Monday, April 24, 2006
Updated: May 1, 9:17 AM ET
Mocking the mock draft
By Gregg Easterbrook
Special to Page 2
Man, look at those legs! Perfect conditioning, ideal proportions. NFL draft fans can't wait to see more. I'm not talking about Reggie Bush's legs. I'm talking about the Rockettes! Tune in Saturday because, for the first time ever, the NFL draft will be held at Radio City Music Hall. And you know ESPN producers will use every possible flimsy excuse to show the gorgeous legs of the Rockettes as they accompany the top draft picks up to the podium to shake
WHAT??? Say what???
Sadly, although the draft is being held at Radio City Music Hall, the Rockettes will not be there. Tuesday Morning Quarterback is still reeling from this dreadful news. The NFL and ESPN have one of the greatest excuses in television history to show hours and hours of beautiful, scantily clad women -- and it's not going to happen. No Rockettes dancing with the draft picks. No lines of kicking legs while the commissioner fumbles through trade cards. No close-up interviews with the Rockettes as the draft drags on into the sixth round when the bell rings and a linebacker from Ohio University of Florida at Ohio is chosen. The draft is at Radio City but we won't see the Rockettes. TMQ will spend Saturday in mourning. In addition to being glam and gorgeous, the Rockettes are incredibly fit and athletic! That's a perfectly legitimate reason to have them at the draft! But no. Yours truly will be at Radio City on Saturday, and instead of flirting with the Rockettes, I'll be killing time with Mel Kiper. Jimmy Carter was right: Life is unfair.
Three quick points. First, it's not your imagination that all Rockettes are the same stature. Radio City rules (click "Rockettes" then "auditions") specify that Rockettes must be between 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-10½ -- though they do not, perhaps because of New York state gender-discrimination laws, specify that Rockettes must be women. Second, the lack of Rockettes at the draft reminds me of one of the fundamental failings of the National Football League: Though New York City contains thousands of beautiful, theatrically trained young women who really can dance and are looking for their big break, neither the Giants nor the Jets have cheerleaders. Third, ESPN thinks you'd rather look at Mel Kiper's hair than the Rockettes' legs? This might be a harbinger of the end of western civilization.
In other football news, around this time of year sports commentators make knowing references to the Dallas Chart, the table of equivalences used by many teams in calculating how to swap draft choices. The creation of this table is generally credited to Jimmy Johnson. (When he was coach of the Cowboys, Johnson made so many draft-pick swaps it was as if he was on commission and "churning" to increase his annual bonus.) The Dallas Chart is definitely handy. It ordains, for instance, that if the Jets, picking fourth, want to swap up with the Saints, picking second, Jersey/B would need to throw in 800 points worth of value -- and the Jets' second and third choices this year are worth 790 points, according to the chart. The chart works equally well on non-glamour picks. For instance, the chart dictates that a team wanting to acquire the final pick of the fourth round would offer a pick in the middle of the fifth round plus a pick at the top of the seventh. Now that most NFL teams have this chart, swaps are surely simplified: As neoclassical economics maintains, markets are most efficient when participants have the maximum information about prices! In the econ mode, next week TMQ will propose how to use the chart to "discount to present value" draft selections in future years.
Now look at the Dallas Chart more closely. According to its logic, a team would need to trade 1,500 picks at the end of the seventh round to get the first overall choice in the draft. I submit that any NFL club would be much better off with 1,500 late-seventh-round selections than the first overall choice. OK, with 1,500 seventh-round choices, your voluntary mandatory minicamp would be a little crowded. But give me 1,500 seventh-round selections and I guarantee I will find you some quality NFL starters -- whereas give me the first overall choice and I can make no such guarantee. Or take the 16th overall choice, midway through the first round. The chart says a team should be able to swap the 16th overall selection, worth 1,000 points, for 122 mid-seventh-round picks, which the chart says are worth 8.2 points each. (Love that pseudo-scientific decimal place.) An NFL team would be much better off with 122 mid-seventh-round selections than with one mid-first-round pick. Want another example? The chart says the 10th overall selection, held by Arizona and valued at 1,300 points, is worth the same as the entire fifth round, whose picks have an average value of about 35 points. I double-dog dare you to claim a team wouldn't be better off with every choice of the entire fifth round than with the 10th overall selection.
In more football news, the Brett Favre melodrama has become ridiculous. What's next, an all-Brett 24-hour cable channel? ("Today, Brett talks to us about what he might talk to us about tomorrow.") Favre addresses the United Nations General Assembly? ("I thank those nations whose names even their own citizens can't pronounce for inviting me here today to dodge questions, fudge the obvious and say nothing -- just like when world leaders talk to the United Nations!") But annoying though the melodrama is, you can't fault Favre for playing the system. Don't fall for that country-boy act; the Green Bay quarterback has long been at the forefront of understanding how to exploit modern media. Endless inconclusive evasions about whether he will retire keep his name in the news, increasing Favre's value to advertisers as an endorser. All the build-up, in turn, assures that whatever he ultimately does announce about playing or quitting will receive 10 times the attention it would otherwise merit. Don't be surprised if Katie Couric leads the CBS Evening News with Favre's decision, assuming he makes up his mind within the historical period of Homo sapiens.
In other football news, Reggie Bush will go very high in the draft. Truth or falsity of the house flap aside, Bush sure did look good in college, he seems to be a fine young man and he's leading a charge against the Illustrated Man fad in sports, so that's all to the good. (In the classic Ray Bradbury story, the "Illustrated Man" was not only covered with tattoos, but the tattoos moved; anyway, Bush doesn't have any tattoos.) But Bush weighs 200 pounds, and in recent annals few have been successful every-down NFL tailbacks at that weight -- Warrick Dunn, Thurman Thomas. In his final collegiate game, when USC needed two yards to win the national championship, not only did Bush not get the ball, he wasn't even on the field. Pete Carroll waved Bush to the sidelines when the championship was on the line. Something to think about if Reggie goes first.
In still other football news, everyone's got a mock draft. Right now the Priory of Sion is huddled in a secret underground abbey, trying to predict whether the Rams will trade up. Although everyone has a mock draft, who actually mocks the draft? Tuesday Morning Quarterback, of course. Below, my annual mocking of mock drafts. And while everyone predicts the first choice in the NFL draft, only Tuesday Morning Quarterback annually predicts the last choice! For years, Tuesday Morning Quarterback has skipped the prestigious top of the draft and gone directly to forecasting the lowly seventh round. My annual seventh-round forecast follows, too.
Finally, on a personal note, I'd like to share something I've been waiting three years to say: Yikes, this Page 2 yellow is bright! Maybe I should write the column in the dark. Anyway, I enjoyed my time at NFL.com, where I learned so much football that I now practically know what I'm talking about. But somehow the football gods always meant for Tuesday Morning Quarterback to be a part of ESPN. So when my NFL contract expired recently, I journeyed alone to a distant mountaintop -- OK, to a distant parking lot -- and asked the football gods for guidance. They told me to wish upon a star! Here is the rest in song:
Like a bolt out of the blue
|How could the NFL screw up such a great marketing opportunity?|
fate steps in and sees you through.
When you wish upon a star
your dreams come true.
TMQ's Mock Draft
1. Houston Texans: Dick Cheney, novice marksman, Ducks Unlimited
The Texans will switch to the shotgun formation. Instead of "Hike," Houston quarterbacks will yell "Pull!" Ducks Unlimited says its members "celebrate the traditions and the heritage of sport hunting as an integral part of sound wildlife management." So Cheney wasn't trying to kill ducks, he was engaged in sound wildlife management.
2. New Orleans Saints: Hans Brinker, Dutch 8-year-old
Alone and frightened, Brinker spent the night with his hand on a levee breech to save the town of Haarlem. If this had happened in 2005 rather than in the 19th century, Brinker would have called a press conference to deny that anything was wrong with the dikes.
3. Tennessee Titans: Lizette Atkinson through Scott Winsett, video game designers, Ensemble Studios
Ensemble's "Age of Mythology: The Titans" "transports players to a time when heroes did battle with monsters of legend and the gods intervened." Many monsters are on the Titans' schedule this fall, and divine intervention might be the team's best hope.
4. New Jersey Jets: Blackstar, secret jet program
According to the aerospace industry publication Aviation Week and Space Technology, which yours truly calls Aviation Leak and Space Terminology, the Pentagon quietly removed from mothballs the parts of the old XB-70 supersonic bomber, canceled in 1966, and assembled them into Blackstar, a carrier aircraft capable of launching a small manned spaceplane. Whether Blackstar has launched covertly an Air Force astronaut into orbit is unknown, but the magazine offered credible sightings, including from an F-15 pilot, of Blackstar and its baby spacecraft in flight. Since the public Jets aren't doing too well, maybe a clandestine jet is what the Jersey/B franchise needs. (Note: The Blackstar is white. This is, after all, the Pentagon we are talking about.)
5. Green Bay Packers: Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
|Brett, take note: "To be, or not to be." Look what happened to Hamlet when he couldn't make up his mind.|
Hamlet couldn't make up his mind -- just like Brett Favre. At least Hamlet did not call press conferences to announce he had nothing to announce or give non-stop "exclusive" interviews about his indecision on whether to attack Claudius. "Exclusive" once meant, "Yours is the only news organization I am speaking to." In Favre's case "exclusive" means, "Yours is the only news organization I am speaking to at this particular instant."
6. San Francisco 49ers: Scarlett Johansson, nude mega-babe
San Francisco prides itself on being America's most worldly and sophisticated city, so it is the natural choice for the first NFL team with a naked woman on the sideline -- and the Niners will need something to distract fans' attention from the field. Mega-babe note No. 1: According to this English art critic, Johansson was nude, not naked, in her recent magazine cover. It's a critical distinction! Mega-babe note No. 2: Extrapolating out current trends in cheerleader attire, naked women on the sidelines will be standard in the NFL by the year 2011. Just when the next network contracts get negotiated!
7. Oakland Raiders: Lucifer, frozen devil, University of Gehenna
To prevent a strike that might have torn pro football apart, Raiders boss Al Davis cooperated with the league, putting his own concerns aside to help save the NFL. At that moment Lucifer looked around and said, "Hey, did somebody touch the thermostat? It's getting cold in here."
8. Buffalo Bills: Billy Shaw, guard, Pro Football Hall of Fame
It's been six years since Buffalo made the playoffs, and six years since the Bills fielded a respectable offensive line. Could there possibly be a relationship between these data points? In the second round, the Bills, now run by octogenarian Marv Levy, hope to tab 87-year-old Mike Wallace as spokesman.
9. Detroit Lions: Santonio Holmes, wide receiver, Ohio State
Canny Lions general manager Matt Millen plans to use his first-round choice on a wide receiver every year until 2024, when Detroit will field the only squad ever on which all 22 starters are wide receivers drafted in the first round.
10. Arizona Cardinals: Mohammed Sharaf, CEO, Dubai Ports World
|Nakedness ... err, we mean nudity ... is an artform.|
The United States wanted to hand over port management to Dubai, a more civilized place than the pundits would have you believe. Maybe the woeful Cards should hand over management of their team to the United Arab Emirates -- especially since Mohammed Sharaf got his business degree at the University of Arizona.
11. St. Louis Rams: Aaron Garcia, quarterback, New York Dragons
The Rams began a Super Bowl run the last time they tabbed an Arena League star. Garcia is pro football's all-time leading passer by a huge margin, having thrown 757 career touchdown passes, nearly double the NFL record of 420 by Dan Marino. Garcia has 132 touchdown passes since the start of 2005 alone, despite missing some time with an injury.
12. Cleveland Browns: Leo Hirshfield, candymaker
Thank you, Leo, for devising the Tootsie Roll in Brooklyn in 1896. Hirshfield's big innovation was marketing Tootsie Rolls as the first individually wrapped penny candy; to that point, penny candy came loose in barrels, and sanitary standards fell short of ideal. In America, it's often more about the packaging than the product! Browns fans should bear this in mind during what might be another long season.
13. Baltimore Ravens: Pallas, Greek goddess
In Poe's "The Raven", the metaphorical raven alights on a "pallid bust of Pallas." Everyone knows the first stanza of this 1,000-word poem -- "Once upon a midnight dreary" -- but how many know the rest? "Leave my loneliness unbroken! Quit the bust above my door!" Poe bellows at the bird. Ravens fans should study "The Raven" for chants. When the defense makes a play they could chant, "The rustling of each purple curtain thrilled me!" When scanitly clad Baltimore cheerleaders dance, spectators could chant, "Clasp a rare and radiant maiden!"
14. Philadelphia Eagles: Roger Ramjet, Hero of Our Nation
After Terrell Owens, the goody-goody Ramjet might be just what the Eagles need to restore their karma. Here, listen to the super-cheesy Ramjet theme and watch a grainy image of a 1960s cartoon. Ramjet was voiced by Gary Owens, also the announcer for the old "Rowan and Martin's Laugh In."
15. Denver Broncos: Maurice Clarett, part-time bag boy, Piggly Wiggly
Clarett hasn't carried the ball for three seasons. According to the Broncos' logic in last year's draft, that should make him even more valuable. Here, Piggly Wiggly offers advice on how to crush crackers.
16. Miami Dolphins: Any beach goddess, South Beach
|There needs to be a 24-hour cable access channel dedicated to South Beach.|
Miami has, you know, like so totally replaced Southern California as the beach capital of the world. Why isn't Arnold Schwarzenegger up in arms about that? And why doesn't some entrepreneur start a cable channel that does nothing but televise babes walking along Florida beaches? Then again, some could not be shown for thong-based reasons.
17. Minnesota Vikings: Anna Nicole Smith, respectable stripper
The Love Boat might have been a PR fiasco for the Vikings, but there's no getting around that Minnesota was 1-3 before the team spent an evening with some lap dancers and 8-4 after. At Smith's Web site, she describes herself as an "international model." After providing a 97-word bio, Smith declares, "I don't feel like writing any more."
18. Dallas Cowboys: Dr. Phil, licensed clinical psychologist
Phil McGraw is "a licensed clinical psychologist in the great state of Texas," according to his official bio, yet films his show in Hollywood. This means he does not practice psychology on his shows, because he is not licensed to practice in California. But there are no laws saying you can't hand out worthless advice on the air to people you've met only moments before. Dr. Phil has "published numerous scholarly articles," his Web site claims, though strangely lists none. Check McGraw's preposterously negative guidance to the married, which includes these cheery assignments: "Write one page about the current deadness in your life. Write a 65-item 'bitch list' about your partner." Darling, I have 65 written complaints about you I'd like to discuss. Imagine if the Cowboys took Dr. Phil's advice:
BILL PARCELLS: When the going gets tough, the tough
TERRELL OWENS: I feel a current deadness in my life.
PARCELLS: Go out there and
OWENS: We need to discuss my bitch list. It contains 65 items.
PARCELLS: I want you men to smash the living
OWENS: Item No. 1: People should stand when I enter the room. Item No. 2: The white star at the center of Texas Stadium should be replaced with my picture. Item No. 3: I was not invited to be the keynote speaker at the funeral of Coretta Scott King. Item No. 4: My helipad at the practice facility still isn't ready. Item No. 5
PARCELLS: Get me Dr. Phil!
TEAM OFFICIAL: Sorry, he's writing a scholarly article.
19. San Diego Chargers: Diogenes of Sinope, Greek philosopher
San Diego keeps changing mayors owing to corruption convictions; corruption charges have been filed against former managers of the city's pension board; Randy Cunningham, the congressman who just pleaded guilty to taking bribes, hails from San Diego.
20. Kansas City Chiefs: Katie Couric, anchor, CBS Evening News
|Katie knows a thing or two about contracts.|
Herm Edwards decided he no longer felt like honoring the Jets contract he signed his name to. Hey Chiefs, just remember, when you hire someone who's only in it for himself, you get someone who's only in it for himself. At least Katie had the dignity to wait until her contract expired.
21. New England Patriots: Sam Walton, founder, Wal-Mart
Really, who needs players? Cut costs to the bone. Replace all veterans with rookie free agents who are forced to work unpaid overtime. Cancel medical benefits. Use less-expensive assembled-in-China players. Sign of the times: New England is the first NFL team with a Chinese-language official Web site.
22. San Francisco 49ers: Gavin Newsom, hip hunk mayor
Every Democratic political strategist goes to bed dreaming about Newsom, who's charming, handsome, intelligent, young, conscientious, third-way and wins elections in America's most important state. Why does this make me think he will lose the 2016 presidential ballot to Jenna Bush? San Francisco just announced it will become the first major U.S. city to beam free wireless Internet to anyone within its boundaries. I'm puzzled that the winners of the bidding to provide this service, Google and Earthlink, are described by the San Francisco Chronicle as delighted to beat out others for "the highly coveted contract." If the point is free service for the dispossessed, why are big corporations fighting for the foot in the door?
23. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jack Abramoff, picaroon, Greenberg Traurig LLP
|Abramoff should join a new league of pirates. |
Buccaneers are pirates, and who has stolen more while showing less conscience than Republican insider lobbyist Abramoff? The Bucs could lock Abramoff up with a long-term contract for the length of his six-year prison sentence. Though Greenberg Traurig, Abramoff's law firm, maintains it had absolutely no way of knowing its former high official was a criminal who methodically stole at least $20 million from clients, the firm still weirdly boasts its lobbying division has "access to decision-makers at every level of government."
24. Cincinnati Bengals: Nick Mangold, center, Ohio State
Possible actual choice thrown in for variety. On the second day, the Bengals hope to draft running back Wali Lundy of Virginia, to join the current Cincinnati running backs with the first names Rudi and Jeremi.
25. Chicago Bears: Projected trade
The Bears send their first and third picks in 2006, fourth pick in 2007, seventh pick in 2008, second pick in 2009, third and sixth selections in 2010, fifth pick in 2011, a choice to be determined later in 2012 and a projected compensatory pick in 2013 to the Giants for New Jersey's first and fourth picks in 2006, fifth pick in 2007, sixth pick in 2008, second selection in 2009, third and fifth picks in 2010, sixth pick in 2011, fifth choice in 2012 and a fruit basket. Also, the teams agree to link to each other on MySpace. If the trade doesn't happen, Chicago will select Courtney Love, rock star. A Lovie-Love match! In the second round, Chicago hopes to tab rocker Patti Smith to tart up the aging team song, "Bear Down Chicago Bears."
26. New Jersey Giants: Cooper Manning, energy analyst, Howard Weil
Cooper is the older brother of Peyton and Eli. Hometown draftniks at Radio City Music Hall will howl in outrage over this pick -- because hometown draftniks always howl in outrage no matter whom the Giants choose.
27. Carolina Panthers: John Edwards, undersized former senator
When Edwards ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, the knock was he lacked sufficient government experience for the White House. What's he done since 2004? Run for the 2008 nomination.
28. Jacksonville Jaguars: Puma concolor coryi, recovering species
Close to extinction just a few decades ago, the Florida panther has rebounded enough that people-panther confrontations are becoming a worry in the Sunshine State. Why is the Jax franchise named after the cat found in South America, not the one found in Florida?
29. New Jersey Jets: Bribe-seeking gossip writers from the New York Post
The New York press corps is tough on the Jets -- maybe the team should simply put them on retainer? Note: Billionaire Ron Burkle surely did the right thing in ethical terms by blowing the whistle on the shakedown attempt against him. But in practical terms? In practical terms, a billionaire might consider $120,000 a year for favorable press a good deal.
30. Indianapolis Colts: Henry Heimlich, Ohio physician
Someone must be able to stop the Colts from choking in the playoffs.
31. Seattle Seahawks: Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR driver
The NFL has studied the instant replay system used in the Nextel Cup, looking for ways to improve officiating. Had the NASCAR system been employed at the Super Bowl, Seattle still would have lost, as Sean Locklear would have been called for removing his restrictor plate and Matt Hasselbeck would have been black-flagged for speeding in the pit.
32. Pittsburgh Steelers: Roh Moo-hyun, president, Republic of Korea
|The NFL ranks right behind video gaming as popular sports in Korea.|
Wide receiver Hines Ward, who is short by NFL standards at 6 feet tall, towered over Roh at their recent lunch in Seoul. Anyone who can make the Super Bowl MVP stand even taller is worth having on the roster.
Here's Our Bill for $10 Million, and We Are Recommending Tom DeLay as the New NFL Commissioner. What -- There's a Problem With Him?
The NFL has hired Korn/Ferry International, a recruiting firm, to seek commissioner candidates. "The firm will begin the process by interviewing all 32 owners," The Associated Press reported. To find out what, that the NFL wants a competent commissioner? Yours truly is suspicious of the whole executive-recruitment process. For instance, the University of Wyoming recently paid Korn/Kerry $90,000 to recommend someone for its presidency. Both finalists recommended by Korn/Ferry turned down the job, which ended up going to the single most obvious candidate, the guy already in the chair as the school's interim president. Often in big organizations, hiring a headhunter firm just creates a cover story for doing what the big organization already had decided to do anyway. Back to Korn/Ferry. As yours truly pointed out last year on the pages of NFL.com itself, the company is engaged in a nasty lawsuit with a former top manager, whom Korn/Ferry accuses of stealing proprietary files when he left to form his own recruiting agency. Needless to say, I have no idea whether the accusation is true. But suppose it is true: This means the executive recruitment agency hired someone unqualified and placed him in a position of responsibility! Maybe Korn/Ferry needs a recruiting firm to find executives to run Korn/Ferry.
Greenspan's Book to Be Titled "Interest Rates May Fall, Unless They Rise"
Former Fed chief Alan Greenspan received an $8.5 million book advance from Penguin. Even assuming an as-told-to actually written by a ghost, a $8.5 million advance for a man whose every utterance is incomprehensible? This matches the second-largest advance in publishing history, given to Pope John Paul II for "Crossing the Threshold of Hope"; the biggest advance, $10 million, went to Bill Clinton for his forest-destroyer, "My Life." Clinton's volume could have been called, "Crossing the Threshold of the Thousandth Page" a feat yours truly suspects not one reader ever accomplished. In order for Greenspan's book to "earn back" an $8.5 million advance, it will need to sell about two million hardcover copies, which is Stephen King numbers. The cheeky Deal Book business blog of the New York Times obtained Greenspan's publishing proposal, which contains such insights as, "The book will ultimately conclude that the longer-term outlook for the global economy and, for that matter the U.S. economy as well, will be significantly affected by the future of China." Wow -- talk about sophisticated revelations! Twenty-five years privy to the innermost councils of power and the best Greenspan can come up with is that China affects the economy?
Deal Book has existed only a short time and already those who follow business are hooked. But if you really want to feel like a consummate insider, subscribe to a free e-mail called PE Week Wire. Written by Daniel Primack, PE Week Wire is the Tuesday Morning Quarterback of the financial world -- brimming with gossip and information on venture capitalism and private-equity firms. Private-equity firms are increasingly important to global finance, and quick, do you know what they are? Can you name even one?
Orwell Would Wince
Surely there are thousands of illegal immigrants who would cover kicks in the NFL for less than the $275,000 minimum salary for the 2006 season. So why not allow illegal immigrants in the NFL? They could be called gastoffsiders and paid $5.15 an hour, the scandalously low federal minimum wage. No health care insurance would be provided, plus they would be expected to bring their own ankle tape. Or they could work as football day laborers, gathering each morning in the predawn hours at some 7-11, hoping an NFL general manager comes by and offers them a day's work on the scout team.
OK, enough of that joke. Whatever you think of the immigration debate -- yours truly is pro-immigration but points out that America does now annually accept more immigrants than all other nations of the world combined -- it's ridiculous that politicians and journalists insist on calling the people in question "undocumented arrivals," as if the problem was their paperwork had been misplaced. The problem with illegal immigrants is that they are illegal: They've broken American law. What to do about those who broke the law when they entered the country, but since have been law-abiding good citizens who love America, is the crux of the debate. Focus must be kept on the word illegal if the core dilemma is to be addressed. Using a silly euphemism like "undocumented" only makes it hard to think clearly about this issue.
Similarly, it's ridiculous that politicians and journalists continue to call those being held at Guantanamo and Bagram airbase in Afghanistan "detainees." You are detained when your train is late; if you're dragged away in handcuffs, locked up and not allowed to speak to a lawyer, you are a prisoner. Those being held at Guantanamo and Bagram are not told, "Excuse me, sir, we will be detaining you. Would you like a fresh brioche?" They're told, "You are our prisoner, do as we tell you if you want to live." We can't think clearly about the hundreds of men being held without charge by the United States government unless we call them what they are, prisoners. George Orwell's point regarding language was that society cannot face political issues unless it calls things what they are; the purpose of political euphemism, Orwell wrote, is to prevent clear thought. People living here without visas are illegal immigrants and people jailed without charge are prisoners. Politicians might be addicted to fudging words but the media, at least, should call things what they are.
Take Me Out of This Ballpark
Recently the D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission unveiled the design of the Washington Nationals' new baseball park, and the announcement made yours truly glad he does not reside in the District of Columbia. Local taxpayers will be on the hook for $535 million in bonds to support this potential white elephant. Not only is there a strong chance the stadium will flop in the marketplace -- more on that in a moment -- the price tag seems likely to include substantial graft. Consider that Citizens Bank Park in nearby Philadelphia, the Phillies' new home, opened in 2004 and was built for $346 million, only $174 million of it foisted upon local taxpayers. Citizens Bank Park is larger than the planned Washington Nationals park, sits on similar downtown land bought at similar downtown prices, yet cost taxpayers only about a third as much. Recently opened Gillette Field, financed mainly at Patriots owner Robert Kraft's expense, came in at $325 million and is substantially larger than the planned Nats ballpark. The just-announced new Yankee Stadium is projected to cost $800 million, but will be larger than the Washington ballpark and will sit on 22 acres of the most expensive land in North America. Yet taxpayers are contributing about $300 million to the Yankee Stadium project, less than the bill to be handed to taxpayers for the smaller Washington facility.
It's easy to be careless with other people's money, especially with the money of taxpayers, who cannot demand refunds or sue for breach of contract. Gillette Field was built using private funds under market discipline; the Washington stadium will be built at taxpayer expense with no fiscal discipline. Surely that's a reason the price is so high. But another reason may be that some portion of the price is likely to be stolen by cronies of the District's top-heavy, inept government. Indeed, the D.C. Council seemed determined to push the stadium cost well above the price of comparable facilities, in order to assure there was plenty in the pot to steal. George W. Bush, the most baseball-obsessed president since William Howard Taft, has allowed this tax-subsidized pocket-picking directly under his nose, while making no attempt to pressure his pals in the corporate suites of Major League Baseball into building the stadium the free-market way. Maybe the naming rights should be sold to Halliburton. ... Welcome to Halliburton Field, where hot dogs are $6,000 and all overhead costs are billed to the defense budget.
Why might the Washington ballpark lack customers? First, it's situated at one of the worst traffic choke points in the nation's capital -- and that's now, before stadium traffic. Many stadia are hard to get in and out of. Experience shows that customers will bear traffic gridlock for football games, which happen only a few times a year, but won't frequent the much-more-regular MLB games unless access is convenient, and the Nats' field is being plunked down at one of the hardest-to-reach spots on the East Coast. Second, the high $535 million price will include a ridiculously low 1,225 parking places, some of which will be reserved for D.C. government officials. That's one parking space for every 34 seats. The new Yankee Stadium will have decked garages with 10,000 parking spaces, one space for every 5.3 seats. The Arizona Cardinals' new stadium, rising in Glendale, Ariz., will have 14,000 dedicated parking spaces for 63,000 seats, one space per 4.5 seats. No matter how good the Nats might be, suburbanites, who are the core demographic for all professional sports, might come to the new ballpark once, discover traffic is backed up and there's nowhere to park, and never return. When the ballpark project zeroes out the D.C. government's bond rating, please, congressional committees, don't say you weren't warned.
Bonus: The Nats' new facility will "strive to be the most environmentally friendly MLB ballpark ever," the D.C. sports authority declared, though no details were given. How very Washington -- dramatic announcement, no specifics. It is in fact possible to build environmentally responsible sports facilities: Gillette Field, for instance, has its own wastewater processing plant. Tuesday Morning Quarterback suspects the primary environmentally friendly feature of the new Nats ballpark will be that no spectators come, thus conserving gasoline.
In Praise of Tight Ends
|All yours, D.C. baseball fans, for $535 million -- and don't forget the cost overruns!|
Because Maryland tight end Vernon Davis might be among the first 10 players chosen Saturday, some purists insist tight ends should not go high in the draft. Quarterbacks, left tackles, cornerbacks and defensive ends should be the highest choices, according to draftnik purism, while tight ends, guards and safeties should not go high. If I were a coach, I'd rather use a high pick on a successful tight end than a bad tackle. Consider 2002, when Detroit spent the third overall selection on quarterback Joey Harrington and Buffalo spent the fourth overall on tackle Mike Williams. These gentlemen played positions that draftniks view as top-pick-worthy, and both went bust. Among the players Detroit and Buffalo passed on were safety Roy Williams and tight end Jeremy Shockey. They weren't supposed to go at the top of the draft because safety and tight end are not viewed as premium positions, yet obviously the Lions and Bills now wish they'd taken one or the other.
Purists have been asserting that Tony Gonzalez, taken 13th in 1997, went as high as a tight end should go. Yet many teams that passed on Gonzalez in the first dozen picks of that draft now wish they hadn't, in no small part because in an age of Cover Two (that is, zone) pass defenses, the tight end is more attractive as a target. Mike Ditka and John Mackey, Hall of Fame tight ends who played in the 1960s and 1970s, had career averages that equated to around 600 yards gained receiving per season in today's terms. (Ditka averaged 484 yards receiving per season and Mackey 523, but they played 14 regular-season games versus today's 16.) In the 2005 season, 10 NFL tight ends gained about as much as these Hall of Famers' numbers equate to, and few of the 2005 tight ends are Canton-bound. Today's Cover Two zones, which emphasize taking away the short outside pattern and the fly pattern, make it easier for tight ends to get open than for wide receivers. The well-coached quarterback is looking for the tight end, increasing the value of this position.
Consider another of my "reimagined" first rounds. Below is what the 1997 first round would have been, had what is known now been known then. My draft reimagining criteria favor longevity over flash, so in this case I spend a No. 1 on Mike Minter, who's been consistently productive if never spectacular, but not on Ross Verba, who was a star for a couple years, then flamed out. The players' actual draft positions from 1997 are in parentheses, and I stop at 30 because there were 30 No. 1 selections that year.
1. Orlando Pace (1)
2. Tiki Barber (36)
3. Walter Jones (6)
4. Tony Gonzalez (13)
5. Priest Holmes (undrafted)
6. Ronde Barber (66)
7. Matt Lepsis (undrafted)
8. Tarik Glenn (19)
9. Shawn Springs (3)
10. Jeff Mitchell (134)
11. James Farrior (8)
12. Warrick Dunn (12)
13. Jason Taylor (73)
14. Darren Sharper (60)
15. Dexter Coakley (65)
16. Jake Plummer (42)
17. Corey Dillon (43)
18. Sam Madison (44)
19. Mike Vrabel (91)
20. Adam Meadows (48)
21. Pat Williams (undrafted)
22. Trevor Pryce (28)
23. Mike Minter (56)
24. Chris Naeole (10)
25. Grady Jackson (193)
26. Duce Staley (71)
27. Ryan Tucker (112)
28. Chad Scott (24)
29. Kris Mangum (228)
30. Brad Maynard (95)
Note that two of the players who should have been lottery-level selections weren't chosen by anyone in the actual 1997 draft. Also note that only nine from the actual 1997 first round make the reimagined first round. The actual 1997 first round was a parade of blown picks and who-dats -- Michael Booker, Jim Druckenmiller, Yatil Green; it's not pretty.
This Week's Galactica Complaint
Viewers love the new "reimagined" "Battlestar Galactica," the highest-rated sci-fi series on TV. Critics love "Galactica" too, the Chicago Tribune recently calling it "the best show on television." Viewers seem to like that "Galactica" isn't formulaic sci-fi where justice always prevails and incredibly complex devices can be invented in minutes. Critics seem to like that "Galactica" is dark and depressing, depicting optimism as futile and life as barely worth living. That life is barely worth living is certainly the regnant worldview of modern academia -- strange that a sci-fi series about space battles should be this trendy view's main expression in popular culture.
TMQ's core problem with "Battlestar Galactica" is that the people of the show's imaginary space society are incredibly stupid. True, there are lots of stupid people on Earth, so presumably there would be stupid people on the opposite side of the galaxy. And folly is, inarguably, a grand theme of history. But practically everyone in "Galactica" is so astonishingly falling-down dumb, it's hard to care about their fates: And this is setting aside how, if they're so stupid, they were able to construct enormous faster-than-light starcruisers.
In the pilot for "Galactica," a society spanning 12 planets is threatened by a race of living machines called Cylons. The machines are known to sabotage computer systems. Yet all defense systems on all 12 worlds, along with all military spacecraft, have a common password. A human scientist named Baltar unwittingly gives the password to a Cylon; the Cylons transmit a computer virus containing the code; all humanity's military systems stop working; the planets are helpless against the attack that follows. Now, do you suppose there is one single password that controls every device in the American military? We'd be idiots to engineer such a code, exactly because it might fall into the wrong hands. Yet on "Galactica" not only can every defensive system built by humanity be remotely deactivated, the information necessary to do this has been placed in the hands of a mentally unstable scientist. This is one stupid society we've got here. (Two gigantic space battleships did not receive the deactivation transmission and are protecting humanity's survivors, creating the premise of the series.)
The author James Blish has said that much of sci-fi relies on Idiot Plots, defined as stories "kept in motion solely by virtue of the fact that everybody involved is an idiot." (See the entry on Idiot Plots in the 2005 edition of the "Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy," said entry by Official Brother Neil Easterbrook of Texas Christian University.) Consider a brief rundown of "Galactica" stupidity as exemplified by the character Baltar, named after the traitor of the original 1970s series. Baltar escapes the Cylon invasion and becomes a trusted science advisor to the remaining human leadership. No one in military intelligence seems struck by the fact that all the defensive systems turned themselves off precisely at the moment of the attack, nor wonders whether this might have had something to do with Baltar, who possessed the code. Baltar rises to become vice president in the survivors' government. He obtains high position though he often speaks, aloud, to a Cylon avatar that manifests in his consciousness. That is -- the other characters hear Baltar talking to a Cylon, yet are too stupid to think anything of it.
In the final few episodes of the recently concluded season, Idiot Plots drove the action. Baltar is assigned to interrogate a Cylon spy and instead helps her escape, killing a guard in the process. No one suspects Baltar, though he and the guard were the sole people with the Cylon and though, presumably, faster-than-light starcruisers would have video monitors in their detention cells. Baltar claims he can build a Cylon detector, but needs plutonium for the device. Rather than supply Baltar with a vial of plutonium the fleet's leader, Admiral Adama, gives him a complete working nuclear warhead, which Baltar is allowed to keep in his cabin. The dialogue reduced to its Idiot Plot essence:
SCIENTIST: I need some plutonium.
IDIOT: Here, take this complete working nuclear warhead.
Baltar hands over the nuclear warhead to the Cylon spy; she detonates the device, destroying several spaceships and killing hundreds of people. Nuclear explosions have distinctive spectral characteristics that would have allowed Galactica's technicians to determine that the bomb that just exploded was one of theirs. Yet with the fleet in turmoil owing to a nuclear explosion in its midst and one warhead missing from the armory, no one asks Baltar to prove he still has his bomb. By the end of the recently concluded season, Baltar has been elected president of the survivors' government. He orders that humanity's remnant stop fleeing the Cylons, settle on an undefended planet and essentially decommission their space warships. Everyone is too stupid to question this order, which OBVIOUSLY leaves the survivors helpless against another Cylon attack, which happens in the season finale. "Kept in motion solely by virtue of the fact that everybody involved is an idiot," indeed.
Size Does Matter
Reader Jeremy Morse of Ypsilanti, Mich., notes that in a draft preview of cornerbacks, Vic Carucci of NFL.com declared 185-pound cornerback Tye Hill of Clemson "lacks ideal size". A few sentences later, Carucci said 189-pound cornerback Ashton Youboty of Ohio State has "good size." Yours truly adds that Scouts Inc. calls DT Brodrick Bunkley "undersized" at 309 pounds, DT Johnny Jolly "big" at 317 pounds. Jolly weighs 2 percent more than Bunkley. How can 2 percent represent the difference between "undersized" and "big?"
Senator, Your Corporate-Funded Private Jet Is Waiting to Take You to the Anti-Poverty Hearing
After the Republicans' lobbying scandal, some in the Senate proposed rules that would require senators to pay the true cost when they use corporate jets. Currently, fat cats hoping to influence lawmakers can provide them with personal jets at artificially low prices. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who opposes regulation of politicians' access to corporate jets, told Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times that on a single recent week, "I flew from Colorado to Los Angeles to San Diego to San Francisco to Sacramento, back to Los Angeles, to San Bernardino and back to San Francisco." Without a private jet at someone else's expense, Feinstein maintained, such a schedule would be impossible. Such a schedule should be impossible! It's hard to believe Sen. Feinstein was doing the people's business by jetting around so much, especially since she represents California, not Colorado. The schedule described above entails seven air trips in a single week -- how can Feinstein possibly get any real work done if she's constantly changing locations? Surely members of Congress of both parties like constantly jetting around in corporate-financed private aircraft because it makes them feel important, yet prevents them from being in any one location long enough to be expected to accomplish anything.
Senators also want private jets to avoid the madhouses that modern airports have become -- corporate aircraft dock at "general aviation" terminals far from the crowds and security lines. But senators ought to experience the same airport crowding and delays as endured by voters, rather than go straight to the front of the line like little pashas. Plus note Sen. Feinstein's schedule included the absurdity of flying from Los Angeles to San Bernardino, about an hour's drive. Members of the United States Senate would benefit from getting stuck in the traffic between Los Angeles and San Bernardino, experiencing what the typical Californian must, rather than flying above voters in corporate-funded luxury. Plus, how much corporate-funded senatorial flying is actually for fundraising? If restrictions on corporate jets made it harder for politicians to fund raise, that alone is a reason to force members of Congress to pay the true cost of travel.
Compare to your boards! I'm going to get a lot of heat for forecasting Mike Brisiel to Carolina with choice No. 234, but if you can't take the heat you shouldn't be forecasting the seventh round. Next year I plan to market "TMQ's Seventh Round Draft Guide" for $19.95 plus postage.
209. Cincinnati (from Houston): Chris Brammel, QB, Saint Francis of Indiana. Draft guides list Brammel as 6-4 7/8, but scouts suspect he is really only 6-4 3/4.
210. New Orleans: Evan Judge, WR, Colorado. No male modeling experience.
211. New Jersey Jets: Quinn Ojinnaka, G, Syracuse. Weighs 309 pounds, yet Scouts Inc. draft profile says he "lacks bulk."
212. Miami (from Green Bay): Jamaal Fudge, S, Clemson.
213. San Francisco: LaJuan Ramsey, DT, USC. LaJuan -- wasn't he a "Star Wars" character?
214. Oakland: Adrian Ghent, CB, Troy State. Wowed scouts at the combine with an 84.7 in relay Yahtzee.
215. Tennessee: Steve Williams, DT, NW Missouri State.
216. Buffalo: Johnny Faulk, CB, Troy State. Troy State prospects flying off the board.
217. Detroit: Chris Morris, C, Michigan State.
218. Arizona: Javon Nanton, DE, Miami. On recent trip to the grocery store, had three sacks.
219. Baltimore: Jason Hatcher, DE, Grambling. Has taken the shuttle from Washington to New York in less than 1 hour, 36 minutes.
220. Philadelphia: Brett Basanez, QB, Northwestern. In just 12 games last year, threw for more yards than all but eight NFL quarterbacks threw for in 16 games. Nevertheless, scouts think Basanez has a weak arm.
221. St. Louis: Mike Espy, WR, Mississippi. Promising career in sports television.
222. Cleveland: Terrence Pennington, T, New Mexico.
223. Atlanta: Sean Conover, DE, Bucknell. Bucknell athletes actually graduate -- so it can be done, NCAA.
224. Dallas: Sir Henry Anderson, DT, Oregon State. On dates, addresses women as "Dame."
225. San Diego: Shawn Willis, FB, Oklahoma State.
226. Miami: Daniel Fells, TE, Cal Davis.
227. San Diego: Albert Mielsch, DT, Kentucky. Finished first in the giant slalom at the combine.
228. Kansas City: Connor Hughes, K, Virginia.
229. New England: JR Lemon, running back, Stanford. Ran the 40 in .0008 seconds on a really fast surface at the Stanford Linear Accelerator .
230. Washington: Tyler Ecker, TE, Michigan.
231. Cincinnati: Justin London, LB, UCLA. Named after his parents were asked, "Where have you been recently?"
232. New Jersey Giants: Charlie Peprah, S, Alabama. Hometown draftniks at Radio City go ballistic that Giants take Peprah with Trey Tate still on the board.
233. Miami: Trey Tate, DT, Clemson.
234. Carolina: Mike Brisiel, T, Colorado State.
235. Tampa: Jami Hightower, T, Texas A&M. Though 6-4 and 364 pounds, Scouts Inc. calls his size only "adequate."
236. San Francisco: Brett Bell, CB, Wisconsin. Once scored 81 points while shooting baskets by himself.
237. Carolina: John Busing, LB, Miami of Ohio. TMQ loves fact that the existence of this school forces the Hurricane university to call itself Miami of Florida.
238. Tennessee: Anthony Schlegel, LB, Ohio State.
239. Seattle: Melvin Oliver, DE, LSU. Has great intangibles, though I can't quite put my finger on what they are.
240. Pittsburgh: Willie Evans, DE, Mississippi State. At combine, was able to rub his tummy and pat his nose while standing on one leg.
241. Tampa: Matt Lentz, G, Michigan.
242. St. Louis: Nate Livings, G, LSU. At private workout, did 34 reps of 225 pounds. Unfortunately since it was a private workout, no one saw.
243. St. Louis: Tom Malone, P, USC. Taking TMQ's advice, Rams shrewdly stockpiled late seventh-round picks.
244. Tampa: Quinton Ganther, RB, Utah.
245. Tennessee: Dallas Baker, WR, Florida. Impressed scouts with 40-yard time of 4.392409, though electronic timers had him at 4.393285.
246. Tennessee: Bristol Olomua, TE, Texas Tech. Another promising sports-television career.
247. Detroit: Willie Smith, CB, Marshall. Scouts praise him as a "cover corner." But then, there is no other kind of corner.
248. Buffalo: Travis Leffew, T, Louisville.
249. Seattle: Jay McCareins, CB, Princeton. Hopes his 40-yard dash time was calculated wrong by the College Board.
250. Washington: Eric Bassey, CB, Oklahoma.
251. Houston: If you act before midnight tonight, you will receive a free tie clasp.
252. New Orleans: Jabari Levey, T, South Carolina. At 312 pounds has "adequate bulk," according to Scouts Inc., raising the question of why a 309-pound offensive lineman is too small but three more pounds makes him big enough.
253. Green Bay: Thomas Carroll, DE, Miami of Florida.
254. San Francisco: Chris Barclay, RB, Wake Forest.
255. Oakland: Mike Imoh, RB, Virginia Tech. Shortest "Mr. Irrelevant" in history of award.
Next Week On an exclusive basis, Brett Favre tells Tuesday Morning Quarterback he is "considering" having a turkey sandwich for lunch. (One column next Tuesday reviewing the draft, then in August, Tuesday Morning Quarterback resumes on a weekly basis as the NFL artificial universe revs up.)
In addition writing Tuesday Morning Quarterback, Gregg Easterbrook is the author of "The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse," and other books. He is also a contributing editor for The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly and The Washington Monthly, and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. Sound off to Page 2 here.
|Is Favre going with the turkey sandwich? With or without cheese?|