball ended up coming out. So why wasn't it "a forward pass and not a fumble"?

The First Four Months Were Pretty Frustrating, But In the Fifth Month, Our Team of Crack Specialists Found the Forklift: PBS TV's "Newshour" recently reported on the management scandal at Los Alamos National Laboratory, including hundreds of government computers taken home by employees and numerous pieces of heavy equipment that could not be accounted for. Correspondent Spencer Michels interviewed new Los Alamos director G. Peter Nanos, who had these reassuring comments:

Los Alamos
Why does TMQ's computer have "Los Alamos" stamped on its hard drive?

NANOS: We've proven that we're not a bunch of crooks here at this laboratory, but it took us five months to find it out and that was because our business processes and systems were not up to snuff. The forklift that was missing was being repaired in Albuquerque. The two-ton magnet was in a facility and found in inventory.

Oh great -- it took them five months to find a two-ton object. Remember, this is supposed to be an advanced laboratory at the cutting edge of top-secret technology.

Leaps of the Week: Trailing 21-0, the Patriots faced fourth-and-inches on the Buffalo 43 in the third. New England jumped offsides, and punted on fourth-and-six. On the next possession, the Patriots faced third-and-goal at the Buffalo 3. New England jumped offsides, and failed on fourth-and-goal from the 8.

Sominex Presents the NFL Game of the Week: Indianapolis 9, Cleveland 6.

You Do Not Want to Be This Man When It's Time to Watch the Game Film: Defending champ Bucs at Eagles, game scoreless in the first, Philadelphia had first-and-goal at the 1 and threw to an open L.J. Smith in the corner of the end zone. Smith dropped the ball like it was a live ferret. Just to prove it was no fluke, when the Eagles went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1, they threw again to Smith in the same corner. He dropped the ball like it was an anthrax sample.

Weird Al Jankovitch Hosting SportsCenter Is Just a Rumor So Far: First it was comedian Dennis Miller on MNF; now it's political commentator Rush Limbaugh on ESPN. (Note that their respective politics roughly cancel each other out, leaving a net of Pat Summerall.) If notables from all walks of life are going to get into football announcing, who's next?

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger. He could promise total, sweeping reforms of all football rules and tactics, but refuse to give specifics.

    The Kiss
    Imagine Britney making out with one of the Eagles cheerleaders ...

  • Britney Spears. Before each game she'd pick a cheerleader to kiss.

  • Howard Dean. HE CAN SHOUT EVEN LOUDER THAN REGULAR ANNOUNCERS!

  • Henry Kissinger. He would peer over his glasses, look grave, and say, "Fudboll is veedy, veedy complex." Kissinger would declare that offenses must project power and defenses must engage in a show of force.

  • Bill Gates: "You know, if we acquired the entire NFC West and merged it with the AFC South, and forced them all to wear the same uniforms, then centralized all play-calling based on proprietary software that only I could control . . . "

  • Cameron Diaz. As long as she wore the "Full Throttle" bikini, it would make no difference what she said.

  • Postmodernist Stanley Fish. He would object to the use of rules, yardage markers and "socially imposed norms, such as most points wins."

    Note: on ESPN's Sunday pregame show, Limbaugh declared that his pick of the week was New England over Buffalo; the Pats lost 31-0. Presumably, this means that if Rush picks Arnold Schwarzenegger in the California race, Arianna Huffington will be the next governor.

    Wormtail: Apparate to the County Clerk's Office and Kill Them All! According to Washingtonian magazine, Lord Voldemort (Dan Snyder) is building himself a 30,000-square-foot mansion with 17 cedar closets, enclosed parking for 12 cars, a movie theater and a marbled-floored wine cellar. TMQ thinks the ballroom atop the garage is a particularly elegant touch.

    According to the Washington Post, Voldemort is furious that details of his runaway-ego mansion have been revealed. Wanting such things kept quiet -- a 30,000-square-foot home with 17 cedar closets may be awkward the next time Snyder asks for a tax break for his team -- the Persons' owner made his architect and builder sign confidentiality agreements. But this canny business genius forgot to take into account that floor plans for construction must be filed with the county permit office. Such filings are public record, and Washingtonian simply looked 'em up.

    Nation's capital sociology: Why did the supposedly hard-hitting Washington Post have to pick up a magazine to find out what's going on with the Washington rich and powerful? One reason is that Post coverage of Snyder is slavishly favorable; because Post management adores the Persons and wants insider access to Snyder's team events, the best seats at FedEx Field and so on. More generally, many Washington Post officials and editors having joined the city's social-set elite. The days when the Post criticized the rich of the capital are long past.

    Washingtonian, on the other hand, has been on the outs with Washington's elite ever since it started running exterior photographs of their homes, along with the property values (also found in public tax-assessment records). Having nothing to lose with the Washington wealthy anyway, Washingtonian magazine will criticize them.

    Don't get the item subhead? Ask any 10-year-old.

    The Kurse of Kordell: Trailing the Squared Sevens, 23-7, with 44 seconds left in the half, Chicago had second-and-9 at the San Francisco 34. A score here gives the Daxiongmao (see below) something to work with at halftime. Instead, Kordell Stewart throws an interception that is returned by Ahmed Plummer for a touchdown. Now it's third-and-10 at the Bears' 31 with 25 seconds left in the half. Kordell's going to kneel, right? Another interception, San Francisco field goal as the clock expires, 33-7 at halftime. TMQ writes the words "game over" in his notebook.

    Ashcroft: Let's Add a Clause About "Freedom of Speech, Where Appropriate." The Immigration and Naturalization Service -- which recently became the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the sweeping bureaucratic letterhead change that is the Department of Homeland Security -- is about to rewrite the Oath of Allegiance recited by naturalized U.S. citizens. The proposed change of the existing oath, which was standardized in 1929, is somewhat spooky.

    Here is the current Oath of Allegiance that new American citizens must recite at naturalization ceremonies:

    Oath
    "I pledge to always agree with John Ashcroft and submit to implanting that homing device in my brain."

    "I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, or whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or a citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of United States when required by law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

    Here is the proposed new Oath of Allegiance, written by the lawyers at the Department of Homeland Security:

    "Solemnly, freely, and without any mental reservation, I hereby renounce under oath all allegiance to any foreign state. My fidelity and allegiance from this day forward is to the United States of America. I pledge to support, honor, and be loyal to the United States, its Constitution and laws. Where and if lawfully required, I further commit myself to defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, either by military, noncombatant, or civilian service. This I do solemnly swear, so help me God."

    This language is a little cleaner, but check that weird new qualifier: A citizen will defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States "where and if lawfully required." Is Homeland Security trying to suggest there is some circumstance when it is not lawful to defend the Constitution, or times when the laws of the United States should be ignored? Why shouldn't the vow to defend the Constitution be absolute? It seems more than a little unsettling that with the Justice Department already essentially insisting, under the Patriot Act, that it can selectively interpret the Bill of Rights, to find now that the Department of Homeland Security thinks new citizens should vow to defend the Constitution only sometimes. Well -- at least that means they'll be instantly qualified to be John Ashcroft aides!

    Matthias Rath
    TMQ does not believe in conspiracies.

    The Trilateral Commission Ordered Me to Write This Item:You probably think the August blackout was some kind of infrastructure failure. Ha! Dr. Matthias Rath, "the physician and scientist who led the breakthrough discoveries in the natural control of cancer," knows better. Rath has been spending almost $75,000 a pop to place a series of full-page advertisements in the New York Times. The ads claim that all world events are a conspiracy to repress the theories of -- Dr. Matthias Rath.

    It turns out that Aug. 14, the day of the blackout, was the day one of his ads ran! Yet the power failed, so people in New York City couldn't read the newspaper. Do you think that's a coincidence? Rath's latest ad claims the "political and corporate special interests" staged the entire blackout to divert attention from Rath's ad. What was the shocking content, the message that had to be stopped? The unseen ad "called upon the United Nations to hold politicians and the corporate interests they represent responsible for their actions."

    My God, if anyone had seen those words, there would have been revolution in the streets! No wonder the special interests staged a blackout!

    For a trip to an alternate universe, check Rath's website. Rath asserts that the pharmaceutical industry is guilty of "the greatest crimes ever committed in the course of human history," that drug makers are staging a "deliberate expansion of disease" in order to perpetrate "genocide" against all humanity. How wiping out humanity would help the drug companies' customer base is never explained. Nor is it explained why, if pharmaceutical companies are secretly working to spread disease, global life expectancy doubled from 32 years of age at the beginning of the 20th century to 66 years at the beginning of the 21st.

    Rath believes he has discovered techniques that could eliminate two-thirds of the world's disease -- though, strangely, he declines to share the details of such vital knowledge. About all he will say is that people should know about "the benefits of non-patentable micronutrients, in particular the amino acid arginine and magnesium," and that "it is a scientific fact" that lysine cures all cancers. But huge numbers of people already take magnesium in vitamin pills, and most people already consume lysine in dairy products, meats, potatoes or lima beans. So if lysine naturally cures cancer, why is there cancer? Of his medical theories, Rath declares it mysterious that "Hardly any of this information can be found on the World Health Organization website."

    Rath further believes the United States assault against Iraq was staged in order to divert attention from the fantastic discoveries he refuses to specify. He has published demented ads in African newspapers urging African citizens not to accept AIDS drugs from the West, and believes the global master plan is being run by the Council on Foreign Relations and, yes, the Trilateral Commission. TMQ didn't even realize the Trilateral Commission still existed. But then I guess that's what they want me to think!

    Liam Neeson
    This one's for you, Mrs. TMQ.

    Wife-Requested Beefcake: Readers often send notes lauding the Official Wife of TMQ for putting up with my gawking at cheerleaders and their swimsuit calendars. She puts up because she's a great woman, because we have a good marriage and because the Official Wife is a fun-loving person with an open-minded outlook on life. She's also a United States government official, which is why she asked me to stop putting her name in the column. But the Official Wife's revenge is to join the female chorus requesting more equal-time beefcake. Her specific request: Liam Neeson, shirtless. Here he is. According to his cheerleading bio, Liam likes fuzzy bunny rabbits, candlelit dinners, long walks in the park and ... I can't go on. Ladies, gawk away.

    Cincinnati Fudgsicles Play of the Week: Cincinnati trailing Denver, 20-3, at the start of the second half, the Fudgsicles faced third-and-long on their own 10. Quasi-quarterback Jon Kitna was surrounded by Broncos rushers, and going down under the tackle. He shot-put the ball forward with both hands directly to Denver's Ian Gold, who returned it for the touchdown that made the game into a laugher.

    But then, since it was Cincinnati, you knew the game would become a laugher.

    Shameless Madden Plug: Recently, TMQ his ownself played the Official Firstborn of TMQ, 14-year-old Grant, at the 2004 version of EA Madden NFL. (Note: Madden works for ABC, which has the same corporate parent as ESPN.com; TMQ shamelessly sucks up to ESPN's corporate parent and considers this fine so long as it is disclosed. Buy Madden NFL 2004 today!) In last year's game, Grant demonstrated that the little electronic Michael Vick was faster than any of the other players -- totally realistic.

    This year, I played as Buffalo and Grant played as Miami. The electronic Bills' front seven could not stop the electronic Ricky Williams -- how realistic! My Buffalo offense gained 330 yards passing and 23 yards rushing -- how realistic! But the best part was that my electronic Travis Henry fumbled three times on 13 carries. The real Travis Henry fumbled 15 times during the 2001 and 2002 seasons, by far the most fumbles of any NFL non-quarterback through that period. Henry fumbled again on Sunday. So Madden's little electronic Travis Henry is, realistically, a fumbler! I kept trying to find a button that would take Henry out of the game and bring in Willis McGahee. Apparently, Buffalo management has been thinking along the same lines.

    Hidden Indicator: Every team that scored a return touchdown Sunday won. This is the kind of hidden indicator that is essential to an insider's understanding of the game. In this case, it means that when you work, work, work for each yard of field position, then suddenly behold some gentlemen sprinting in the opposite direction unopposed, your goose is cooked.

    Running Items Department

    Obscure College Score of the Week: Rockford 105, Trinity Bible 0. Marcus Howard rushed for 334 yards as Rockford built a 63-0 halftime lead and continued to play its starters into the third quarter in beating up on Trinity Bible. Rockford's 105 points was the most ever in Division III; the school outgained Trinity Bible 556 yards to 14. Postgame speech of Trinity Bible coach Rusty Bentley:

    "Well, boys, you held them under 110."

    Located in Ellendale, North Dakota, Trinity Bible College is an evangelical school that bills itself as "the smallest Division III football team in America." Its sports claim to fame is Maureen Reimiller, a Division II women's basketball All-American.

    Bonus Obscure College Score: Indiana of Pennsylvania 28, Nebraska-Omaha 26. With 4,903 on hand at George P. Miller Stadium, TMQ's favorite obscure school, Indiana of Pennsylvania, kicked a field with three seconds remaining to pull out a win in its opener. Buy your own copy of the Indiana of Pennsylvania 2003 football media guide here.

    Obscure College Stat of the Week: Carson-Newman, Concordia of Wisconsin, C.W Post, Georgia Southern, Greensboro, Illinois College, John Carroll, Lafayette, Lenoir-Rhyne, North Dakota, Northeastern and Wisconsin-La Crosse beat Albany, Apprentice, Assumption, Blackburn, Carroll of Wisconsin, Guilford, Howard Payne, Jacksonville, Marist, Minnesota-Crookston, Savannah State and Thiel by a combined 435-0. Note that this does not include the Rockford-Trinity Bible tally.

    New York Times Final-Score Score: Once again, the Paper of Guesses goes 0-16 in its quixotic quest to predict exact final NFL scores, bringing the New York Times Final-Score Score to a record of 1-849 since TMQ began tracking.

    Let's pause to quote this inaccurate past prediction from the same pages, submitted by reader Jodi Lamela of Chicago. In its Oct. 19, 1967, edition, the New York Times predicted, "By the year 2000, people will work no more than four days a week and less than eight hours a day. With legal holidays and long vacations, this could result in an annual working period of 147 days worked and 218 days off."

    TMQ his ownself almost inadvertently predicted an exact final score last week. Thursday afternoon, before the NFL opener on the Mall in Washington, I was yakking on WTOP, the newsradio of the nation's capital. Asked about Steve Spurrier, I yakked, "Last year, Spurrier thought he was going to win every game 58-3, like in college. Now he has come down to Earth. Tonight, he'll be happy if he wins 16-14 on a field goal on the final play." A few hours later, Spurrier's charges won 16-13 on a field goal on the final play.

    New Zealand cheerleader
    After seeing this photo from New Zealand, TMQ is considering a new column: TMS (Tuesday Morning Scrum).

    Globalization Cheerleader of the Week: Reader Neville Giles of Auckland wrote in praise of the cheer-babes of New Zealand's Vodafone Panthers, a rugby club. Here is the exotically named Trilby of the Warriors, a dancer and dance teacher who has run a triathlon. The team's cheerleaders are "presented by" -- they are the FAI Finance Cheerleaders -- so it looks like rugby on the opposite side of the world was way ahead of the NFL in this regard.

    Cincinnati Never Gets Onerous MNF appearances, Jon: Last week's TMQ discoursed on how all NFL coaches complain about their schedules, yet how can it be that everybody got a killer schedule? A few days later, USA Today ran this story in which Jon "I Was Teenaged Coach" Gruden complained bitterly about the Bucs' killer schedule. Night games! Opening on the road! A Saturday date! Jon, just stop winning and you'll no longer have any worries about night games.

    Reader Animadversion: Peter Sagal of Chicago was among many readers to note, apropos the item on the Patriots' cheerleader who is a West Point graduate, that Army types don't say "sir, yes sir!" Double sirs is a Marine Corps mannerism; the Army just says "sir," or, increasingly, "huuuuuuah." Note to all al Qaeda, Taliban and fayadeen remnants: If it's dark out, you hear movement in the distance and then someone yelling "huuuuuuah," immediately throw down your weapons and place your hands behind your neck.

    Many readers noted this about last week's item on Laetitia Casta, the lingerie model who currently poses for French national hero Marianne: When it debuted on Tuesday, it had a link to Casta's personal website, and then the link vanished. A reader laments in haiku,

    Laetitia Casta
    We have no shame: we admit we just wanted to run another photo of Laetitia.

    Site de Laetitia:
    Poof! Link quickly disappeared.
    Repost s'il vous plait.

    -- Matt Gelb

    Now, the only way you could have noticed this is if you opened TMQ when it first was posted that day, and then came back to re-read again later. A wise use of time! The problem was that Casta, in the revolutionary spirit, posts many nude photos of herself. They are artsy black-and-whites, and I'd certainly rather that teenaged boys ponder artsy black-and-white nudes than any of the violence and racism on the Internet. But owing to the 14-year-old-boys factor, ESPN corporate decided the link had to go. An enterprising person with a search engine ought to be able to find the site. Meanwhile, here is Casta's modeling portfolio, in which she's severely overdressed.

    Reader Tom Kolodziej of Memphis, Tennessee, a Bears fans, wrote in to protest that Chicago has no TMQ cognomen. His proposal? "The giant panda, a type of bear, sleeps 10 hours per day, usually in two four-hour increments. The Bears offense is often seen on the field as if asleep, usually in two four-play increments. In Chinese, the giant panda is referred to as Daxiongmao. So I give you, the Chicago Daxiongmao." Maybe other readers have suggested that the sluggish Bears become the Pandas to TMQ, but it never quite worked for me. The Chicago Daxiongmao, on the other hand -- make it so!

    Last week, TMQ asserted, after the nationally-televised Britney-Madonna make-out session, that given current world politics, Americans should stop French kissing. Many readers, including Margo Chambers of Los Angeles, suggested instead that the back seats of cars and back rows of movie theaters across this great nation should become scenes of Freedom kissing! Rafi Berkson added, "If Britney and Madonna don't kiss, then the terrorists have already won."

    True: During World War I, Sauerkraut Was Renamed "Liberty Cabbage" So the Word "Kraut" Need Not Pass Anyone's Lips. The current project at Chez TMQ is a sunroom addition; and this spring, during the assault on Iraq, the architect arrived for her look-see. The Official Wife of TMQ explained that she wished for French doors opening from the dining room into the new sunroom. "Excuse me," TMQ said to the architect. "They must be Freedom doors."

    It's An Insult! TMQ chronicles those precious moments when an NFL player is made a generous offer, denounces the deal as an insult, and ends up signing for less.

    Comes now tackle Walter Jones of the Blue Men Group. Last summer, he said "it's an insult" when offered a $13 million bonus to resign; the deal would have paid him about $15 million over 2002 and 2003, the first two years being the only part of modern NFL contracts that can be believed. Instead, Jones cried "insult!" and performed last year at the tackle's franchise-player level of $4.3 million; after rejecting the latest Seattle offer as another insult, he will perform this season at the tackle's new franchise-player level of $5.9 million. Hardly small bills, but consider -- instead of about $15 million for 2002 and 2003, as Seattle management offered, Jones shrewdly bargained his take down to about $10 million.

    In a rare case of an athlete coming out ahead by crying "it's an insult," Pro Bowl gentleman Lawyer Milloy was given an ultimatum by New England (an "ultimatoe," as Amos and Andy used to say) to cut his scheduled take this season from $4.4 million to $3 million. He cried "insult!" and asked to be released. A bidding war ensued in which many teams made offers. Milloy ended up with Buffalo and $7 million for this season -- $4 million more than the Pats offered.

    Lawyer Milloy
    Hey, if TMQ knew the Pats were going to release Lawyer Milloy, he would have predicted very bad things.

    This Headline Contains No Lawyer Puns: Tuesday Morning Quarterback certainly would not have forecast the Patriots to finish 12-4 if he'd known they were about to jettison the leader of their defense. New England brass spent the week scoffing that Milloy was washed up; Sunday, he sacked Tom Brady. The whole mess is in keeping with recent New England oddity. A mere 18 months removed from winning the Super Bowl, the franchise has been banking draft choices rather than spending them, and now cuts a top veteran. Don't the Pats want to make a second run? A reader laments in haiku,

    Release L. Milloy?
    Pats' chances quickly nosedive.
    And the Sox suck too.

    -- Brian Itzkowitz, Boston

    Keep in mind as the season progresses that from a salary-cap standpoint, New England in effect traded the 29-year-old, conditioning-buff Milloy for the 35-year-old, embonpoint Ted Washington. It was the August acquisition of Washington's big contract that put the Patriots into cap trouble, setting in motion the chain of events that led to Milloy being thrown overboard to lighten the ship. TMQ thinks well of the Ticonderoga-class Washington, and believes the Bears should have kept him. But could one year of Ted Washington have been worth it for New England if this meant losing several years of Lawyer Milloy? The transaction could turn out to hurt both teams, New England and Chicago. Note both were pounded on Sunday.

    As for the Bills, here's a wrong turn down memory lane. Just before the start of the 1988 season -- when Buffalo had lots of talent but a hole at safety -- the Bills got Pro Bowl safety Leonard Smith from the hapless Cardinals, who, engaged in one of their perennial efforts to make the team bad, had declared Smith expendable. Buffalo went on to reach five of the next six AFC championships, winning four. ("Super Bowl? That some kind of college game?" is the Bills' fans official position about the rest.) The football gods may find a parallel here.

    Shameless ESPN Plug: There are many reasons to subscribe to ESPN The Magazine ("Published on Earth The Planet"), or to sign up for ESPN Insider. Insider includes, among other features, access to the ever-changing Mel Kiper mock drafts -- the tireless Kiper already has a 2004 mock draft posted, and it's guaranteed inaccurate! As for ESPN The Mag, the current number offers an excellent piece by Seth Wickersham on what Cover 2 really is. The article is a must for serious football fans.

    TMQ's only objection to the Wickersham treatment is that he does not make clear the most basic fact of Cover 2: It is not some exotic scheme, as announcers and sportswriters like to imply, nor some trade secret known only to insiders. Cover 2 also goes by the name "zone defense." The corners play short, the safeties play deep, the linebackers drop into the slant areas. That's a "zone." It is the essence of Cover 2, and it's the look most NFL quarterbacks see on most snaps.

    John Lynch
    Bucs' safety John Lynch plays a mean Cover 2 -- and sometimes blitzes the QB as well.

    Ah, but City of Tampa plays Cover 2 really well. And as Wickersham notes, in the Tampa defense, "blitzing is rare." Tampa was No. 1 in defense in 2002 by playing a low-blitz, conservative, position-oriented game. Pittsburgh was No. 1 in defense in 2001 by playing a low-blitz, conservative, position-oriented game. (The Steelers use a 3-4 base and almost always rush a linebacker, which causes announcers to cry "blitz," but a total of four rushing is not a blitz.) Baltimore was No. 1 in defense in 2000 by playing a low-blitz, conservative, position-oriented game. Buffalo was No. 1 in defense in 1999 by playing a low-blitz, conservative, position-oriented game. When is the rest of the league going to catch on to this carefully-hidden tip?

    Reader Haiku Regarding TMQ's worry that Mars will end up sponsored by Pepsi Vanilla, a reader countered,

    You were way off base.
    Mars is red spot: natural
    sponsor, Seven-Up.

    -- Enrique Gomez

    Carey Hopkins reports that because her boyfriend and TMQ devotee, John Nash, recently endured a surgery whose effects prevent him reading, she has been pressed into service reading Tuesday Morning Quarterback aloud. Feel better, John! Carey laments in haiku,

    I am going hoarse.
    Sixteen pages is too much.
    Audio column?

    -- Carey Hopkins, San Diego

    Referring to TMQ's current book, one reader offered,

    I'll buy "The Here and
    Now" if you say Jersey-A
    will win Super Bowl.

    -- Hugh Forde, New York City

    Hugh, the Giants are a shoo-in! Guaranteed Super Bowl victors, they'll win before the game even starts! Now, keep your promise and place that order. "The Here and Now" is pretty darn good -- "moving," the New York Times; "exceptionally moving," the Los Angeles Times. But it sells in sufficiently small numbers that I'll be able to tell if Hugh follows through -- "this one's not moving," Barnes and Noble. Just think, Hugh, by owning "The Here and Now," you will be joining a small, highly-select elite!

    Note: "The Here and Now" has nothing to do with football, mega-babes or alien starcruisers. Maybe that's why it is getting great reviews but not selling. C'mon TMQistas, buy a few! Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com and Powells.com all have it.

    Last Week's Challenge: Was to compose a haiku on a favorite team. Among the entrants:

    Mark Brunell
    "Please, God, let me appear in TMQ haiku poetry every week."

    Mark Brunell is old,
    Jimmy Smith is on the bench.
    At least it's sunny.

    -- Tom Lynch, Jacksonville

    Dateline a curse for
    New Zealand readers. No
    TMQ till Wednesday!

    -- Neville Giles, Auckland, NZ

    A new Bengals year.
    No, I won't watch this time, no!
    Well, maybe one game.

    -- Don Moorhead

    Tampa stopped Vick, Favre,
    McNabb, Gannon, Garcia.
    and they can again.

    -- Randy Hunt, Clearwater, Fla.

    Kick is up -- no good
    Now good kicker isn't up
    either. Giants? Help!

    -- Jeff Burns, Boston

    Tuna irony:
    Parcells preaches training, yet
    marshmallow is he.

    -- Brian Cooke, Plano, Texas

    I was a Boys fan
    Till they sent Emmitt away.
    Football gods, smite them!

    -- Ted O'Connor, Dayton Ohio

    Release 2.1
    Cut too many linebackers
    Six and 10 this year

    -- Brent L. Hasseman, Cleveland

    And the winner of this week's Challenge is Patricia Brailey of Sunnyvale, Calif., who engenders great envy in TMQ by boasting of her access to NFL Sunday Ticket freedom-of-viewer choice:

    Thank football gods for
    NFL Ticket. No Sk*ns
    in California!

    This Week's Challenge: Has any reader -- in any apartment building, super-secret military complex or aboard a starcruiser -- ever actually crawled through an air shaft?

    Send your amusing experience to this address: tmqespn@yahoo.com.

    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.




  • Gregg_Easterbrook
    Gregg
    Easterbrook
    TUESDAY MORNING QB